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Encyclopedia of Life launches

Time to update your science pathfinders.  The Encyclopedia of Life launched earlier this week. 

The goal:  to create an online database of the 1.8 million species known to man. 

This ambitious, non-profit 2.0 project now boasts 30,000 pages. Project funders include the MacArthur and Sloan Foundations.

EOL hopes to combine scientifc oversight with popular knowledge building–its public submissions will be authenticated by expert curators prior to publication. 

EOL calls itself:

an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about all life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. Our goals are to:

  • Create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike.
  • Transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by aggregating virtually all known data about every living species.
  • Engage a wide audience of schoolchildren, educators, citizen scientists, academics and those who are just curious about Earth’s species.
  • Increase our collective understanding of life on Earth, and safeguard the richest possible spectrum of biodiversity.

The first edition of the portal is impressive.  It contains:

    • About 25 exemplar species pages. These pages show the kind of rich environment, with extensive information, to which all the species pages will eventually grow. These pages have been authenticated (endorsed) scientists.
    • Tens of thousands of additional species pages. These pages are authenticated, but do not contain the rich array of information found on the exemplar pages.
    • About 1 million minimal species pages contain the scientific and common names for a species and often have a distribution map, but lack other authenticated information.

Here’s an example of an examplar page which contains narrative, media, maps, and diagrams.

I am hugely impressed with the idealism and energy behind this project, but I feel unqualified to evaluate the effort.  Scientists and science teachers, please weigh in!

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. I visited the site and it looks great! I used to teach science before I became a LMS. I am going to contact our science teachers about getting our kids to become contributors!

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