For those interested in science, taxonomy, and web-based encyclopedias, the new Encyclopedia of Life made its official debut Wednesday, with the homepage stating that ”This is the very beginning of our exciting journey to document all species of life on Earth.”
The EOL has prepared 25 exemplar pages which “show the kind of rich environment, with extensive information, to which all the species pages will eventually grow.” The exemplars are wide-ranging, and two of my favorite backyard denizens appear in the list: the Green Anole and the Black-and-Yellow Argiope.
According to the FAQ, the Encyclopedia holds the possibility for exciting uses beyond academics:
“Members of the public will be able to use EOL in many different ways. In the near future, anyone will be able to personalize information on the EOL website for their own interests and uses. For example, one could create a field guide for a family vacation or for a day hike to a new location, which could then be downloaded to a personal digital assistant for easy access and information retrieval. It could be used to keep a catalogue of all the plants that might be found in one’s neighborhood.”
Slashdot reports that at the debut the site received so many hits that it went down before they even linked to it, so it looks like it’ll be a pretty popular undertaking and will hopefully get lots of support and input from the public.
Currently, the Encyclopedia is asking for volunteer curators, (you need to be associated with an academic or scientific institution) and promises to begin accepting reader submissions by the middle of this year. Content expectations are projected to be met in three to five years. In the meantime, you can donate.