Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Emojis & Biodiversity

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution, Nature of Science, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler

Flora Graham, editor of Nature Briefing which is a brief summary of selected papers, reports, news articles, from the British scientific journal Nature, wrote on December 13 that she just learned "that the true rulers of the planet as determined by sheer numbers -- unicellular life forms -- are represented by just a single emoji."  Vertebrates rule the emoji world.

In a paper titled "Biodiversity communication in the digital era through the Emoji tree of life" (iScience), three researchers created a delightful Emoji tree of life. And you can read the full paper in two versions.

Below are the highlights:

"Currently available emojis encompass a broad range of animal species

--Plants, fungi, and microorganisms are underrepresented in the current emoji set
--Within animals, vertebrates are overrepresented and arthropods are underrepresented
--Recent additions allow a better representation of animal phylogenetic diversity

In addition to the highlights there is a summary and a graphical abstract (the latter is better viewed in the free PDF option). It includes some examples of nature related Emojis, described species and representativeness, and temporal changes for 2015 and 2022 with an arrow pointing to better representation of biodiversity.

From the introduction. "emojis permeate modern communication. Many people routinely use thumbs-up icons to express agreement, touch a sad-smile face to lament an unclean public toilet, and incorporate multiple rows of fire emoji in text messages to convey excitement for an upcoming event. What makes emojis so successful is their unique semantic and emotional connotation, which allows for direct, simple, and ultimately powerful communication. Indeed, as our world becomes increasingly digitized and interconnected, the significance of emojis is becoming universally appreciated, extending to domains as diverse as marketing, forensics, education, and health care."

"Parallel to this communication revolution, humanity is facing an unprecedented biodiversity crisis."

There is a figure in the paper you should look at showing an "example use of nature-related emojis in communication about biodiversity and its conservation." Below it is a discussion of methods, results with another useful figure (Frequency of available emojis, compared to the actual number of described species), and another figure of phylogenetic trees of emojis available in 2025, 2019, and 2022, a thorough discussion, and a section on limitations of the study.

I like this comment from the paper: "While the biodiversity crisis may seem distant from the online world, in our increasingly digitized society, we should not underestimate the potential of emojis to raise awareness and foster appreciation for the diversity of life on Earth."

As you toggle between the paper and the PDF of the paper you will find some differences in positioning of figures and illustrations as well as clarity of the figures and illustrations.

It is fun to read and serious (how nicely the two go together) and I think important.

Here is the link to the paper.

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