We don't bite: WikiProject Amphibians and Reptiles
This week, we spent some time with the members of WikiProject Amphibians and Reptiles. Started in April 2006, the project has grown to encompass over 10,000 articles including 13 Featured Articles, 3 Featured Lists, and 26 Good Articles. The project is a child of WikiProject Animals and the parent of projects covering dinosaurs, pterosaurs, sea monsters, and turtles. WikiProject Amphibians and Reptiles maintains a portal, a category filled with articles needing images, and a collection of reference sources. We interviewed Bibliomaniac15, ZooPro, and Petter Bøckman.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Amphibians and Reptiles? Do you have an educational background dealing with amphibians or reptiles? Is there an amphibian or reptile you find particularly interesting?
- Bibliomaniac15: I first joined the group because I wanted help with the Komodo dragon article (my favorite animal). I have no herpetological experience whatsoever, but the WikiProject has introduced me to a host of people who do have such experience. It has been extremely interesting to see the many debates that have come up over the years in the project.
- ZooPro: I decided to join WikiProject AAR after I noticed it was rather inactive and some things hadn't been updated in a while. I wanted to breathe a bit of life back into it and encourage new editors to join. I do have a background in working with and dealing with reptiles and amphibians (I work at a zoo in Australia). My favourite reptile would have to be the Saltwater Crocodile. I love how on the surface they appear to be mindless killing machines but once you understand and study them you soon learn they are caring and loving parents and have very individual and sophisticated personalities.
- Petter Bøckman: My primary interest is in extinct amphibians and reptiles. Working as a public educator in the University of Oslo's Natural History Museum I come across questions about these animals almost daily, and see Wikipedia as an excellent platform of public education. I'm a zoologist by education, so doing work both on modern and extinct critters suits me well.
Which tend to be better covered by Wikipedia: amphibians or reptiles? In general, how does Wikipedia's coverage of amphibians and reptiles compare to coverage of other living things? What can be done to improve coverage of amphibians and reptiles?
- Bibliomaniac15: If WikiProject Dinosaurs is to be included, it would probably be reptiles by a long shot. In the project itself, the best coverage is on testudines and lizards; besides the frogs and toads, other amphibians like salamanders, newts, and caecilians haven't gotten as thorough coverage.
- ZooPro: I would have to say reptiles only because of the sheer number of articles we have on them. Our coverage is rather good overall I think; it's on par with most of our sister projects. I think to improve we need more editors who are willing to contribute long term, over a number of years, in order to keep the articles up to date with current information. I think this has been made easier with WikiProject Turtles starting up, as it takes a lot of stress away from WikiProject AAR, so we can focus more on our top-priority articles.
- Petter Bøckman: Reptiles are easily the best covered group of the two, both regarding extinct and modern animals.
The project is home to 16 pieces of Featured material and 26 Good Articles. Have you contributed to any of these articles? What are some of the challenges of improving amphibian and reptile articles to FA or GA status?
- Bibliomaniac15: In the past I've helped write a number of reptile articles (Komodo dragon, Gila Monster, Varanus salvadorii), and I've reviewed many more. Compared to other articles on organisms I feel that there are more challenges; some expected, some unexpected. Should we stick with common names or scientific names? Should the "dragon" in "Komodo dragon" be capitalized? Should we rely on more traditional taxonomies, even if they're paraphyletic? Is the size report of such-and-such a lizard exaggerated? Thorough research on specific species of reptiles is hard to come by, and often quite old if it does exist. And in terms of behavior, there are still many questions inviting further observation. So it's quite a challenge.
- ZooPro: I have been loosely involved in some of the FA and GA articles, I prefer to stick behind the scenes of the project and keep its operation running smoothly. However, I do try to contribute to the project the best I can.
- Petter Bøckman: I primarily work on small and obscure topics, and have contributed minimally to the FA and GA articles. I see my task primarily as providing reliable information on little known species and phenomena.
WikiProject Amphibians and Reptiles has several child projects. Have you been active in any of these projects? Do the child projects collaborate with WikiProject Amphibians and Reptiles?
- Bibliomaniac15: Of our four child projects (WikiProject Dinosaurs, WikiProject Pterosaurs, WikiProject Sea Monsters, WikiProject Turtles), I would say only WikiProject Turtles is more involved in collaborating in WikiProject Amphibians and Reptiles, because most members here tend to focus on extant species, and because it was started more recently. The Dinosaur WikiProject is far older than us, and the Pterosaurs project was created at around the same time we were created, so they do things more or less independently from us.
- ZooPro: I have been slightly active with WikiProject Turtles; I think they have done an incredible job in starting up a "Child" project and yes, they collaborate with WikiProject AAR and most members of WikiProject Turtles are also members of WikiProject AAR.
- Petter Bøckman: I have contributed bits and pieces here and there, but my main emphasis is on critters that fall outside these more popular groups.
How difficult is it to obtain images of amphibians and reptiles? Are there specific amphibians or reptiles the project could use some help photographing?
- Bibliomaniac15: As always, obtaining images of rarer specimens is more difficult, but I would have to say that the more daunting task is identification. Many of the threads we see in the WikiProject talk page have to do with identifying the species in the picture, and Commons has quite a few pictures of unidentified reptiles around. Although one can give a good educated guess, to conclusively identify a species is difficult.
- ZooPro: I have never found it all that difficult to obtain Australian Reptile images; however, as Bibliomaniac15 said, identifying images of reptiles is really the larger task.
- Petter Bøckman: Fortunately, there are a number of very good palaeo-artists who contribute their images for free for the extinct animals.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new member help today?
- Bibliomaniac15: The most urgent need at the moment is our top [importance] articles, of which two-thirds are either C-class or lower.
- ZooPro: I agree with Bibliomaniac15: we have a large number of articles; however, many of them need great improvement. I would suggest helping with our top priority articles first.
- Petter Bøckman: We won't run out of animals needing articles anytime soon. Just follow the red links, find a good reference and start typing!
Anything else you'd like to add?
- Petter Bøckman: I know Wikipedia isn't a social network site, but sometimes I come across small "Thank you, this article helped me with my assignment" messages, and they are hugely heart-warming. Making knowledge available is what Wikipedia is all about for me!
- ZooPro: I would invite everyone and anyone to join; we always like to see new members who bring fresh ideas. Come and see what we are about – we don't bite much.
Next week, we'll visit Rosie the Riveter. Until then, explore history in the archive.
Check back for the next Signpost on May 26.