Encyclopedia of Life

Last updated
Encyclopedia of Life
EOL logo.svg
Type of site
Available in
Created by Field Museum
Harvard University
MacArthur Foundation
Marine Biological Laboratory
Missouri Botanical Garden
Sloan Foundation
Smithsonian Institution
URL eol.org
Alexa rankIncrease Negative.svg 52,786 (September 2018) [1]
LaunchedFebruary 26, 2008 (2008-02-26)
Current statusActive

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is a free, online collaborative encyclopedia intended to document all of the 1.9 million living species known to science. It is compiled from existing databases and from contributions by experts and non-experts throughout the world. [2] It aims to build one "infinitely expandable" page for each species, including video, sound, images, graphics, as well as text. [3] In addition, the Encyclopedia incorporates content from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which digitizes millions of pages of printed literature from the world's major natural history libraries. The project was initially backed by a US$50 million funding commitment, led by the MacArthur Foundation and the Sloan Foundation, who provided US$20 million and US$5 million, respectively. The additional US$25 million came from five cornerstone institutions—the Field Museum, Harvard University, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution. The project was initially led by Jim Edwards [4] and the development team by David Patterson. Today, participating institutions and individual donors continue to support EOL through financial contributions.



EOL went live on 26 February 2008 with 30,000 entries. [5] The site immediately proved to be extremely popular, and temporarily had to revert to demonstration pages for two days when over 11 million views of it were requested.

The site relaunched on 5 September 2011 with a redesigned interface and tools. The new version – referred to as EOLv2 – was developed in response to requests from the general public, citizen scientists, educators and professional biologists for a site that was more engaging, accessible and personal. EOLv2 is redesigned to enhance usability and encourage contributions and interactions among users. It is also internationalized with interfaces provided for English, German, Spanish, French, Galician, Serbian, Macedonian, Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Ukrainian language speakers. On 16 January 2014, EOL launched TraitBank, a searchable, open digital repository for organism traits, measurements, interactions and other facts for all taxa. [6]

The initiative's Executive Committee includes senior officers from the Atlas of Living Australia, the Biodiversity Heritage Library consortium, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, CONABIO, Field Museum, Harvard University, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Library of Alexandria), MacArthur Foundation, Marine Biological Laboratory, Missouri Botanical Garden, Sloan Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution. [7]


Information about many species is already available from a variety of sources, in particular about the megafauna. Gathering currently available data on all 1.9 million species will take about 10 years. [8] As of September 2011, EOL had information on more than 700,000 species available, along with more than 600,000 photos and millions of pages of scanned literature. The initiative relies on indexing information compiled by other efforts, including the Sp2000 and ITIS Catalogue of Life, Fishbase and the Assembling Tree of Life project of NSF, AmphibiaWeb, Mushroom explorer, microscope, etc. The initial focus has been on living species but will later include extinct species. As the discovery of new species is expected to continue (currently at about 20,000 per year), the encyclopedia will continue to grow. As taxonomy finds new ways to include species discovered by molecular techniques, the rate of new additions will increase, particularly in respect to the microbial work of (eu)bacteria, archaebacteria and viruses.

EOL's goal is to serve as a resource for the general public, enthusiastic amateurs, educators, students and professional scientists from around the world. [2]

Resources and collaborations

The Encyclopedia of Life has content partners around the world who share information through the EOL platform, including Wikipedia and Flickr.

Its interface is translated at translatewiki.net.

See also

Related Research Articles

Nobel Prize in Physics One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Physics is a yearly award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for those who have made the most outstanding contributions for mankind in the field of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others being the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Integrated Taxonomic Information System Authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is an American partnership of federal agencies designed to provide consistent and reliable information on the taxonomy of biological species. ITIS was originally formed in 1996 as an interagency group within the US federal government, involving several US federal agencies, and has now become an international body, with Canadian and Mexican government agencies participating. The database draws from a large community of taxonomic experts. Primary content staff are housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and IT services are provided by a US Geological Survey facility in Denver. The primary focus of ITIS is North American species, but many biological groups exist worldwide and ITIS collaborates with other agencies to increase its global coverage.

