Encyclopedia of Life

How’s this for a goal?

Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about all life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.

from Tamara L. Clark\'s Eden ArtAll key information about all life on Earth? That’s a lot of information. There are 1.75 million documented species on Earth. So far, they have about, umm, 25 more-or-less done.

It’s an admirable goal. They want to meet the needs of everyone who has an interest in things that are alive. That includes the first grade class studying amphibians as well as scientists doing original research in biological fields. Eventually, the site will contain detailed textual information and statistics, as well as images, audio recording, video, and drawings for each species. A unique slider on each page allows you to control the amount of detail you see about each species.

The project’s organizers are estimating that it will take ten years to completely build the database. Later this year, users of the site will be able to contribute their own materials to the database. These will be added to a separate section of user-submitted content. Curators of the species pages will examine this data, moving some of it over to the authenticated species pages. So, like Wikipedia, users will be able to add to the content. But unlike it, there will be a separation between user added content and professionally verified content.

Cornerstone institutions for this initiative include the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Field Museum of Natural History, Harvard University, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution. Funding is also provided by the MacArthur Foundation and the Sloan Foundation.

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Author: John Schinker

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