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Encyclopedia of Life
May 9, 2007 10:15 PM   Subscribe

The Encyclopedia of Life project will create a compendium of every aspect of the biosphere. It aims to compile data on all of Earth's 1.8 million known species on one Web site, and will include species descriptions, pictures, maps, videos, sound, sightings by amateurs, and links to entire genomes and scientific journal papers. E. O. Wilson is getting his wish. [Via BB.]
posted by homunculus (31 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
It doesn't appear to be ready, yet, but I can't wait!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:27 PM on May 9, 2007


Estimates are it will take 10 years to complete, so you better relax.
posted by banished at 10:54 PM on May 9, 2007


Why can this not be an ongoing project? I guess I don't get the delay in opening it. Even with only two pages it would be cool, with 200 cooler, 2000 useful. Seems a bit premature to hype but not launch.

Still, very cool idea.
posted by maxwelton at 10:56 PM on May 9, 2007


I was just about to make a post about this. I checked it out earlier, it looks like it's going to be fantastic. Imagine all that information at your fingertips. The most obscure critters, profiled with all their vitals and the literature on them ... I'd surf it for longer than I do wikipedia!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:06 PM on May 9, 2007


Screw this. I tried to send them my footage and they told me to piss off.
posted by well_balanced at 11:10 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


The EDGE of Existence programme
posted by homunculus at 12:01 AM on May 10, 2007


Excellent, but I pity the poor soul who has to sell it door-to-door.
posted by Abiezer at 12:15 AM on May 10, 2007


maxwelton: "Why can this not be an ongoing project? I guess I don't get the delay in opening it. Even with only two pages it would be cool, with 200 cooler, 2000 useful. Seems a bit premature to hype but not launch.

Still, very cool idea.
"

VAPOROPEDIA
posted by zouhair at 12:56 AM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


well_balanced, this explains the origin of Beavis.
posted by maxwelton at 1:24 AM on May 10, 2007


Someone mentioned this to me today and it sounded pretty neat. Looking at the site, it sounds even neater. I can't wait till this gets up and running.
posted by brundlefly at 1:49 AM on May 10, 2007


maxwelton
Why can this not be an ongoing project? I guess I don't get the delay in opening it. Even with only two pages it would be cool, with 200 cooler, 2000 useful. Seems a bit premature to hype but not launch.

Read the FAQ:
"It is too soon to predict how long it will take to fully document, catalog, and list all 1.8 million species on the Encyclopedia of Life site. We intend to make key components of the Encyclopedia available to the general public starting some time in 2008. As a ballpark estimate, we believe that we can produce the full encyclopedia in about 10 years."

It sounds like it will be put out on a rolling basis, starting next year.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:57 AM on May 10, 2007


So, ARKive not good enough for you people?

You ungrateful assholes don't DESERVE life. I'm taking all MY biodiversity out of YOUR ecosystem and going home.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:01 AM on May 10, 2007


Another *pedia site? Yeah, let me know when the next Digg or Flickr clone gets launched too.
posted by GavinR at 3:41 AM on May 10, 2007


Sorry, didn't mean to be so cranky....too darn early for me.
posted by GavinR at 3:44 AM on May 10, 2007


Well, I suppose this is good. But what proportion of the 1.8 million species actually have an "audience?" I suspect that it's around .01%. This being so, one wonders what value the encyclopedia will generate, and whether the resources might be better spent elsewhere.
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:22 AM on May 10, 2007


Thanks for the ARKive link the quidnunc kid
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:31 AM on May 10, 2007


Wikipedia was an inspiration for the EOL:
Wikipedia inspired us. Wikipedia accumulated about 1.5 million entries in English in its first four years. That gave us confidence that our tasks are manageable with current technology and social behaviour, although the expert community in a lot of the subjects for pages in Encyclopedia of Life may be only a handful of people. Wikipedia has also created some species pages, as have other groups. Encyclopedia of Life will, we hope, unite all such efforts and increase their value. The Wikimedia Foundation is a member of the Encyclopedia’s Institutional Council.
posted by stbalbach at 4:36 AM on May 10, 2007


I can't wait for all the bacteria pages.
posted by tylermoody at 4:38 AM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Of course, there's also the Tree of Life Web.
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on May 10, 2007


But what proportion of the 1.8 million species actually have an "audience?" I suspect that it's around .01%.

