Risto Juola
Ab absurdo, ad libertatem.
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There Are No Enemies In Science

Feb 25, 2005

While reading A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, I learned that "according to a report in the Economist, as much as 97 percent of the world's plant and animal species may still await discovery." Part of the problem is that even in our internet age, there is no centralized taxonomy resource; a problem exacerbated by the fact there is a "chronic lack of 'prestige and resources' for taxonomists everywhere." Apparently one can go "out into a woods -- any woods at all -- bend down and scoop up a handful of soil, and you will be holding up to 10 billion bacteria, most of them unknown." No one mentioned that to me in high school. (Maybe I should have taken biology, or asked, eh?)

Bryson mentions a project named All Species, launched in 2001, focusing on the classification of all living organisms. I was interested in the project and wondered if they could use any volunteer programming. To my chagrin their email server was rejecting emails to role accounts, so I emailed project founder Kevin Kelly, and got no response. A number of the links on these sites were down, including the link to the Species Tool Kit -- software to help taxonomists record and centralize their data. However, the link to the sourceforge page was up, where you can view some of the data models and MySQL definitions, but no Java code as yet. It would be interesting working with researchers to establish the relations representing this data, and a quick search on google revealed some further work on the data models.

For now the project seems to be moving slowly, and the news section of their site is sparse. Hopefully it will remain something to keep an eye on.