The Reef Ranger (Series 1: Save the Yellow Tangs) is an educational game software that immerses the player in the complex world of coral reef management. The effects on coral reefs of human activities in the mountains all the way to the open ocean are simulated. The game illustrates how one entity in the ecosystem can have a large effect on the health of another, and how not only inaction but also inadequate management actions can lead to ineffectiveness and ultimately degradation of resources like the yellow tang.

Yellow Tangs are the most popular aquarium fish in Hawaii and can be found in almost all coastal areas in the region. It is a very valuable biological and economic resource. The player becomes a Reef Ranger encountering various real-world scenarios that require the Ranger to decide on what actions to take to ensure that the population of the yellow tangs is sustained. Armed with 3D maps of the reef and important areas, ecological information, and expert advice, the Ranger delves into the challenge of keeping the yellow tangs from going extinct.

An agreement was entered in 1st day of November, 2004 by and between the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii, a governmental agency of the State of Hawaii for the benefit of the Hawaii Coral Reef Initiative Research Program (HCRI-RP), and the National Center for Coral Reef Research (NCORE) to develop an educational game software to supplement the ongoing activity of HCRI-RP on public awareness. This two-year activity will create a game that will instill to players a thorough understanding of the complexities of human-environment interactions, the ecological processes in the management of coral reefs and adjacent watersheds, and complexities involved in deriving management strategies.


The Principal Investigator (PI) of the project is John W. McManus (Director, NCORE) and supported by Felimon C. Gayanilo (Senior Software Engineer, NCORE). To ensure that the underlying rules of the game closely simulates reality, an advisory committee was formed. The current members are:

Jim Maragos, Ph.D. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Honolulu, Hawaii)

Dieter Mueller-Dombois, Ph.D. (University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii)

Cindy Hunter, Ph.D. (University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii)

Richard Pyle, Ph.D. (Bernice Pauabi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii)

Pat Chavez, Ph.D. (USGS Flagstaff, Flagstaff, Arizona)

Ligia Collado, Ph.D. (Florida International Institute, Miami, Florida)