creating virtual worlds to protect our actual one

We are a trans-disciplinary group of international student and faculty artists, computer scientists, game designers, writers, music composers, architects, and engineers, working with biologists, geologists, micro-paleontologists and freshwater ecologists who are passionate about the environment and in making a lasting impact on emerging generations.

Art, games and ecological science come together as a radical act of environmental knowledge preservation in the work of the Eco Resilience Games Group.

We are creating virtual worlds that inspire us to preserve our actual one. Whether we are enabling people to experientially see, hear and touch plankton in new ways in order to understand their vital importance to freshwater ecology, or making it possible to become a water droplet traveling through an entire watershed, we are using advanced game technology creatively to introduce people to new worlds, new perspectives, and new systems to help understand emerging environmental knowledge and the vital need to work together globally for a sustainable, eco resilient future. We work for eco awareness and eco action.

Projects include:

Algae Bloom Dynamics  ar (on iOS & Google Play mobile)

The Aquatic Messenger vr  (in-process, Steam release Fall 2023)

The World of Plankton  (permanent museum exhibition opening 2024)

Trophic 3D vr  & ar (in-process)

Flo: The Watershed Project (NYC DEP) completed

"There is a fragility and interdependence to nature that must be deeply respected."          
Kathleen Ruiz

The term “plankton” describes communities of algae (phytoplankton) and animals (zooplankton) that are suspended in the water and travel with the currents. They are responsible for the air we breathe and the food we eat. Roughly half of the oxygen in our atmosphere was produced by phytoplankton, which also form the base of aquatic food webs. Algae is eaten by zooplankton and other creatures, which are eaten by small fish, which are then eaten by birds and larger fish, and so on. Ultimately, it all comes back to plankton.

Unfortunately, the plankton we rely upon are being threatened. The delicate balance of phytoplankton and zooplankton can be disrupted by chemical fertilizers, septic waste, and even road salts. 

Few of us, as we go about our daily lives, spare much time thinking about plankton. In fact, it is safe to say that most of us know next to nothing about these tiny beings in our lakes. Yet all of us, whether we realize it or not, are absolutely dependent on them for survival. So as we witness the annihilation of environmental protections and funding, it is vital that we give these tiny plankton a voice and a presence that prevents them from being overlooked.

Through the creation of multi-platform VR and AR game art and simulations we are enabling people to experientially see, hear and touch plankton in new ways in order to understand their vital importance to freshwater ecology and the action that needs to be taken. 

Founded by Kathleen Ruiz, Associate Professor of Arts, and Games & Simulation Arts & Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Eco-Resilience Games is a trans-disciplinary group of international student artists, programmers, game designers, music composers, engineers, along with award-winning biologists, geologists, and freshwater ecologists who are passionate about the environment and making a lasting impact on emerging generations through interactive art installations, vr, ar, emerging genres, and STEAM education experiences (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). Much of our work is inspired by the scientific research of  The Jefferson Project.

Our current team:


Kathleen Ruiz, abd Ph.D. Associate Professor Arts & GSAS
Founder/ Lead Artist/ Designer/ Director/ Producer  

Sean Jacob Alcordo
Lead Programmer, Associate Director & Producer 


Tyler Majewski, Programmer, Creative Pipeline

Benny Yibing Woolbert, Artist, Designer, 3d Modeler
Ziyuan Wu,  Architect/ 3d Modeler/Video
Amanda Taglich, Art and Technical Transference

Narrative Design
Dylan Liriano, writer

Music & Sound Design & Video
Justin Hung, Music Composer
Brett Blandford, Video

Production & Design Consultant
Ian Stead, Design & Technical Production

Science Team

Kevin Rose, Ph.D. Associate Professor and Chair in Freshwater Ecology
Acting Director, Darrin Fresh Water Institute
Acting Director, Jefferson Project

Rick Relyea, Ph.D. Professor Biological Sciences,
David M. Darrin ’40 Senior Endowed Chair
Executive Director, Darrin Fresh Water Institute
Director, Jefferson Project

Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, Ph.D. Professor Biological Sciences, Associate Director, DFWI
Darrin Fresh Water Institute
Krysia Kornecki, Ph.D. Geological Sciences & Micro-Paleontology
Jon Borelli, Ph.D. Post Doc Research Consultant
Jeremy Farrell, Ph.D. Research Consultant
Matt Schuler, Ph.D. Research Consultant
Brian Mattes, Senior Research Specialist, Darrin Fresh Water Institute
Lawrence Eichler, Ph.D. Research Scientist, Darrin Fresh Water Institute

Recently graduated members

Denghao Liu: Assistant Programmer/Interface Design
Rebecca Broniak, Programmer
Charles Reverand: Lead Programmer/ Associate Designer/ Director
Yiran (Lisa) Zhang: Artist, Designer, 3d Modeler
Autumn Walters: Associate Designer/Director/Producer/Engineer
Millie Harris: Assistant Designer/Production Director, 2 & 3D Art
Andrew Sirkoch: Lead Artist/Interface Design
Max Nigogosyan: 3D art
Annabel Prodnuk: 2D environment painting
Hibiki Takaku:  Lead Programmer/Composer
Alex Akopyan: Programmer
Diyuan (Berry) Zhu: Associate Programmer/Music Composer
Qitong Wang: Graduate Lead Programmer Consultant
Owen Hey: Associate Programmer
Haolun Zhang: Programmer
Richard Chen: 3D Artist
Hongyang Lin: Graduate Lead Programmer
Xavier Marshall: Assistant Programmer/VO
Yi Zhou: Associate Programmer
Yun Hong:  Associate Programmer
Julia Krawiec: 2D/3D Artist
Christina Chiusano:  3D Modeler

(Please see links above for more detailed specific project information and other team members.)

The concept of resilience in ecological systems was first introduced by the Canadian ecologist C.S. Holling in 1973 in order to describe the persistence of natural systems in the face of changes in ecosystems due to natural causes. Resilience as "the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks". We are at a critical junction now as changes in  the environment are moving beyond what ecological systems may be able to handle.

Eco Resilience Games:

Working together-- the university, the game industry, and ecologically based material companies, we are expanding environmental consciousness. Through games, art, and design important emerging environmental science is being brought to diverse populations worldwide for a more informed public. Games are revealing unseen creatures that are responsible for all the freshwater on the planet! Games are placing players into the role of  environmental scientists. We can now virtually experience a toxic algal bloom at its source and take important steps to rectify conditions. 

Our E-Waste is contributing to the global micro plastics issue. Could there be biodegradable game controllers in our future? Young companies in New York State are making new biodegradable materials that promise to make our digital future more ecological. 

Can we explore ways of generating the electricity for our electronic games through wind, solar, biofuels and alternative and emerging energy sources? 

Through simple changes in human behaviors, we can alter the course of environmental pollution and algae blooms worldwide. Art, games, and simulations can enlighten us on this pathway to a  sustainable, eco-resilient future.

We are demonstrating the potential for using virtual worlds to inspire us to preserve our actual one. Just as we gave voice to microscopic but mighty plankton, we can use this technology creatively to introduce people to new worlds, new perspectives, and new systems that can generate empathy and an enhanced desire for understanding. 

We can see what the world looked like in Deep Time going back over 450 million years ago! And what the future could be like in 2100, and how our decisions today are influencing that future! From the microscopic to the macro world, collectively we can make the difference that is needed for the future!


Kathleen Ruiz
Associate Professor of ARTS & GSAS
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute