Press Release: Encyclopedia of Life releases TraitBank

Press Release: Encyclopedia of Life releases TraitBank

Landmark open repository of species facts and measurements now available to support research, education and conservation goals

Washington, D.C., January 27, 2014 – The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) today announces the first release of TraitBank™, a comprehensive, searchable and open digital repository for organism traits, measurements, interactions and other facts for all species and groups of species. It fills an urgent need among global research, education and conservation communities for a reliable, curated, comprehensive source of trusted data across the tree of life, as well as the need for a public platform for sharing scientific data in a consistent, accessible manner.

With TraitBank, EOL can help scientists develop and test hypotheses explaining patterns in nature, or estimate food webs by identifying organisms known to interact with each other. It can also be used to address “easy to ask but difficult to answer” questions such as “Which whales weigh more than 10,000 kg?” and “Which plants have blue flowers?”

Developed with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, TraitBank ( is integrated into the fabric of the EOL website (, where it leverages EOL’s existing infrastructure for taxonomic names, content organization, curation roles and search. Data records are aggregated from a wide variety of sources, including databases, literature tables, spreadsheets and individual contributors. At launch, TraitBank features over 3 million records related to more than 250 attributes for over 250,000 taxa (species and groups of species) obtained from 27 data sources. It is expected to grow substantially as existing and new trait data records are loaded into TraitBank over time.

“TraitBank is unique in serving up reliable real-world data for the entire tree of life,” said Dr. Drew Purves, head of the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group at Microsoft Research Cambridge. “To those of us trying to build Global Ecosystem Models, it’s like someone just handed us a list of parts.”

“TraitBank will help accelerate the research process by providing a free, open and accessible way for investigators to share and discover species traits, measurements and interactions,” said Bob Corrigan, Director of Operations for the Encyclopedia of Life. “The motivation behind TraitBank was to make it easy for users to get a comprehensive picture of these data for any given species or group of species, and then give them access to the underlying publications and data sets quickly. We’re delighted to share TraitBank with the world, and we’re looking forward to working with scientists and educators to make it as useful to them as possible.”

The EOL team has the capacity to help researchers make the best use of existing TraitBank capabilities and provide expertise for data mobilization, extraction and analysis efforts. EOL is also interested in reviewing opportunities to extend TraitBank’s capabilities to support project-specific requirements, and it invites biodiversity researchers to take advantage of the significant investments and expertise behind TraitBank as part of their grants and other sponsored projects. To learn more, please contact the EOL Secretariat at

About the Encyclopedia of Life: The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) operates as an ongoing collaboration among its international partners with the mission to raise awareness and understanding of living nature. Participants include the Atlas of Living Australia (Australia), the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China), CONABIO (Mexico), the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), Harvard University, the New Library of Alexandria (Egypt), the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Norway) and the Smithsonian Institution. With additional support from a global network of content partners, curators and users, EOL works to provide free, open, multilingual, digital access to trusted information on all known species at



Mr. Robert Corrigan, +1-202-633-8730;