Ta da! Encyclopedia of Life Version 2

How would you like to have instant free access to knowledge from experts – including renowned biologist, naturalist and author E.O. Wilson – in English, Arabic, and Spanish – about life on Earth? We’re talking information on 700,000 species, 35 million pages of scanned literature, and 600,000 photos and videos.

E.O. Wilson on the future of biology

It’s yours with the Encyclopedia of Life – – now in version 2. EOLv2 was announced less than an hour ago (September 5, 2011).

Encyclopedia of Life – popular in schools – is a collaboration between experts and the general public. Pictured here is a glasswing butterfly. Image Credit: zingyyellow

Like EOLv1, its predecessor, EOLv2 is a free online collaborative currently offering information on more than a third of all known species on Earth. Its makers say v2 has new features making it easier to use and to interact with fellow life enthusiasts worldwide. Hey, and isn’t that all of us? So come on down.

You can see a showcase of the best of EOL photos – out of 600,000 still images and videos – or find the full collection at the website.

Harvard University biologist Edward O. Wilson is one of the driving forces behind the formation of the EOL, which was founded in 2007 and is currently based at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Wilson said of EOLv2:

… [it] will effect an extraordinary expansion of the Encyclopedia of Life, opening its vast and growing storehouse of knowledge to a much larger range of users, including medicine, biotechnology, ecology, and now increasingly the general public.

So where does all this info come from? Some 176 content providers contribute to EOLv2, and 700 “curators” review the information for accuracy. They say they aspire to produce 1.9 million pages, or one for every species known to science.

Pictured here is the Japanese angelfish. With the second edition of Encyclopedia of Life, you could create a personal collection of angelfish photos and information, and share comments, questions and expertise with users worldwide. Image Credit: TANAKA Juuyoh

EOL’s makers say they want the website to become “a microscope in reverse,” or “macroscope,” helping users discern large-scale patterns related to Earthly life:

By aggregating information on Earth’s estimated 1.9 million known species, scientists say EOL could, for example, help map vectors of human disease, reveal mysteries behind longevity, suggest substitute plant pollinators for a growing list of places where honeybees no longer provide that service, and foster strategies to slow the spread of invasive species.

EOL is available both as a website and via third-party mobile and desktop applications. All EOL information is available for reuse and is licensed under Creative Commons and other Open Access free licenses.

The Australasian gannet is one of 700,000 species in the Encyclopedia of Life. Image Credit: SidPix

Bottom line: E.O. Wilson’s Encyclopedia of Life, now based at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. released version 2 of its free online collection of imagery and text on September 5, 2011. EOLv2 has information on 700,000 species, 35 million pages of scanned literature, and 600,000 photos and videos.

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