In 2007 the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) team began its work with a vision of providing global access to knowledge about life on Earth. As a project dedicated to serve all the people of Earth, it was sensible for EOL to embrace a governance model that would include the participation of people and organizations around the world that embrace EOL’s vision and share a desire to contribute to its mission.

To develop a model for the global governance of EOL, a group of biodiversity leaders met in Leiden, the Netherlands, in January 2010. The Leiden Group proposed a model of governance which was refined over the year. On January 6, 2011, a new governance model was ratified. Migration towards this new model began immediately with the formation of the initial EOL Executive Committee leadership group. It is expected that the new structure will be fully operational by July 2012.


EOL Executive Committee

The Executive Committee operates as EOL’s “board”, focusing on the long-term sustainability and success of the EOL. Members provide governance and decision-making at the policy level. Committee members are senior figures from the cornerstone institutions; regional, national and thematic EOLs; and other major financial or in-kind partners.

Executive Committee 

Graham Higley (EOL Executive Chair)
London, UK

Jonathan Coddington
Associate Director for Science
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC USA

Joanne Daly
Strategic Advisor
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Dickson, Australia

Nancy E. Gwinn
Biodiversity Heritage Library Steering Committee
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC USA

James Hanken  
Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA, USA

Donald Hobern (Chairman, EOL Council)
Executive Secretary

Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)
Copenhagen, Denmark

Cristián Samper
President and CEO

Wildlife Conservation Society
New York, NY, USA

José Sarukhán
National Coordinator
The National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO)
Mexico City, Mexico

Ismail Serageldin
Library of Alexandria
Alexandria, Egypt



The EOL Secretariat is responsible for the day-to-day operational management, coordination, planning and product management of the EOL and its working groups. The leader of the EOL Secretariat is the EOL Director of Operations, who reports to the EOL Executive Chair. Staff include executive and operations managers as well as administrative, financial and marketing personnel.


EOL Working Groups

Working groups are responsible for the day-to-day management and delivery of EOL component efforts. The four groups include the Content Working Group, the Biodiversity Informatics Working Group, the Scanning and Digitization Working Group, and the Learning and Education Working Group.

The Content Working Group collaborates with the scientific community and other contributors to bring together the content needed for the species pages and to authenticate it. The information on the species pages is derived from a large number of different data providers around the globe. The group recruits diverse data providers and works with the scientific community to engage experts who act as “curators” to ensure information on the species pages is correct and current. In addition, the group is implementing a robust intellectual property regime that ensures open access to Encyclopedia materials. Finally, the team is working to develop specialized portals for different audiences.

The Biodiversity Informatics Working Group is creating the software to establish a single portal to reach information on all 1.9 million known species scattered in diverse websites all over the world. The infrastructure is seamlessly aggregating data from thousands of sites into species pages in the Encyclopedia using novel informatics tools to capture, organize, and reshape knowledge about biodiversity. The group collaborates with data providers, and then the information is indexed and recombined for expert and non-expert users alike using aggregation technology to bring together different data elements from remote sites.

The Scanning and Digitization Group is led by the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a consortium of 10 natural history and botanical libraries, who are digitizing the published literature of biodiversity held in their respective collections and making it available as part of an open biodiversity commons. This digitized literature is of value to a wide range of scientists as well as many others. For example, individuals in developing countries and citizen scientists who lack affiliation with major research institutions will now be able to search, read, download, and print literature that was previously unavailable to them. Artists can use the detailed illustrations in many taxonomic works as motifs or design concepts in their work, whether on canvas, paper, or digitally. Educators guiding students in how to do biological research will have a wealth of examples to incorporate into lesson plans and assignments. The BHL Portal, which is linked to the EOL species pages, is available at .

The overall goals of the Learning and Education Group are to ensure widespread awareness of the EOL and to explore and promote new and exciting uses of this extraordinary resource in diverse settings globally. To achieve this goal, the Learning and Education Group strives to make EOL relevant, usable and interesting to a broad range of international audiences. In addition to EOL being a useful resource about biodiversity for educators, citizen scientists and others, the Learning and Education Group encourages participation by building tools and applications to help organize and serve species observations, media, and data from contributors around the world.