Monday, February 04, 2008

The "Encyclopedia of Life" a plan to compile all information available on 1.8 million known species that inhabit the Earth.

Initially funded by the MacArthur and Sloan foundations to pay for the first 2 1/2 years, the Encyclopedia of Life intends to make available on the web all information available on the Earth's 1.8 million known species. The new encyclopedia will fill about 300 million pages and will include information from scientists as well as amateur observations which will be placed in a clearly marked side page/s.

Imagine going to one website and finding all the information available including photos, videos, maps, species description and links to scientific journal papers and links to the entire genome of any living thing! Which means one day you will be able to look up all the known information about, as an example, the Silene cucubalus without having to visit and sift through many sites to find the data you want. This is like an enormous Wikipedia of living things.

I do like the clean format of the demonstration pages. The photographs are large and in a prominent location and pop up explanations are enabled for more detailed instruction. I hope there will be a way to disable the pop ups as they may become annoying after becoming familiar with the formatting of the pages. But it looks to be a splendid start and I hope they will start making the pages available as soon as possible rather than waiting until the entire encyclopedia has been completed. Take a look and see what you think.

The institutions who will launch the effort are:

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Field Museum of Natural History

Harvard University

Marine Biological Laboratory

Missouri Botanical Garden

Smithsonian Institution

with more to join the effort.

"Ten major natural history and botanical libraries are collaborating to digitize the biodiversity literature in an open access manner through a partnership called the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) project." The participating institutions are:

American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)

The Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, IL)

Harvard University Botany Libraries (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard University, Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (Cambridge, MA)

Marine Biological Laboratory / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Woods Hole, MA)

Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, MO)

Natural History Museum (London, UK)

The New York Botanical Garden (New York, NY)

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Richmond, UK)

Smithsonian Institution Libraries (Washington, DC)


Blogger kate said...

This sounds like a huge wonderful endeavour. It will be a great resource for many - I hope that more institutions throughout the world are included - it appears to be mainly composed of US ones with two UK institutions.

10:17 AM  
Blogger joey said...

I'm very impressed, Ki! How did you find this? I see many hours logged ... learning.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hello Kate,
Initially the Atlas of Living Australia was listed along with the others mentioned but I currently see no mention of them on the website. I assume they must have pulled out of the project which is too bad because as you wrote this seems to be mostly an Anglo-American effort. They should really enlist the help from tropical and Southern hemispheric institutions for they are rich with interesting and unusual plant and animal life. The project is in it's formative stage so it's too harsh for me to criticize the effort now. I'm just thrilled that a huge amount of information will be available to anyone by just going to one website.


Hi Joey,
If I read something interesting in a newspaper or magazine, I will clip the article for future reference or bookmark it if I'm web surfing. I'm ashamed to say that I came across this article in the local newspaper dated 5/9/07! I thought it was only a couple of months ago so it seems the site as been up for almost a year now. So much for timely news from me! Oh well...better late than never. I wished they'd hurry up and post whatever they digitized.

6:28 PM  

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