Wikispecies Wiki-based online project for Linnaean taxonomy

Wikispecies is a wiki-based online project supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. Its aim is to create a comprehensive free content catalogue of all species; the project is directed at scientists, rather than at the general public. Jimmy Wales stated that editors are not required to fax in their degrees, but that submissions will have to pass muster with a technical audience. Wikispecies is available under the GNU Free Documentation License and CC BY-SA 3.0.

<i>Banglapedia</i> National encyclopedia of Bangladesh

Banglapedia:theNational Encyclopedia of Bangladesh is the first Bangladeshi encyclopedia. It is available in print, CD-ROM format and online, in both Bengali and English. The print version comprises ten 500-page volumes. The first edition was published in January 2003 by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, with a plan to update it every two years. The second edition was issued in 2012.

NatureServe organization

NatureServe, Inc. is an Arlington, Virginia-based non-profit organization that provides proprietary wildlife conservation-related data, tools, and services to private and government clients, partner organizations, and the public. NatureServe reports being "headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, with regional offices in four U.S. locations and in Canada." In calendar year 2011 they reported having 86 employees, 6 volunteers, and 15 independent officers.

Animal Diversity Web (ADW) is an online database that collects the natural history, classification, species characteristics, conservation biology, and distribution information on thousands of species of animals. The website includes thousands of photographs, hundreds of sound clips, and a virtual museum.

Biodiversity Informatics is the application of informatics techniques to biodiversity information for improved management, presentation, discovery, exploration and analysis. It typically builds on a foundation of taxonomic, biogeographic, or ecological information stored in digital form, which, with the application of modern computer techniques, can yield new ways to view and analyse existing information, as well as predictive models for information that does not yet exist. Biodiversity informatics is a relatively young discipline but has hundreds of practitioners worldwide, including the numerous individuals involved with the design and construction of taxonomic databases. The term "Biodiversity Informatics" is generally used in the broad sense to apply to computerized handling of any biodiversity information; the somewhat broader term "bioinformatics" is often used synonymously with the computerized handling of data in the specialized area of molecular biology.

Census of Marine Life biological census

The Census of Marine Life was a 10-year, US $650 million scientific initiative, involving a global network of researchers in more than 80 nations, engaged to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans. The world's first comprehensive Census of Marine Life — past, present, and future — was released in 2010 in London. Initially supported by funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the project was successful in generating many times that initial investment in additional support and substantially increased the baselines of knowledge in often underexplored ocean realms, as well as engaging over 2,700 different researchers for the first time in a global collaborative community united in a common goal, and has been described as "one of the largest scientific collaborations ever conducted".

Catalogue of Life Online database and index of taxa

The Catalogue of Life is an online database that provides the world's most comprehensive and authoritative index of known species of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms. It was created in 2001 as a partnership between the global Species 2000 and the American Integrated Taxonomic Information System. The Catalogue interface is available in twelve languages and is used by research scientists, citizen scientists, educators, and policy makers. The Catalogue is also used by the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Barcode of Life Data System, Encyclopedia of Life, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. The Catalogue currently compiles data from 168 peer-reviewed taxonomic databases, that are maintained by specialist institutions around the world. As of 2019, the Catalogue lists 1,837,565 of the world's 2.2m extant species known to taxonomists on the planet at present time.

Biodiversity Heritage Library digital library, online database and large-scale digitization project for biodiversity literature

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global "biodiversity commons". The BHL consortium works with the international taxonomic community, rights holders, and other interested parties to ensure that this biodiversity heritage is made available to a global audience through open access principles. In partnership with the Internet Archive and through local digitization efforts, the BHL has digitized millions of pages of taxonomic literature, representing tens of thousands of titles and more than 100,000 volumes.

