Unlike the board game, the Map of Life lives online and as its name suggests, maps out life on earth. To be more specific, it provides location information for a selection of living things on earth.
As of the beta launch last Thursday, the map
includes data on 25,000 land and fish species. Walter Jetz, a Yale University biologist who led the project, said in a statement, "It puts at your fingertips the geographic diversity of life." Yale, the University of Colorado and NASA were among the partners involved.
The data included run the gamut from authoritative and formal to less so. Range maps from field guides, citizen science data, and national park staff observations are included. The data sources are distinguishable, and this being a GIS app, can be turned on and off independently.
Academic and government scientists are expected to use the map to guide decisions about maintaining biodiversity. Climate scientists may use it to explore change, and epidemiologists may use it to research the movement of diseases between animals and people.
The beta version is in place now, but future versions will support crowdsourced data information on where plants are found across the globe. A mobile version may even let users know the odds of seeing a species of interest right where they are standing.