The use of Web-based informatics tools such as eBird, iNaturalist, and NatureAtlas that allow anyone to find and share occurrences and observations of organisms in nature could readily be integrated with the time-honored specimen collection and field journaling components of taxon-based natural history courses. We find, however, that fewer than 2% of such courses have used any such tool. Consequently, the far majority of students receive no formal exposure to the 21st-century technologies and concepts that are transforming the data landscapes of the very fields the courses should be preparing them to enter. We conducted a seven-year, empirical assessment of the integration of such technology with coursework, and our results reveal why recognizing and correcting this shortcoming is critical. Our data indicate that such technology can enhance student engagement and student perception of learning, and that its broader integration with coursework could be a boon to regional and global efforts to document and conserve biodiversity. We conclude that the academic community is missing a tremendous opportunity to better engage future biologists and potential citizen-scientists in a critically important, emergent paradigm in biodiversity informatics.

You do not currently have access to this content.