Encyclopaedia of life
The EOL website gathers and shares scientific knowledge about earth’s varied living things, writes N S Soundar Rajan
The website Encyclopedia Of Life (EOL), at www.esol.org, is an unprecedented effort to gather and share scientific knowledge about all the rich and varied living things which inhabit our earth. It is a fascinating resource for anyone interested in the living world, especially for educators, students and scientists.
The first 30,000 EOL pages of this website were unveiled online for the public ‘alpha’ test and feedback, way back in February, 2007. The endeavour was then heralded as A Leap for All Life: World’s Leading Scientists Announce Creation of “Encyclopedia of Life”.
Since then, the global EOL community, by partnering with content providers, scientific experts, learned societies and institutions, has made large strides to make EOL a perfect bioblitz resource. Encyclopedia of Life content partners serve authenticated species information through the EOL portal.
On more than 10,000 World Wide Web pages, the project provides information about the diversity of organisms on Earth, their evolutionary history (phylogeny), and characteristics. Thanks to partnership and collaboration with these world renowned institutions and organisations, only a few have been mentioned.
EOL has emerged as a uniquely comprehensive and freely available source of trusted scientific information.
With its sweeping global effort to gather and share the vast wealth of information on every creature — animals, plants and microorganisms, in the next couple of years, EOL would:
* Generate a million species pages, most of which will be authenticated by experts
* Digitise a large portion of biodiversity literature
* Generate educational materials for students, schools and universities
* Use the EOL resource to generate new synthetic knowledge about the world’s biodiversity
EOL is also a partner in educational and scientific outreach programmes, a key component of biodiversity research, discovery and education, and a true community of scientists, educators, students, policy workers and the general public coming together to protect earth’s biodiversity.
At EOL educators, students and enthusiasts would find many resources to tap. There are podcasts, classroom activities, bioblitz activities, and games, the last one includes the Google Species Quiz. A new tool to build and share a field guide is on the anvil. This would not only enable anyone to build a field guide based on a species list for a particular area, but also provide a way to show customised content from the EOL.
Though this tool is still in development, some sample guides are available, including one for Biscayne National Park, site of the 2010 Biscayne BioBlitz.
EOL is a collaborative, ongoing effort to organise information about all the species on earth. This is a huge task and EOL needs your help! Thousands of people all over the world are already contributing to help build the Encyclopedia of Life. You too can start contributing to EOL.
Just visit the quick start page which will walk you through these simple steps – Registration and creating an account. Next, visit an EOL species page, get familiar with the anatomy of a species page — page navigation is the same for microbes to ferns, sequoias to whales. Add text to species which you think needs the addition/correction.
Your contribution would not appear instantly as it has to be reviewed by curators who will then promote the vetted content to ‘trusted’ status, in due course. You can do any of these too — leave a comment, or add descriptive tags. EOL also welcomes image and video contributions of species from the public to help build the species pages. To get to know about uploading images and videos do browse a tutorial at http://www.slideshare.net/csparr/eol-flickr-tutorial-presentation.
Just make sure the images and videos you share are your own and not ones you found elsewhere. The EOL community has truly worked hard and continues to do so to assemble, author and verify trusted information about hundreds of thousands of species.
It is expected that the Encyclopedia of Life in its entirety would be ready in the next 5-6 years. By then the classification of the millions of species, yet to be discovered, would be catalogued as well!