The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is a taxonomic database that aims to provide an authoritative and comprehensive list of names of marine organisms.

Plazi is a Swiss-based international non-profit association supporting and promoting the development of persistent and openly accessible digital bio-taxonomic literature. Plazi is maintaining a digital taxonomic literature repository to enable archiving of taxonomic treatments, enhances submitted taxonomic treatments by creating version in the XML formats TaxonX and Taxpub, and educates about the importance of maintaining open access to scientific discourse and data. It is a contributor to the evolving e-taxonomy in the field of Biodiversity Informatics.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation, and awarded by Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on proposal of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry which consists of five members elected by Academy. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.

Jesse Huntley Ausubel is an American environmental scientist and program manager of a variety of global biodiversity and ecology research programs. Ausubel serves as Director and Senior Research Associate of the Program for the Human Environment of Rockefeller University. He is also a science advisor to, and former Vice President of Programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation where his main area of responsibility is supporting basic research in science and technology.

Francisco E. Baisas was a Philippine entomologist regarded as the "Dean of Philippine Culicidologists" whose "contributions to the knowledge of Philippine mosquitoes is without measure". His passing was described as the end of "an era which saw the elucidation of the malaria vectors of the Philippines and great progress made in the control of a disease which had accounted for as many as 2,000,000 cases annually in those islands."

ZipcodeZoo was a free, online encyclopedia intended to document all living species and infraspecies known to science. It was compiled from existing databases. It offered one page for each living species, supplementing text with video, sound, and images where available. ZipcodeZoo was integrated into an app called Lookup Life. As of 2019 the site no longer works.

Project Jupyter Nonprofit organization developing open-source software

Project Jupyter is a nonprofit organization created to "develop open-source software, open-standards, and services for interactive computing across dozens of programming languages". Spun-off from IPython in 2014 by Fernando Pérez, Project Jupyter supports execution environments in several dozen languages. Project Jupyter's name is a reference to the three core programming languages supported by Jupyter, which are Julia, Python and R, and also a homage to Galileo's notebooks recording the discovery of the moons of Jupiter. Project Jupyter has developed and supported the interactive computing products Jupyter Notebook, JupyterHub, and JupyterLab, the next-generation version of Jupyter Notebook.

The Arcadia Fund is a UK charity organisation founded by Lisbet Rausing and Professor Peter Baldwin. Established in 2001, the organisation provides grants on a worldwide basis. Its primary focus currently is preserving endangered culture, preserving endangered nature and providing open access.

Ocean Biodiversity Information System

The Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), formerly Ocean Biogeographic Information System, is a web-based access point to information about the distribution and abundance of living species in the ocean. It was developed as the information management component of the ten year Census of Marine Life (CoML) (2001-2010), but is not limited to CoML-derived data, and aims to provide an integrated view of all marine biodiversity data that may be made available to it on an open access basis by respective data custodians. According to its web site as at July 2018, OBIS "is a global open-access data and information clearing-house on marine biodiversity for science, conservation and sustainable development." 8 specific objectives are listed in the OBIS site, of which the leading item is to "Provide [the] world's largest scientific knowledge base on the diversity, distribution and abundance of all marine organisms in an integrated and standardized format".


  1. "Eol.org Site Info". Alexa Internet . Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  2. 1 2 "EOL History". Eol.org. 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
  3. Odling-Smee, Lucy. "Encyclopedia of Life launched" . Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  4. "James Edwards - Encyclopedia of Life". Eol.org. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  5. Zimmer, Carl (2008-02-26). "The Encyclopedia of Life, No Bookshelf Required". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
  6. "TraitBank: Practical semantics for organism attribute data". Semantic-web-journal.net. 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  7. "Scientists compile 'book of life'". BBC News. 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  8. "Encyclopédie de la vie: Une arche de Noé virtuelle!". Radio-Canada. 9 May 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-12.