If it's a wiki, the "audience" only needs to consist of a single person willing to type the information in. And if the species is a known one, that person is very likely to exist. I mean, there are people willing to exhaustively document Sleestaks, which don't even really exist.
posted by DU at 5:41 AM on May 10, 2007


And if the species is a known one, that person is very likely to exist.

I wouldn't say "very likely." I remember when I did undergrad bio ages ago, that the vast, vast majority of species had no attention to them whatsoever (unlike Sleestaks....).
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:33 AM on May 10, 2007


Kevin Kelly and Co.'s All Species Foundation was established in 2000 for a similar goal, but they gave themselves 25 years.
posted by Songdog at 6:52 AM on May 10, 2007


This will be incredibly useful to biologists, nature nerds in general, and students in particular. Much of the reliable information on many species is scattered across paper references, and the less well-studied the species, the more important and yet difficult to find is the information that is out there. Not to mention the information on the internet about anything that isn't a mammal or a bird is often so inaccurate, I'd label it fiction. Hilarious fiction, if I didn't know that many people who found it as a source thought it was true and authoritative because it reads as such.
posted by Tehanu at 7:30 AM on May 10, 2007


It would also be interesting to catalog also, to the extent possible, the species that have already disappeared. Having detailed genomic data for organisms could help revive them down the line. Even if we haven't seen a dodo for a long, long time, in 200 (or however many) years, if we knew what comprised one, we could make one.

So many organisms are disappearing every year, every day even, it seems like at the minimum, we should be doing what we can to record that they existed in the first place.
posted by tempestuoso at 8:19 AM on May 10, 2007


There seems to be a lot of these popping up recently (and several which have been around for years). I always thought that wikispecies seemed like the best idea. I guess there will have to be a meta-species database to track them all, which is kinid of the situation now.
posted by milovoo at 8:47 AM on May 10, 2007


as far as these "grey" literatures go, i have enjoyed the FWS's literature summaries on individual species, as boring as they are.

found in your local library, under the federal documents section. I 49.89

there are also some good reports on the different Ecosystems, which is the next level, i suppose; once you've cataloged all the pieces, you need to catalog all the ways the pieces work together.

worldcat.org

Species Profiles
posted by eustatic at 9:08 AM on May 10, 2007


I just wonder what kind of hell will be raised each time there is a major taxonomic revision (and this has been pretty common in the last 15 years - e.g., the collapse of kelp into far fewer taxa than previously existed from Lane et al's analysis) - but, very cool - particularly as this place also meshes with sequence repositories. And one step closer to whenever we have those "DNA tricorder" thang-a-ma-bobs. Woo planning for the future!
posted by redbeard at 9:30 AM on May 10, 2007


I wish people were less concerned about building websites about species and more concerned with figuring out what a species is (here's an interesting essay by a smart guy), if anything (pdf).

And I'm with DU, Tree of Life rocks.
posted by Eothele at 11:51 AM on May 10, 2007


This project is also an implicit admission that Wikipedia is insufficient for any serious attempt at documenting the world. But then again we already knew that.
posted by bhouston at 11:55 AM on May 10, 2007


Aw, man, we're just making things easier for Brainiac and those brains from Futurama.
posted by zusty at 3:52 PM on May 10, 2007


the catalog of life, created from efforts to assist government agencies with taxonomic problems (primarily related to the ESA). Itis comes with an attendant list of experts for each species.
posted by eustatic at 5:01 PM on May 10, 2007


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