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Map of Life launches its demo

Thanks to Gary Price of  LJ’s infoDOCKET I am exploring the first demonstration release of the Map of Life Project. The project’s ambitious goal is to show the global distribution of all plants and animals.

Share this with teachers of science and geography!

Map of Life will allow users to see several levels of detail for a given species–from the broad type of environment it lives in, to the finest–specific locations where the species’ presence has been documented.  Users may now click on a point on the map and generate a list of vertebrate species in the surrounding area.  The project gleans data from a  variety of sources, including field guides, museum collections and wildlife checklists that involved scientists, conservation organizations and “citizen scientists. The current demo release allows users explore globally distributions for any  vertebrate species and for North American freshwater fish. Much more to come!

A press release from a research team from the University of Colorado and Yale University quoted CU-Boulder Associate Professor Robert Guralnick of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, and research team member:.

We are taking 200 years of different types of knowledge coming from different sources, all documenting the locations of species around the world and compiling them in a way that will greatly enhance our knowledge of biodiversity.  Such information could be used by any organization that needs to make informed decisions regarding land management, health, conservation and climate change.

Walter Jetz, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale, and the project lead, shared:

It is the where and the when of a species. It puts at your fingertips the geographic diversity of life. Ultimately, the hope is for this literally to include hundreds of thousands of animal and plant species and show how much or indeed how little we know of their whereabouts.

The project will rely on citizen participation, and an upcoming mapping tool will offer the opportunity for amateurs to supply new or missing information regarding the distribution and abundance of a species.  According to Guralnick,

A small but powerful next step is to provide a means for anyone, anywhere on the globe to use their mobile devices to instantly pull up animal and plant distributions and even get a realistic assessment on the odds of encountering a particular species of wildlife.

Map of Life is supported by the National Science Foundation, with additional funding from the Encyclopedia of Life; the International Union for the Conservation of Nature; the Senckenberg Research Institute, the Natural History Museum, and Germany’s Biodiversity and Climate Research Center.

The two videos embedded in this post demonstrate Map of Life’s taxonomic search and its species list tool.  The larger vision and next steps for the project are outlined in the 2012 Trends in Ecology and Evolution paper.

You may also be interested in the Encyclopedia of Life project.

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

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