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Encyclopedia of Life Assembles an Online Compendiumn of Earth's Species & Processes
The earth is home of millions of species and thousands of processes that can help us understand our home better. A relatively new project, the Encyclopedia of Life has been launched to help collect information about this wide diversity of earthly wisdom and make it available in an online database.
Over time the Encyclopedia of Life database will log changes in species and other data such as changes in the density of forests and when plants first flower. By making it easy to compare and contrast information about life on Earth, the compendium has the potential to provide new insights into many of life‟s secrets.
The first 30,000 pages of a massive online Encyclopedia of Life were unveiled in February 2009 at the prestigious Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference in Monterey, California. Intended as a tool for scientists and policymakers and a fascinating resource for anyone interested in the living world, the EOL is being developed by a unique collaboration between scientists and the general public.
The backers of the idea hope that the vast, virtual book of life will eventually be comparable to the global system used to watch for and record earthquakes.
The Encyclopedia of Life, based at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and the London's Natural History Museum are the key backers of the project.
Feedback on the first 30,000 pages will shape the ultimate design and functionality of all 1.8 million pages, scheduled for completion by 2017. It will also help inform priorities for content development.
The rapid progress to date was congratulated by Harvard‟s E.O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, who articulated the need for a dynamic modern portrait of biodiversity in a widely read essay in 2003. His letter in 2005 to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation resulted in a $10 million seed grant to start the EOL, soon complemented by a further $2.5 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “The launch of the Encyclopedia of Life will have a profound and creative effect in science,” says Prof. Wilson. “It aims not only to summarize all that we know of Earth‟s life forms, but also to accelerate the discovery of the vast array that remain unknown. This great effort promises to lay out new directions for research in every branch of biology.”