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Students can Contribute to the Encyclopedia of Life
Around the world, students are contributing to the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) by creating or contributing to species pages which are published in the EOL and made available to scholars, educators, policy makers, and, of course, other students.
These contributions are helping to add to the usefulness of EOL by expanding the number of different species represented. Most important, students learn a great deal about the organisms they are studying, and find the process challenging and fun.
What is EOL?
EOL is an international effort to create an online reference source and database for every one of the 1.8 million species that are named and known on this planet.
How experts describe EOL:
Who can be involved?
Graduate, undergraduate, and secondary school students can contribute to EOL. Students might create pages as part of a class project, special assignment, or individual research effort. Student authors are from all backgrounds, from large and small schools and colleges, and at many different stages in their studies.
See examples of pages created by students:
How do students benefit?
Students who contribute to EOL feel the satisfaction of contributing to the global knowledge base on biodiversity by helping to bring together in one place all of the most important information about a species. It's an opportunity to get up close and personal with an organism that,in many cases, may not be familiar to the student or to anyone except an expert. Students learn throughout the process how to weigh content from many sources, in exactly the same way an expert does, and they become familiar with the processes of identifying, cataloging, and describing species from their selected taxonomic groups. Pages created by students go through a series of reviews, and once vetted, student pages are made available to the EOL community on the same footing as pages created by all other contributors.
Hear from students who have participated in EOL:
How do professors and other instructors benefit?
Faculty report that students take the assignment to contribute to EOL very seriously. The project advances teaching and learning by motivating students to collaborate and by giving learners an opportunity to work through the type of real-life challenges that scientists face in their professional careers. Creating EOL pages can take the place of a traditional research paper or other end-of-term assignment. Instructors have reported that the project contributes to group collaboration, motivates students to learn more, and empowers students to take more responsibility for their learning, in some cases, encouraging them to continue their studies further in the field.
Faculty reaction to assigning EOL pages:
You have to find some way to disseminate your information and certainly putting things all in one place is good. Instead of filling up your shelf with books you could go online. I'd prefer to replace my bookshelf with something I could search more easily. I've been on Mushroom Observer for several months, was asked to come to an EOL meeting, the two suddenly merged, it does both entities good. It puts the information in two places and the more places you have information the better. Some of them (the students) are very conscientious and take ownership of their species. The first one, I told them it had to be a polypore. I don't know if there's any difference in [classroom] enthusiasm, but they seem interested and want to do a good job because they know it's going out to everyone.
- Tom Volk, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse
Partners in Exploration
National Geographic FieldScope is a mapping, analysis, and collaboration tool designed to support geographic investigations and engage students as citizen scientists investigating real-world issues. National Geographic, EOL, and the National Park Service incorporate FieldScope into BioBlitzes, collaborations that bring scientists, students and nature enthusiasts together to inventory local species over a 24 hour period.
Images courtesty of National Geographic