Millions of people use Wikipedia to find out quick facts about nearly everything. Sea life is no exception. Wikipedia, “the Internet’s favorite website,” has a greater share of mobile traffic than CNN, Fox News, and USA Today combined. It’s an unprecedentedly powerful public resource and science communications opportunity.
Students from Millersville University of Pennsylvania’s Seminar in Marine Biology course, led by Dr. Jean Boal, know that: their course contributions to Wikipedia have been seen 315,000 times so far.
Take the Pygmy Killer Whale, for example. The article had been untouched since 2008. The article was pretty good, but student editors added content related to cool stuff like echolocation, conservation, and distinguishing the whale from dolphins.
Other species with articles improved by these students include the White Marlin, the Smooth Butterfly Ray, and the Clearnose skate. But they also improved information about sea life that has a less positive impact on aquatic habitats, such as the red-tide-inducing unicellular Ceratium.
This is science communication in its most direct form. Students are putting knowledge about undersea species into the hands of thousands of curious people around the world. With so many species, there’s still lots of room left to contribute to the public’s understanding of living creatures and their habitats.
As part of our Year of Science outreach, we’ve created editing guides offered for free to your students when they improve Wikipedia assignments for their coursework. These include guides specifically aimed at species articles, or articles in environmental sciences or ecology.
If you’d like to extend a powerful science communications lesson that puts your students’ knowledge into the hands of thousands of readers, we’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Modified from Pygmy killer whale size by Chris huh, CC BY-SA 3.0.