How to study and monitor a million species

for a network of technology centers
to collect and share
biodiversity information

Soutikno S. Sastroutomo,
Chan Fook Wing & Lum Keng Yeang
Maryati Mohamed & Noel Tawatao
Universiti Malaysia Sabah

Malika Bounfour
Ministry of Agriculture, Rabat
Mohamed Ghamizi
University of Marrakech

Georgina De Alba, Eldredge Bermingham,
Mireya Correa, Carmen Galdames,
Steven Paton, Ross Robertson,
Ira Rubinoff, Donald Windsor & Joseph Wright
Smithsonian Tropical Reseach Institute

United States
Gary Rosenberg
Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia

Gary Alpert & Edward O. Wilson
Harvard University

Bob Magill, Henk van der Werff, George Schatz,
George Yatskievych & Kay Yatskievych
Missouri Botanical Garden

Robin Foster, Robert Luecking, Gayle Tonkovich,
Matt von Konrat, Jun Wen, & Yi Yan
The Field Museum

Patty Gowaty, Steven Hubbell,
Justin Long, Ashley MacDonald,
John Pickering, & Rachelle Wallace
University of Georgia

and hopefully
BioNET, CI, Conabio, ETI, GBIF,
and many others, as we join together

This page is under development.
Please share with others and send us your ideas.

Document started: 12 July, 2005
Updated: 5 March, 2006

Click here for
Table of contents

Following links demonstrate technology:

Click on image to
enlarge and download

Erythrina costaricensis, flower cluster
© Steven Paton
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2005

Erythrina costaricensis
flower cluster from Panama

Click on specific part
of the ant to zoom in

Thaumatomyrmex, unknown species
© Gary Alpert, Harvard University, 2005
Unknown species of Thaumatomyrmex
from the Dominican Republic

Table of contents

Click on image to
see maximum resolution and send feedback

© Steven Baskauf
Bioimages, Vanderbilt University, 2002-2005

Acer rubrum
Red maple, flower


Our mission is to assemble and share knowledge about nature in order to improve education, health, agriculture, economic development, and conservation throughout the world.

With Harvard University, the National Biological Information Infrastructure, Missouri Botanical Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Sun Microsystems, and other partners, our goal is to help build an interactive encyclopedia of life that will enable everyone to better study, monitor, manage, and enjoy biodiversity. Empowered by recent advances in digital imaging technology and by Web tools that enable us to work together efficiently, we propose to put high-quality images, identification guides, real-time high-resolution maps, and other valuable information for a million species on-line by 2012.

To accomplish this, we need the help of scientific experts, land managers, local naturalists, citizen scientists, teachers, students, and other contributors from around the world. Here we propose to establish an international network of regional technology and training centers to help everyone collect biodiversity information and share their knowledge. Based on each region's current capacity and needs, we propose to equip and staff these centers to best speed-up getting a million species on-line.

Each center will serve information and provide tools, know-how, training, and technical support in their local languages. They will work with scientists, naturalists, photographers, and artists within their region to build and illustrate seasonal identification guides to local schools, parks, and other areas of interest. These local guides both draw from and contribute to information in guides to larger geographic regions. They greatly simplify the identification process by reducing the number of possible species a user must consider to just those found locally at a particular time of the year.

Since 1998 Discover Life and its partners have developed, integrated, and tested software that allows people with minimal computer skills to collect, manage, and serve information on the Web. We now rapidly link information from multiple databases and Websites into composite pages that contain images, maps, identification guides, and other information. Our search engine, for example, presently enables participating Websites to retrieve and serve pages on over 200,000 species. This and our other tools have navigation bars that Websites can customize to link users back to any of their pages.

We now wish to share our know-how worldwide, enable everyone to use our software tools without charge, and partner with others to tackle together the task of getting knowledge of the world's flora and fauna into high-quality, interactive, up-to-date Web pages.

