Student Contributions

Under the direction of their instructors, undergraduate and graduate students can contribute content to the Encyclopedia of Life. Options for student contributions include:

Scientific Writing

Students can research and write brief summaries, comprehensive descriptions or other content sections for species and publish them on EOL. This activity can be done as part of a course or as an independent study. 

Sharing Images and Video

Students interested in sharing their species images on EOL can find more information and instructions here.

Scientific Writing on EOL 

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is a global collaboration among scientists and the general public to make authoritative information and literature about all 1.9 million named species freely accessible online. The EOL team has begun a focused effort to assemble rich content for taxa of particular public interest. Well-written Brief Summaries and Comprehensive Descriptions suitable for the general public are in the highest demand and where student contributions can have a large impact for education and outreach.

EOL is actively recruiting faculty to engage their undergraduate and graduate students in researching  and synthesizing information about species on EOL’s high priority taxa list. Student's final contributions can be published on EOL. Faculty are responsible for reviewing student work.  Look at the following list of information to get started.

Table of Contents

Introduction Individual Topics or Full Taxon Pages
Highlighted Course Images
Tips for Instructors References
Choosing Species Review
Brief Summary Publishing to EOL
Comprehensive Description Resources for Instructors


Student Activities:

  • Summarize species information in an overview suitable for the general public (Brief Summary) 
  • Write a more comprehensive taxon account (Comprehensive Description)  
  • Other options include choosing an individual topic such as general ecology or writing an entire taxon page (Content Sections).

The benefits of this activity for students include an opportunity to research and synthesize information to communicate science to the general public. Students, instructors and institutions receive attribution and recognition on the Encyclopedia of Life.

Highlighted Course

Students in the course Biology 260 - Biodiversity & Organization of Marine Ecosystems at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California researched and contributed species content to the Encyclopedia of Life. Below are images of the students collecting and studying species as part of this project.

See contributions from Occidental College students on EOL

Tips for Instructors

Below are some suggestions to help organize this activity for faculty:

  • Have a refined list that you the instructor know well in order to efficiently curate student pages. 
  • Before the course, assemble literature resources and have them on reserve for the students so you can easily track references. Provide some examples of acceptable references formats. 
  • Utilize primary literature from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) on EOL pages under the "Literature" tab or directly on the BHL website.
  • Don’t do this activity with a class of 100! 12-20 is a good number, with a good knowledgeable Teaching Assistant.
  • Demonstrate the need and impact of this writing - to convey biological information to the general public through a global resource.

Choosing Species

As the list of species on the content priority list is being updated regularly, please refer to the following collections on EOL. (See below). However, before you choose species, please contact us with your taxonomic interests and we can help you organize a list for you and your students to choose from. Another option is to give students a refined list of taxa and have them search on EOL to determine the need for information on a specific taxon page.

RedHotList Pending collection:

If you are planning to work on a page on this list, please put your name as an annotation so that others know it is already in progress.

RedHotList Completed collection:

Pages from the RedHot list that have been completed.

Brief Summary Contents

A brief overview of select aspects of taxon biology. Intended to be brief (200-300 words) and present highlights of the taxon to engage the reader.


Tiliqua gigas, commonly known as the giant blue-tongued skink, is best known for its bright blue tongue. It is a gray lizard about 31cm from the snout to the base of the tail and 55cm from the snout to the tip of the tail, with dark flanks and legs and lateral stripes. Its threat display, in which it opens its mouth wide to display its tongue and makes a loud hissing noise, is so striking that the Malay-speaking people of New Guinea called it “ular kaki ampat” or “snake with four legs” and feared for a long time that it was extremely venomous. In actuality, however, the lizard is fairly harmless - the most substantial documented medical danger of blue-tongued skink bites is secondary infection from bacteria living in the mouth. Tiliqua gigas is an omnivore and is often associated with human agricultural settlements. A broad diet and distinctive appearance have recently made this species and its relatives popular as pets (de Rooij 1915, Brongersma 1958, Broaddus 1994, Gorseman 1998, Dennert 2004).

