What does a billion years of boredom look like?
Thanks to student Wikipedians in George Waldbusser’s Biogeochemical Earth class at Oregon State University, we have a pretty good idea.
Those students created an article about the “Boring Billion,” a billion-year period of our planet’s history when not very much happened at all. Ironically, it’s pretty fascinating. For a billion years, biological life generally stayed put, the climate mostly didn’t change, and the supercontinent didn’t really shift.
All of Earth’s current inhabitants can learn more about that period thanks to the work of those students, who crafted an article tackling each “boring” aspect of the time period and the reasons it stayed that way.
Other students in the class expanded the blue carbon article from a short stub into an equally substantial article. Blue carbon is the carbon captured by coastal and ocean ecosystems (such as mangroves and salt marshes). It accounts for a substantial portion of the atmospheric carbon fixed by biological processes. As we lose these ecosystems, they’re able to absorb less atmospheric carbon. Thanks to these students, people around the world can quickly learn about the importance of these threatened environments.
Student editors also expanded articles on Yaquina Bay and remineralisation from short stubs into substantial articles. The work of these students has already been read 272,000 times.
Developing articles on Wikipedia helps people find good information about topics that interest them (even if it’s a billion years of boredom). But it’s also a powerful, accessible tool for people to learn about their world. Thanks to these students for helping make science more accessible for a global audience!
Photo: “A Simple Crescent Earth” by Kevin Gill from Nashua, NH, United States – Earth, CC BY-SA 2.0.