250 yrs of biological research on the web now

Published: Monday 31 March 2008

-- the Encyclopaedia of Life is a click away. First 30,000 pages of the 10-year-old project, which aims to document information on all species, includes data on classification of the species, their history, ecology and geographical range. Developers of the project say researchers and students will benefit from the data bank, which highlights the trends and patterns in biodiversity.

"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 remains unknown. This effort promises to lay out new directions for research in every branch of biology," says E O Wilson, professor emeritus at Harvard University.

The portal features 250 years of biological research. Its uses are varying, say the creators, from tracing the route of a disease-spreading bacterium to tracking climatic changes in plants to teach biology.

The data bank includes about 25 detailed pages on well-known species along with the 30,000 pages with basic information, and a million pages with just the name and geographic distribution of many species.

Several experts, along with databases such as FishBase and Global Biodiversity Information Facility, helped build the encyclopaedia which is an collaborative effort of Harvard University and organisations such as the Field Museum of Chicago, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian Institution.

Readers can access the web at www.eol.org.

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