Image Credit: brian.gratwicke/Flickr

Scientists at Yale University and the University of Colorado Boulder are working to assemble a Map of Life dedicated to tracking the location of every known plant and animal species on Earth. And in addition to tracking the location of every species, it will also track any movement and population changes, documenting how species act and interact with the natural and changing world. The beta version of the map has just been launched with information on almost 25,000 species, but the final version will will support the inclusion of many more: there are nearly two million species currently identified and known to scientists and millions more still in hiding waiting to be discovered.

Robert Guralnick from the University of Colorado Boulder equates the project to a detailed field guide for when you are out hiking or exploring. You would “have at your fingertips something that was not just a static book but the world’s most amazing field guide that changed and that you could contribute to,” he said.

Information within the Map of Life comes from a combination of observation data, museum specimen information, range maps, and groups such as the World Wildlife Fund. The public can search the map by species name or by location to learn about species’ and the planetary biodiversity, and project leaders want users to participate in and contribute to the Map of Life in order to help improve it and fill in any missing data. A mobile app is planned which will show a list of species nearby to a user’s location.

Putting all this information together in one place would be vital in not only assisting to keep track of plants and animals but also in making it easier for others to learn more about life on the planet. Groups like The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species have been tracking the extinction risk of thousands of species, but the Map of Life could provide a more comprehensive data set for scientists to track and collect information.

[via Treehugger]