Animals crawling all over the Net

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screen shot of asknature.orgBy any accounting, the closing act at GreenBuild/Boston had to be its finest moment, and it undoubtedly was among all I experienced during the three days. EO Wilson and Janine Benyus spoke individually, and then in colloquy led by Kevin Klose, president emeritus of National Public Radio. Though I was never interested in the prospect of Archbishop Tutu's opening the show — and ended up skipping it due to mild circumstances — I was excited from the moment I heard of this pairing. Despite my high expectations, they exceeded them, and I expect I will come back to the event repeatedly. But I thought I'd start with their websites, beginning with Wilson's because he led off. He mentioned two, but started with It is only coincidence, but perhaps shouldn't be, that the first two initials are Wilson's as well, but it stands for Encyclopedia of Life. Its modest aim is to "make available via the Internet virtually all information about life present on Earth," according to its "about" page. Wilson said organizers include those at the Smithsonian, Harvard, the Field Museum of Chicago, and at organizations in Europe and Australia.


The second site he mentioned is aiming even higher. The Biodiversity Heritage Library , Wilson said, has "set out to scan every page ever printed about every species. I know it sounds too big, but it is well under way. It’s estimated that the final database will consist of 500 million pages." According to the site, they were just shy of 10 million pages Sunday night.

Benyus's site, meanwhile, you may already have heard about — if you've been reading here for awhile; I wrote about it in September.

Back then, you could sign up as a beta tester, and though it's still marked beta, it appears to be fully up and running, and Benyus's presentation was the official launch. When I checked it out earlier today, all the discussion boards had no topics, and no comments, so you could go an score a first, if you're into that sort of thing. The site is affiliated with, but of course it's more tightly focused on chemical, construction, and other solutions conceived in nature that may be adaptable to the built environment. As such, it can be directly helpful to builders, designers, and others, but it's also just an interesting, accessible way into myriad facts about nature that are just plain interesting, such as that nanoscale bumps on the lotus leaf make it self cleaning (and has been adapted for use on buildings), or that a cuttlefish's skin can change color quickly using elastic pigment sacs, which may have applications in varying a building's color by the occasion or day, without painting. The site — principally sponsored by Autodesk and designed by IDEO 

— has a significant networking component too, not only in the discussion forums, but via personal profiles and other means.

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