Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

248,179 subscribers and counting ...

Scientists seek feedback on new global Map of Life

In May 2012, scientists released an online demonstration version of a new global Map of Life, and they want you to help them test drive it.

In May 2012, scientists from Yale University and the University of Colorado at Boulder released an online demonstration version of a new global Map of Life. The map depicts the locations of over 25,000 different species. The scientists are currently seeking feedback on how best to improve people’s experience of using the map and on what new features would be the most valuable to add to the map in the future.

Access to the Map of Life is available here.

The Map of Life was designed by Walter Jetz from Yale University, Robert Guralnick from the University of Colorado at Boulder and several other scientists and technicians associated with their laboratories. The map uses a cyber-based infrastructure to integrate global knowledge about the spatial distributions of species and to make that information more readily available to scientists and the public.

Presently, the Map of Life contains information about the known distributions of over 25,000 different species of terrestrial vertebrates as well as information about North American freshwater fishes. Eventually, the Map of Life will be expanded to include plants and invertebrates.

With the Map of Life, you can easily view expert range maps similar to ones many people are familiar with seeing in museum displays. You can also pick out a point on the map – for example, if you are planning to visit a U.S. national park – and use the species list tool to generate detailed information about the types of animals you could encounter while visiting the area.

Example of a species distribution map for the striped skunk. Image Credit: Udo Schröter, Wikimedia Commons (please note that this image was not produced with the Map of Life software and is used for illustrative purposes only).

Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). Image Credit: Dan and Lin Dzurisin, Wikimedia Commons.

Details about the Map of Life project were published in the March 2012 issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The scientists are hoping that this work will support the scientific community in understanding and saving the world’s biodiversity. They are predicting that the creation of online, integrated and accessible biodiversity data will rapidly increase the speed by which scientists and decision-makers can respond to changes in biodiversity that often result from habitat loss and other forms of environmental degradation.

Walter Jetz told the NY Times in an interview published on May 16, 2012:

There is so much data in scientists’ drawers and computers that could help fill in our knowledge gaps. We need to mobilize this data – together it creates something that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

Yetz and his colleagues are currently seeking feedback on how best to improve people’s experience of using the Map of Life. They are especially interested hearing about what new features would be the most valuable to add to the map in the future. For those interested in participating, there is a feedback button located on Map of Life website that can be used to submit comments.

Partners and sponsors of the Map of Life project include the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Encyclopedia of Life, the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the Senckenberg Nature Research Society.

Bottom line: In May 2012, Walter Jetz from Yale University, Robert Guralnick from the University of Colorado at Boulder and their colleagues released an online demonstration version of a new global Map of Life. The map depicts the locations of over 25,000 different species. The scientists are currently seeking feedback on how best to improve people’s experience of using the map and on what new features would be the most valuable to add to the map in the future. Access to the Map of Life is available here: Map of Life

Top 10 new species

Early snow melts in North America not good for butterflies, study says

E.O. Wilson on the future of biology

Deanna Conners

MORE ARTICLES