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Christian Cariño is excited to be going to Wikimanía 2015. Video by Victor Grigas, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Also view on YouTube.com and Vimeo.com. A version with burned-in Spanish subtitles is available here.

For Christian Cariño, a biologist interested in the conservation of endangered species, it was a natural fit to edit Wikipedia.

Like many other volunteers, Cariño started editing and writing Wikipedia articles two years ago; the notion of improving and building articles on endangered species was first an itch, then an obsession, she said.

She grew her personal project into an institution-backed opportunity that aims to improve Wikipedia articles on endangered species like the Ajolote.

Cariño is a part of CONABIO, and has partnered with various institutions like the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), University of Guadalajara (UDG) and the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) to improve awareness of endangered species through Wikipedia page edits. “They are able to give us the bank of photos and information [needed] for these species,” Cariño said.

Her love affair with Wikipedia as a tool to increase awareness of her conservation efforts started the moment she learned how to use Wikipedia during a Trans-la-thon session in Mexico City.

Cariño (center) at a meetup with CONABIO. Photo by Christian Cariño, CC BY-SA 3.0.

“I was in love with movement from that day—I felt that I can give something to this,” she said. “[CONABIO] has a lot of information that a lot of times nobody knows nothing about, like the endemic Mexican species “Haoloto,” and those that even I don’t know about.”

But why choose Wikipedia as a tool to increase awareness of endangered species, rather than a scientific journal? According to Cariño, “At first researchers were thinking, ‘Well, I always have to send my information to a magazine,’ and then they have wait a couple of months sometimes for that information to be public,” she said.

Using Wikipedia, Cariño has been able to see instantaneous results.

The Wikimedia movement has definitely grown on Cariño, who is a conference organizer for this year’s Wikimania in Mexico City.

She told us she was “thrilled” to work on planning this year’s Wikimania and hopes that the event will be “a safe, happy experience” that also offers great opportunities for research.

And what makes this effort even better for Cariño, is that anyone who is passionate about the project can start an initiative like hers.

“At first you may meet some people who do not believe in the movement, but after you finish talking about [it] with them they are curious—like ‘Oh wow, I want to do the same thing as you are doing!’ ” she said.

Profile by Yoona Ha, WMF Assistant Storyteller Intern
Interview by Victor Grigas, WMF Storyteller