June 2010 Newsletter


In This Issue:

BioBlitz 2010
EOL Continues to Grow
Rubenstein Fellows
Leadership Transitions
June 2010

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BioBlitz 2010

During a 24-hour period, 2,500 people descended upon Florida’s Biscayne National Park to document species in the area. This coordinated effort, known as a BioBlitz, brought together scientists and volunteers of all ages to Biscayne from April 30 to May 1, 2010.

U.S National Park Service (NPS) and National Geographic Society are sponsoring a series of annual BioBlitzes every year leading up to the NPS centennial in 2016.

To support these citizen scientist activities, EOL has debuted a new BioBlitz section of the Learning and Education website with activities and maps of BioBlitzes happening around the world.

Immediately following the BioBlitz at Biscayne National Park, volunteers and scientists identified over 800 species, ranging from microscopic bacteria to large mammals such as manatees.

The BioBlitz brought to light several species of lichen, ants and tardigrades in particular, which had never before been documented within the Biscayne ecosystem. The overall number of species found by the 2010 BioBlitz is expected to grow as the data continues to arrive from participants.

For more information about BioBlitzes happening in your country, see this map.

Image courtesy of National Geographic

EOL in the News

The Greenwich Citizen honors E.O. Wilson

EOL contributes new discoveries to the Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal

Find out how EOL is Celebrating the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity

VoLE: Viewer of Life in EOL
How can we organize EOL images and content for more rapid and entertaining browsing? How many families of mammals or genera of primates or species of elephants are well-represented with rich images and content in EOL?
To answer such questions, EOL software developer Kristopher Urie is working on a visual taxonomy browser called Viewer of Life in EOL (VoLE), that uses EOL web services.
Image courtesy of: erikschlogl

The browser displays a taxonomy with images and text gathered from the EOL. Taxa are displayed in a space-filling "treemap" layout, showing both the taxon name, which is linked to the EOL taxon page and a representative image from EOL. As the user passes the mouse over the page, the EOL's general description of each taxon is displayed. Clicking on a taxon further expands the information within the taxonomy, and a breadcrumb trail is displayed at the top of the page to show the context of the current taxon. The help button is in the upper right corner.

The visual exploration interface is appealing to general users, but also serves as a curation tool for expert users to quickly identify mis-classified images or EOL pages that lack general species descriptions. As the EOL adds new APIs, future versions of the browser will be able to replace the images with more detailed maps of data from the EOL. For example, the map could show the amount of content available for each species, IUCN Red List status, or the popularity of species pages.

Please contact Kris with any feedback you have.

EOL Continues to Grow

The EOL Biodiversity Informatics Group (BIG) works behind the scenes to update and improve the technical functions of the EOL website. Here’s a sampling of what they have been up to recently:

    • Detailed taxonomy and genetic information is available for each species page on EOL through the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). In addition to conducting research and developing computer-based tools for analyzing DNA sequences, NCBI’s primary use is as a repository of genetic information.  Databases include DNA sequences and corresponding protein sequences for species around the world. Through EOL species pages, users can view the detailed hierarchical origin—or taxonomy—of each specimen from NCBI. 

    • The BIG team included a citation for every species page, regardless of the curation status. Curated species pages will have citations including the name of the curator,whereas species pages without a curator will be given a generic citation including the species name and general EOL reference.

Image courtesy of: Zephyris

Rubenstein Fellows

The inaugural class of EOL Rubenstein Fellows was selected earlier this year and the first group of seventeen early career-scientists is working to assemble information for the EOL Web site in assisting with online species development.

The EOL Rubenstein Fellows Program was made possible by a generous gift from David M. Rubenstein to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Within their taxonomic specialties, Fellows stimulate expansion of information provided on EOL species pages.  These individuals contribute in various ways: bringing together and managing collaborating groups, adding images, data, and literature, curating content, and exploring ways to create and share content.

The program is expected to continue funding new groups of scientists for the next three years, hosting at least 60 fellows during that time.

Leadership Transitions

After more than three years of distinguished leadership, Dr. James Edwards stepped down as Executive Director of the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) at the end of May due to health reasons.

Thanks to Dr. Edwards’ leadership and the team he helped assemble, as of April 2010 nearly 400,000 species pages are available on-line, linked to more than 27 million pages of literature through the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Dr. Edwards engaged with more than 60 partner institutions and established agreements for several regional EOL versions around the world.

Did You Know?

Northern Short-tailed Shrews (Blarina brevicauda) have poisonous saliva that enables them to kill mice and larger prey and paralyze invertebrates such as snails and store them alive to eat later.


Dive into the world of marine biology and biodiversity
through the Podcast of Life

Thanks to our Flickr contributors:
Tatcher a Hainu, Gabriel Kamener, Lynette S., the van, Arthur Chapman, Cláudio Dias Timm, kaiyanwong223, Robertsphotos1, and Furryscaly.


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Encyclopedia of Life, PO Box 37012, MRC 106, Washington, DC 20013 / www.eol.org