Friday, 31 July 2009

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Encyclopedia of Life

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is an ambitious project to organize and make available via the Internet virtually all information about life present on Earth. To cite from its homepage:

At its [EOL’s] heart lies a series of Web sites—one for each of the approximately 1.8 million known species—that provide the entry points to this vast array of knowledge. The entry-point for each site is a species page suitable for the general public, but with several linked pages aimed at more specialized users. The sites sparkle with text and images that are enticing to everyone, as well as providing deep links to specific data.

The EOL dynamically synthesizes biodiversity knowledge about all known species, including their taxonomy, geographic distribution, collections, genetics, evolutionary history, morphology, behavior, ecological relationships, and importance for human well being, and distribute this information through the Internet. It serves as a primary resource for a wide audience that includes scientists, natural resource managers, conservationists, teachers, and students around the world. We believe that the EOL's encompassing scope and innovation will have a major global impact in facilitating biodiversity research, conservation, and education.

The EOL staff is made up of scientists and non-scientists working from museums and research institutions around the world.

As mentioned, on EOL the aim is to make a homepage for each species with description and images. Currently, many of the images are of Danish origin via Bio-pix. The amount of information presented is targeted to the users preferences, e.g., users may select information for beginners or for experts.

As part of this project a collaboration has been started with users on Flickr. A Flickr group, Encyclopedia of Life Images has been started. The group was started to allow anyone to provide images for the Encyclopedia of Life web site. The group welcomes images and scientific illustrations of organisms or their signs (tracks, nests, etc.), as well as videos. The group has defined standards for image tags to secure that species information can be found automatically. Images posted in this group is transferred automatically to the EOL database. At the start the images are only visible to expert users, but after a review of the images they will become visible to all EOL users.

Thus, an ordinary Flick'er user, as I am, may now contribute to the EOL project. I simply identify the species in my images, e.g., an image of the common buzzard is tagged with "taxonomy:binomial=Buteo buteo". Then I post it in the Encyclopedia of Life Images group, and a couple of days later, the image can be seen on the EOL-page for the species. Currently, more than 30,000 thousand images have been posted by more than 1200 Flickr users participating in the group.

The slideshow below shows the images I have included in the Encyclopedia of Life Images group.

Flickr Link

Grass snake (Natrix natrix)

I live close to a stream, which is an ideal environment for the grass or water snake. My garden produces a menu containing lots of frogs and toads, thus the snakes are well-served. Usually, I see snakes of varying size a couple of times each year, either resting in the sun or hunting frogs. (I never thought a frog could scream before I heard one fleeing hhunted by a snake). This year I succeeded in locating a resting place for a snake, and was lucky enough to get quite close to the snake. It stayed for a couple of days, but I have not seen it since.

Flickr Link

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Ichneumon wasp (Dolichomitus imperator) laying egg

I was lucky to be present when an ichneumon wasp had just started laying eggs (ovipositioning). As far as I have been able to find out the species must be Dolichomitus imperator, but that may be a mistake. I took a series of pictures showing how it struggled to bore the huge ovipositor down in the wood, probably hitting an unsuspecting larvae, that will serve as a meal-package for the hopefull offspring of the wasp. The ovipositor is usually protected by a sheath that is visible on some of the pictures.

The slide show covers a duration of little less than 10 minutes

I have made a blog entry in Danish on my Bruunshåb blog telling a little bit more about the images