A research team involving Yale University and the University of Colorado Boulder has developed a first public demonstration version of its “Map of Life,” an ambitious Web-based project designed to show the distribution of all living plants and animals on the planet.
According to their press release, the demo version allows anyone with an Internet connection to map the known global distribution of almost 25,000 species of terrestrial vertebrate animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and North American freshwater fish.
The researchers compiled information about the animals from different sources: field guides, museum collections, and wildlife checklists from scientists, conservation organizations, and “citizen scientists.” They hope that scientists and informed amateurs will supply new or missing information about the distribution and abundance of particular species.
The Map of Life allows users to see several levels of detail for a given species — at its broadest, the type of environment it lives in, and at its finest, specific locations where the species’ presence has been documented. One function allows users to click a point on the map and generate a list of vertebrate species in the surrounding area. More functions will be added over time, according to the team.
“It is the where and the when of a species,” said Walter Jetz, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale and the project lead. “It puts at your fingertips the geographic diversity of life. Ultimately, the hope is for this literally to include hundreds of thousands of animal and plant species and show how much or indeed how little we know of their whereabouts.”
Eventually they hope that anyone, anywhere will be able to use their mobile devices to instantly pull up animal and plant distributions and even get a realistic assessment on the odds of encountering a particular species of wildlife.
The researchers have created two video demos.
At Frogs Are Green, we think this will be a great project both as a learning tool (you can plug in a species name and get an overview of information about the species and where the species is found), but it will also give scientists a tool to understand the biodiversity of a particular area.
Click, to try out the Map of Life.