Information should be like oxygen -- free and equally available to everyone on the planet. In developing the proposed network, we intend to ensure that all information gathered from contributors will always be available to everyone, regardless of current geopolitical concerns and strife. By building a network of computers in multiple countries to mirror information, we will ensure that the information is always available to everyone, both to the citizens of "rogue" nations and "imperialist" ones alike.

Click on image for
aerial photo with
local distribution in
Concord, Massachusetts

© Steven Baskauf
Bioimages, Vanderbilt University, 2002-2005

Acer platanoides
Norway maple, flower


Background and justification

Our health, food supply, economic well-being, environmental security, and ultimately, happiness, depend on how we manage the planet's vast diversity of life. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil spells out the importance to human welfare of understanding and maintaining biodiversity ( The 1997 International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) addresses the need to prevent the spread of agricultural pests and promote their control ( The success of these treaties and countless other initiatives rests on the ability of individuals to identify species and both contribute and retrieve information about them. Given that there are millions of species, most of which are still unknown to science, we face a non-trivial problem, to say the least.

Fortunately, thanks to the Web, we can now work together on a global scale and share our expertise. An international network can now be set up to collect and disseminate instantly the knowledge that society needs to reduce human disease, increase agricultural production, control destructive invasive species, protect endangered ones, and enjoy rather than struggle with nature. This prospectus addresses how we could work together, leverage our existing resources, and build such a network.

What would it take to study and monitor a million species around the planet, in real-time, by 2012? How should we work together to identify species, study their distribution and abundance, share our findings, and, in so doing, help everyone better understand, manage, and enjoy biodiverity?

In 1992, Raven and Wilson recognized the importance of completing a global biodiversity survey and proposed a 50-year plan (Science 258: 1099-1100). Many individuals are now working to document, understand, and manage biodiversity. Their efforts differ in geographic scale and taxonomic breadth. At a global scale, Species 2000 has been cataloging all named species since 1999 ( The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development authorized the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) in 1999. GBIF helps coordinate and put databases on-line for various taxa ( BioNET International, a network started in 1993 to build capacity in taxonomy, now has 120 member countries ( National efforts include Costa Rica's INBio (, Mexico's Conabio (, and the United States Geological Survey's National Biological Information Infrastructure (USGS-NBII Projects differ in taxonomic breadth. The goal of All Taxa Biodivesity Inventories (ATBI's), such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park's, is to document all species within a specified geographic boundary. In contrast, the U.S. National Science Foundation's Planetary Biodiversity Inventory program focuses on all the species within defined taxonomic groups. Yet other efforts target single species, such as a disease causing agent or agricultural pest.

The Web is an efficient and inexpensive medium for rapidly sharing information. There are now over 100,000 Websites that provide some information about biodiversity. Large sites run by herbaria, museums, universities, and other entities include Animal Diversity Web, ARKive, Ecoport, ETI, GenBank, NatureServe, Tree of Life, and Wikipedia. A multitude of smaller sites share information contributed by amateur photographers, hobbyists, nature lovers, and other individuals. Unfortunately, like the Web in general, this rapidly growing digital encyclopedia of life is loose-knit, difficult to navigate, and lacks sufficient quality control.

Despite centuries of intense interest and much work, science knows relatively little about life on Earth. Of the planet's estimated 5 -10 million or more species, only about 1.7 million species are scientifically described and named. The biology, ecological interactions, and environmental requirements of most species, even the named ones, are largely unknown. The following challenges impede assembling and using biodiversity information:

  • What is it? -- Most people are unable to identify to species all but a small fraction of the organisms they find. Consequently, until we make accurate identification tools readily available, they can neither contribute nor retrieve species specific information.

  • Too many whats, wheres, and whens -- The magnitude of a global biodiversity survey is too great for experts to do everything. Students and citizen scientists must learn about biodiversity and help us study, monitor and map target species around the globe with up-to-date information.

