Explore the Encyclopedia of Earth

02 May 2010 | News story

Encyclopedia of Earth is a new electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society. It is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written in non-technical language by scholars, professionals, educators and experts. CEC member Mark McGinley introduces the EoE to CEC. 

In light of Dr. Francis' recent call for CEC members to share "the latest, greatest programs in education and communication that IUCN should recognize, promote and adopt", I would like to introduce you to a project that I have been working on, the Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE), that I think provides many opportunities for members of the CEC.

The Encyclopedia of Earth (http://www.eoearth.org/), based at Boston University (BU) and operated in partnership with the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who review each other’s work using the same collaborative electronic platform as Wikipedia. However—unlike Wikipedia—all EoE articles are written by recognized field experts and are reviewed and approved by qualified topic editors.

The EoE is also transparent: All contributors use their real names and all work is tracked and recorded. Authors’ and topic editors’ biographies are available on the site so that readers can see who is producing the information. The scope of EoE is broadly defined, with particular emphasis on the interaction between society and natural ecosystems. The EoE covers more than 130 topics ranging from agriculture, to resource economics, to zoology.

The articles are written in nontechnical language and are intended to be useful to students, educators, scholars, policy makers, professionals, and the general public.

The EoE published its first articles in October 2006 and has since grown to include more than 5,300 entries. Articles are either written by EoE authors or "harvested" from EoE Content Partners including governmental organizations, NGOs, museums, and universities.

The EoE can be useful to the CEC in a variety of ways. In addition to individual articles, the EoE also includes special collections on topics ranging from the geography and environments of Africa, to the writings and influence of well-known ecologist Aldo Leopold, to the environmental and social issues in the field of economics. The Ecology Collection, for example, provides the basic information about ecology that students need to place environmental issues in the appropriate context. The EoE also makes environmental classics available online, including books such as Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) and Henry Thoreau’s Walden (1854) and articles such as Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” (1968). The EoE recently published an online environmental science textbook intended for use in Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science classes. We are currently working on developing material for on-line courses in Ecology, Physical Geography, Climate Change, and Environmental Science. It is possible to organize EoE articles in whatever "package" is most useful to potential users.

Currently, most EoE contributors are located in North America, but there is a great deal of interest in broadening our coverage internationally. The EoE is currently developing collections on "Africa" and "Latin America and the Caribbean". In June, I will start as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to develop a "Malaysia Collection" for the EoE in collaboration with Malaysian scholars.

The EoE is always looking for more Authors, Topic Editors, and Content Partners and we are interested in making the EoE a more valuable resource for our users. Please contact me if you are interested in contributing to the EoE, if you have suggestions for Content Partners, or if you have suggestions for how me can make the EoE a more useful tool for members of the CEC.

Dr. Mark A. McGinley
Associate Professor
Honors College and Department of Biological Sciences
Texas Tech University

Associate Editor
Encyclopedia of Earth
http://www.eoearth.org/

mark.mcginley@ttu.edu