BGCI Education Blog

We've set up this blog to talk about education, the environment, plants, the universe... oh yes, and botanic gardens. You can join in by leaving comments and signing up for email updates.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Encyclopedia of Life coming to life

Suzanne Sharrock, BGCI's director of global programmes, went to an interesting meeting last week in Washington, US. BGCI is a member of the institutional council of a new, very ambitious, project called the Encyclopedia of Life. They are aiming, in association with a huge number of museums, experts, databases etc (including Wikipedia) to create a comprehensive database of every species on the face of the planet.

They say "the Encyclopedia will serve as an online reference source and database for every one of the 1.8 million species that are named and known on this planet, as well as all those later discovered and described. Encyclopedia of Life will be used as both a teaching and a learning tool, helping scientists, educators, students, and the community at large gain a better understanding of this planet and all who inhabit it."

They estimate that the initial sections (I think they are starting with fish) will be available in 2008, and the whole thing will be ready in ten years. It looks like an awesome project - they have a good Q and A section if, like me, you are wondering how on earth they are going to get so many groups to share their carefully gathered and hoarded data for no money. There are also some demonstration pages - I like the way you can select what level of user you are, i.e. novice to expert. They are planning to include a huge amount of data - it sounds really exciting and was inspired by the king of biodiversity, EO Wilson.

Do have a look at the video they have produced -it is really good.

Before waxing too lyrical about it, I do wonder about a couple of points...

- why is so much money being invested in a database when the species being listed are disappearing at such a fast rate?

- would the money have been put to better use carrying out conservation on the ground in some of the most biodiverse regions of the world?

- is yet another database of diversity(e.g. Wikispecies, Species2000) needed?

It would be very interesting to hear your views on this - have a look at it and let us know what you think.....

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