Comprehensive Description

A comprehensive description of the characteristics of the taxon (including all aspects of biology, not just physical descriptions). Used primarily when many of the subject categories are treated together in one object, but at length (300-400 words).


The chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius, is widely viewed as among the most desirable of edible mushrooms. It is found singly, scattered, in groups, or sometimes clustered on the ground in woods. Its flesh is thick, firm, and white, with an odor that may be fragrant like apricots (or not distinctive) and a taste that may be peppery (or not distinctive). (Bessette et al. 1997) Cantharellus cibarius has been reported from North America, Europe, North Africa, the Himalayas, and Thailand, but there is considerable evidence that this nominal species actually includes multiple distinct cryptic species (see Taxonomy and Systematics section below). (Feibelman et al. 1997; Pilz et al. 2003)Members of the Cantharellus cibarius complex occur throughout the north temperate zone. In northern California and the Pacific Northwest they grow mainly with conifers, but along the Central California coast, they are often associated with live oaks, especially at pasture edges. On the west coast of the Unites States these mushrooms appear in cool weather and are often large and thick-stemmed (half kilo specimens are not uncommon), with an orange cap, faintly fruity odor, and pale, copiously veined gills (although a smaller, slimmer, cleaner form grows under Sitka Spruce). In eastern North America they are most common in the summer and are usually much smaller (caps typically 3 to 6 cm across) and often yellower, with a slender, well developed stalk and little or no odor. A number of other fungi, including several Cantharellus species and some poisonous species, can be confused with C. cibarius. (Arora 1986).

Individual Topics or Full Taxon Pages

As an alternate activity, students can focus on individual topics for species such as habitat, conservation, evolution, morphology or ecology, or they can work on a more complete taxon page including multiple topics. Lengths may vary. See Writing Content for EOL Chapters for more information about each topic/section.

Example:General Ecology

Tivela stultorum is subject to predation from a variety of species including: humans, sea otters, moon snails, gulls, sharks, rock crabs, rays and a variety of surf fishes. The clam is also host to several parasitic species including polychaete worms, which drill a very characteristic hole through the shell, larval cestodes, which are known to impair its sexual development, and trematodes. Finally, Tivela stultorum is part of several commensal relationships, primarily with hydroids that are often found on the exterior of the clam's shell and more rarely with pea crabs which take up residence in the mantle cavity (Pattinson, 2001: 136).


In addition to text, students may also contribute images of taxa. All contributed images must be shared under a Creative Commons License. If a student choses to share an image for which they are not the rights holder, the image can be reused only if it is licensed under Creative Commons for reuse or Public Domain. 


  • We suggest that students use primary resources such as journals and databases for their research. Many journal articles are now available through Google Scholar. Check with your school library for access information. 
  • Students can utilize primary literature from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) on EOL taxon pages under the "Literature" tab or directly on the BHL website.
  • For writing support every substantive statement with a citation from the literature in the form of: author, year: page number. All of these references must appear in the Reference section. We suggest you use inline citations whenever possible. EOL does not have a standard reference format, however you can find tips for references here.


It is the instructor's responsibility to conduct the final review and vetting of student's work to assess whether or not it should be published to EOL. In addition to double-checking the facts and references, judge the writing style, grammar and spelling.

Publishing to EOL

Add text directly to EOL species page:

Students work on their writing off-line. Review and vetting is also done off-line. When ready to publish, writing and references can be uploaded directly to the EOL species page. To add text, students must create a free EOL login.

  1. Click on the species page you would like to contribute to
  2. Click on the “Detail” tab 
  3. Click on the “Add an article to this page” 
  4. Choose the sub-topic that best suits your content, add text and references
  5. Complete article attribution information (name, affiliation, creative commons license choice) 
  6. Your article will be marked as "unreviewed" until a curator reviews it. Faculty can apply to become curators to mark approved student work as “trusted” on EOL. 

View the Add Text to EOL tutorial