Jan 122011
 
Encyclopedia of Life

Image via Wikipedia

Over 30,000 still images and video, as well as local information about changing biodiversity, have been uploaded to the Encyclopedia of Life via new tools that let the public contribute as never before to a global online science collaboration of unprecedented scale.

Experts and citizen scientists alike have fuelled explosive growth of the interactive encyclopedia, which dedicates a Web page to each known species and will eventually contain 1.8 million pages.

More than 150,000 species pages populated with expert-verified text and/or images are now available at http://www.EOL.org, a fast-growing inventory expected to shed new light on everything from conservation strategies for endangered species to climate change and the movements of disease-bearing or invasive pests. Some experts believe it may one day even help advance human longevity.

As the 10-year project marks its 2nd anniversary, EOL officials say pages with vetted information cover 150,000 species likely to be of greatest public interest. They also announced completion of over 75% of the encyclopedia’s architecture, with 1.4 million placeholder pages now in place.

To build on the progress to date, an additional grant of $10 million was announced today by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which was one of the project’s earliest supporters, providing an initial grant of $10 million in 2007.

And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, also a founding sponsor, announced $2.5 million in additional funding.

EOL is an online environment for presenting authoritative, well-organized species information, including DNA barcodes and other genetic sequences, from diverse global sources (content providers are listed at http://www.eol.org/content/partners), dramatically expanding its free availability to users everywhere.

To better serve non-English speaking users, EOL partners are creating regional versions, with information and digitized literature in local languages about local plants, animals and microorganisms. The first regional EOLs have been initiated in the Netherlands, Australia and China, with discussions underway in Central America, the Arab world, Indonesia and South Africa;

Contributors and users of what will be the ultimate online field guide are professional and citizen scientists, teachers, students, media, environmental managers, families and artists. Since its unveiling in early 2008, the site has attracted 1.8 million unique visitors from more than 200 countries.

With EOL now fully open to receive information from both specialists and the public, some 250 experts, including taxonomists, conservation biologists, graduate students and others, along with more than 1,200 citizen scientists, have already stepped forward to volunteer images, share data, or to write or curate pages.

EOL accounts are freely available and registered users can add comments or observations to a page or tag a species and search for its relatives.

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