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Encyclopedia Of Life Debuts

The educational Web reference site is designed to document all 1.8 million species of plants and animals on the planet.

A group of scientific organizations on Wednesday launched the Encyclopedia of Life, an educational Web reference designed to document all 1.8 million species of plants and animals on the planet.

The Field Museum of Natural History, Harvard University, Marine Biological Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution, and Biodiversity Heritage Library came together to launch the project, backed by a $10 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and $2.5 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

"The Encyclopedia of Life will provide valuable biodiversity and conservation information to anyone, anywhere, at any time," said Dr. James Edwards, executive secretary of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility who on Wednesday was named executive director of the Encyclopedia of Life, in a statement.

Edwards said that five years ago, scientists would have been unable to create such a resource and that advances in search, information presentation, and annotation made the project possible.

The Encyclopedia of Life entries will be created over the next 10 years as moderated wiki pages. They will include images, video, audio, maps, and other multimedia information when available. The focus initially will be on species of animals, plants, and fungi. Microbes may be covered in the future.

The Encyclopedia of Life will eventually feature "my eol" personalization tools. It plans to partner with other scientific and educational organizations around the globe to further understanding of life on Earth.

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