Encyclopedia of Life

Encylcopedia of Life Reaches Out to K-16 Educators with Marine Theme

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), the global initiative to put every one of Earth’s 1.8 million living known species online in approximately 10 years, is enlisting the help of the COSEE Network as it launches its K-16 education outreach with a year-long campaign focusing on marine biodiversity and conservation.

Eager to get started? Here are three ways your students can contribute to the Encyclopedia of Life right now:

Upload images to the EOL Flickr group: Thirteen thousand images and 200 videos of plants, animals, and other organisms have already been uploaded by Flickr users. After IDs are vetted by species page curators, the best images become part of the authoritative overview section of that EOL species page.

Add descriptive tags to images on species pages. Classes can adopt a species page as a class project and research the appropriate tags, which can include location, habitat, or traits, such as color. Start by logging in and clicking the blue pricetag icon beneath the main image on a species page.

Add comments to any data object. For instance, students might want to comment on the photo on the species page for the horseshoe crab that their class had monitored crabs on the beach near their school. Start by logging in and clicking the blue speech cloud Comment icon beneath the main image on a species page.

EOL gives scientists and citizens alike access to a dynamic, up-to-date synthesis of what is known about the diversity of life on our planet. On the EOL portal site, 80,000 individual species pages geared to the general public serve as entry points to more specialized in-depth resources for scientists, natural resource managers, and conservationists.

EOL is designed to be a valuable learning, teaching, and reference resource for anyone who has an interest in biodiversity, including students from kindergarten through college. Educators have the opportunity to use the rich resources of the EOL site to further students’ appreciation of the amazing variation of life and their crucial role as biodiversity stewards by involving them in the site’s mission.

The planet’s oceans are where the story of life on Earth began, and EOL’s focus on marine biology will draw both content and momentum from the ongoing Census of Marine Life (COML). A decade-long effort involving scientists from 80 nations, the COML seeks to quantify the diversity of species in the oceans, map their distribution, and determine their abundance. The EOL site will make COML data and images available along with content from long-established specialized species databases such as FishBase and World Register of Marine Species.

How does the EOL interface work? Take the clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris), the hero of Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Fewer fish have a higher profile among students, except possibly yellowfin tuna and the great white shark. When students enter clownfish as a search at the EOL site, they will pull up occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, as well as images and multimedia from other content partners. After reading an overview about the species, they can choose between exploring further and contributing to the species page. Clicking on the clownfish’s conservation status will reveal that the species is not endangered, but that populations have been reduced because of the increased demand for the aquarium trade. This can lead to a classroom discussion about how our individual actions and choices affect ecosystems far from where we work and live.

EOL would like to hear from COSEE Network educators. Are you already using EOL in your classroom or informal learning setting? If so, let the Education Group know how so they can share your ideas, results, and curriculum connections with other educators through the EOL Education and Outreach blog. If not, let them know what you need to get started. Whether you’re getting third graders excited about a tidal-pool mural, tracking an ROV’s journey beneath the Antarctic ice with seventh graders, or enlisting marine biology undergraduates in drafting species pages, the EOL offers not just a reference, but a chance for students of all ages, in all learning settings, to contribute to the enterprise as citizen scientists.

We hope to see you soon on Contact us at or visit our Facebook page.

Contributed by Ann Downer-Hazell