A hugely ambitious global project, born this week,  could help to protect life on earth.

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) has begun its daunting task of documenting every species of life on earth.  It’s a really exciting project that will ultimately create a constantly evolving encyclopedia on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike.

EOL says it will transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by bringing together virtually all known data about every living species.  It aims to appeal to everyone from schoolchildren to academics (as well as those who are simply curious about our planet and its creatures.)

EOL hopes that its work will increase global understanding of life and help to safeguard as many species as possible.

This week it released its first 30,000 pages for public “alpha” test and it wants to have placeholder pages for 1 million species within its first year.  Within 10 years, it promises to bring together in one place, information on the entire 1.8m species on earth currently known to science.

For the avoidance of doubt, that means EVERYTHING … from grizzly bears to humble bacteria and it will have links to at least a million pages of scientific information, previously only available in the world’s 10 largest natural history museums.

EOL wants to involve the public in gathering information about little known or unrecognised species and says the data will help us to track the effect that climate change is having on life all over the globe.

EOL executive director, Jim Edwards, says: “Basically there are many species for which we do not yet have high quality images or text.”

You can watch an interview with Edwards here

In a nutshell, the Encyclopedia of Life is one of the biggest scientific projects ever undertaken and we could write thousands of words about it – but it’s probably easier just to give you its web address so you can see it for yourself and hopefully play a part in its growth. 

susan hunt



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