The Ask a Biologist website is dedicated to answering questions on all aspects of biology. Although aimed primarily at school students of all ages, questions are accepted from anyone, whatever their age, including teachers.
The site can be used free of charge and is devoted to providing the highest-quality scientific information. It is staffed by academics and scientific experts from a variety of organisations from around the world.
The site is divided into 13 categories, which cover all aspects of biology: mammals; birds; reptiles and amphibians; fishes; invertebrates; plants and fungi; micro-organisms; fossils; genes, genetics and DNA; human biology and evolution; ecology, biodiversity and behaviour; evolution; and general biology. There is also a special category dedicated to careers and training in biology.
Ask a Biologist has been operating for four years and has provided more than 10 000 answers to around 3700 questions from the general public. Contributions have come from more than 80 researchers, the majority of whom are from Europe and the USA.
Visitors to the site post questions, which are answered by one or more of the registered academic experts. The answers are then available for everyone to see and can be browsed by category. The system is simple and is an excellent way of enabling direct contact between the public and scientists.
Teachers should make their students aware that Ask a Biologist does not answer homework questions. However, the site should prove a great occasional resource to teachers and students alike. The site has attracted an estimated half a million visitors from across the world and so appears to be becoming very successful indeed.
- To learn about many more ‘ask a scientist’ websites that you could use at school, see: Stanley H (2007) ‘Ask a scientist’ websites. Science in School 6: 88-90.