Public Engagement

Educative Outreach

Serious Gaming

Zombie Ant Experience

This public outreach project was funded by NSF CAREER  1941546

The Zombie Ant Experience is a Virtual Reality game designed by UCF scientists, game design students and alumni. This “serious game” is a short (5-10 minute) experience that takes the player through the life cycle of Ophiocordyceps, a fungus that drives insects (in this case ants) to change their behavior in order to propagate the fungus and ultimately kills them. Visit the Steam Store to play Zombie Ants VR for free!

Educational Entertainment

Science Show "Operatie Breinbreker" (in Dutch)

The Science Hub of Utrecht University aims to make scientific research more accessible to primary education by organising a range of yearly outreach activities. One of them is the Science Show "Operatie Breinbreker" in TivoliVredenburh in Utrecht. Our lab participated in one of the shows to explain a bit about our research on zombie ants. You can watch the entire show on YouTube. Tune in around 43 minutes for our contribution.

Betweter Festival (in Dutch)

The Betweter Festival is organized by Utrecht University in collaboration with UMC Utrecht, HKU and Hogeschool Utrecht. The festival aims to bring people together who like to know how the world works, look for new experiences, and love to be amazed by those experiences. Our lab participated in the Festival in 2023 by giving a short theatre lecture about our research. You can find the lecture on YouTube.

Active Learning Lesson Plans

Charissa - Zombie ants final.pdf

International Microbiology Literacy Initiative

Our lab is contributing to the International Microbiology Literacy Initiative (IMLI) which aims to increase microbiology literacy in society. The Initiative aims to bring personal activity/experience/interest-relevant microbiology to children to enrich their education and aid their decision-making as adults. The current focus of the initiative is the creation of a collection of 200+ knowledge frameworks of child interest-centric topics. These frameworks, written in non-specialist language, will serve as a “microbiology curriculum” resource, interpretable by teachers for all types of teaching aims and age groups. The curriculum will become freely accessible in multiple languages!

You can download our contribution (in English).

VMBO-level Lesson Plan "Creepy Parasites" (in Dutch)

These materials were developed and made available by the Dutch Institute for Biology (NIBI) to accompany the workshop 'Kom griezelen met zombies die wél echt bestaan' by Charissa de Bekker during the 9th vmbo onderwijsconferentie (02/06-03/06).


The lesson plan consists of a teacher briefing with background information and a classroom assignment, a powerpoint with information to use in the classroom and a magazine spread to spark the interest of students before jumping into the subject of "Creepy Parasites" that change host behavior. 

These materials were made by NIBI intern Thirza Weenink (text) en volunteer Puck Straver (lay-out).


Community Science

Zombie Fungus Foray

The Zombie Fungus Foray is a community science initiative for the discovery of Ophiocordyceps species using the free iNaturalist app! Ophiocordyceps are parasitic fungi, also known as “Zombie Fungi”, that infect ants and secrete mind-altering substances that cause them to behave in peculiar ways. iNaturalist allows you to take pictures and upload them for scientific use, as well as locate where these zombie ants have been found before! Join our project page at:

In the Media