Tāmaki Innovation Campus

Putting a word in for insects

Edit-a-thon - Insects of New Zealand
Edit-a-thon - Insects of New Zealand

They might be our smallest inhabitants, but with around 20,000 different species, and 90% only found in NZ, our insects have a huge following.

Entomologists have called them both bizarre and beautiful, and a recent editathon held on Tamaki Campus aimed to increase publicity of New Zealand’s insects by creating easy to access information on Wikipedia species pages.

Whilst not the first Wikipediathon in New Zealand, this is the first time it has been done with a New Zealand insect theme. Dr Chrissie Painting, Research Fellow at Tamaki’s School of Biological Sciences, says the idea originally came up as a discussion with Dr Mike Dickison (Whanganui Regional Museum) and Leilani Walker (PhD student, School of Biological Sciences).

“The idea grew because Mike Dickison has had a large involvement with Wikipedia and, following the great success of Leilani's NZ insect playing cards project, we all felt it would be a good opportunity to further raise the profile of New Zealand insects. (Listen to Jesse Mulligan’s interview with Dr Dickison).

Around 20 people attended the editathon, including School of Biological Sciences undergraduate and postgraduate students, academics from SBS and Landcare Research, staff from Auckland Museum, a couple of members of the public (including a high school student interested in ants), and a few Wikipedia experts from Auckland.  

Dr Painting says few of the participants had worked on Wikipedia before, so the first half of the day was a tutorial led by Mike Dickison teaching how to create and edit Wikipedia pages, and how to contribute photos to Wikimedia Commons.

“In the afternoon, we split up into small groups to enable collaboration and meet new people, and started adding in new information and photographs to some of the insect species pages. 

“We haven't been able to collate the data for how much we were able to achieve yet, but everyone on the day picked a species or two to work on and started to add in extra sections of information to those pages. The information was accessed from books, primary literature, Landcare Research fact pages and other online sources. The great thing is that people could follow us remotely and several Wikipedia experts around the world were able to help fix up any issues with the new contributions from afar, and also start writing their own contributions to the pages,” she says.

Now experienced in editing Wikipedia, Dr Painting says the group all learnt new skills and understand how to contribute to Wikipedia in an ongoing way. “We hope that our participants will continue to add information and photographs to NZ insect pages when they have the time, and that they spread the word about how easy it is to be a contributor to Wikipedia.”

She hopes to keep up the enthusiasm of those who attended, by organising meetups where people can casually get together in a cafe to work collaboratively on improving more of the NZ Insect pages.

“Given the enthusiasm of the people involved, we will also look at holding another workshop in future to teach another cohort of keen people the skills to edit in Wikipedia. In particular it would be great to engage with more undergraduate students with an interest in entomology and public outreach for a future workshop,” she says.