  • Retrieving information -- Information about most species is currently inaccessible to most people. No information exists for millions of species. Much of what does exists is not on the Web but in copyrighted material that may or may not be available from local libraries and other sources. Even if high-quality information is on the Web, it may be hidden within the Web's chaff to all but a few cognoscenti who know which databases to search and can spell scientific names correctly. If we are to gain the help that we need for our quest from the general public, we must return knowledge to them in a form that is free and easy to find.

  • Quality control. General search engines such Google have revolutionized our lives. However, while they help us find information, they fail to rank its quality. Multi-source biodiversity data need to be vetted and users allowed to view original records before they use them. Is a point on a range map based on a museum specimen collected a century ago, on a novice citizen scientist's contribution, or on a professional expert's recent report?

The network of centers we propose here will help overcome these impediments by providing a framework of technology, training, and support so that individuals around the world can rapidly assemble and share high-quality information about their biodiversity.

Why are the centers needed?

The proposed centers are intended to complement other on-going biodiversity projects such as GBIF's and the Encyclopedia of Life initiative led by the Smithsonian Institution. The centers will provide tools and training to assemble a vast about of biological information from regional experts into a common framework by 2012. They will provide scientists and other contributors with the one-on-one technical support they need to share their expertise and data through the Web.

Based on Discover Life's experience of providing technical support from the University of Georgia since 1998, the proposed network of regional centers is an expedient means to transfer our technology to potential contributing experts worldwide. Because of the technical complexity of putting databases and identification guides on-line, our most productive contributors to date are the scientists to whom we have provided long-term, customized technical support, often by phone. Our large training workshops were useful politically but they were not productive in terms of getting guides built or information on the Web.

Discover Life relies on information provided by others. It gives credit to the original source of each image, record, and page that it serves from contributing databases. As such, our team of taxonomic experts are search engine editors and ensure that the information served is accurate, up-to-date and from reliable sources.

Click on image to
enter EcoLibrary and search for images

Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus ant on Bullhorn acacia
© Dan Perlman, Brandeis University, 2005
Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus ant & Bullhorn acacia
an example of mutualism

Click on image to
see Ecosystem sampler page

Savanna, Tanzania
© Dan Perlman, Brandeis University, 2005
Savanna, Tanzania

Click on following 3 images to
see enlargements of plant parts

Tabebuia guayacan, flower cluster
© Steven Paton
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2005

Tabebuia guayacan
flower cluster from Panama

Doliocarpus multiflorus, fruit
© Steven Paton
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2005

Doliocarpus multiflorus
fruit from Panama

Stemmadenia grandiflora
© Steven Paton
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2005

Stemmadenia grandiflora


The proposed centers will provide technology, training, and support to help individuals working in each region collect and share biodiversity information. Their technology will include Web tools, provided through Discover Life, imaging systems, similar to ones Gary Alpert developed at Harvard University to put high-resolution photographs of ants and other small creatures on-line, and computer servers to mirror information in regional languages.

Our Web tools are a set of integrated server-side software packages. They cover all the basic functions required to database and share specimen, species, and higher taxon level information. Using their browsers, data providers can edit species checklists, build identification guides, process images, make maps, manage specimen records, print barcode labels, and write Web pages. The programs index information in contributors' databases and combine information from multiple sources across the Web into dynamic pages that are served to users.

In turn, end users find and access images, maps, and text through the identification guides, by browsing a Linnean hierachy of links, and by entering common or scientific names into the search box described above. Users can also display on-line slide shows, download sets of images and text for classroom and other presentations, submit comments to data providers to correct errors, find geographic coordinates from maps and aerial photographs, and report their observations about target species.

The set of tools include the following:

Image links to
lecture on coloration

Monarch butterfly
Source: Ecolibrary
Danaus plexippus
Monarch butterfly
a toxic species with warning coloration
  • IDnature Guides

    These are interactive Web forms that help users to identify a specimen by checking and submitting its attributes (see Users check one or more states for each character that a guide presents, skipping characters for which they lack information or are not sure. While users exclude species that do not have their specimen's attributes, at any time they can link to pages about the remaining possible taxa. Eventually, if all goes well, they end up on the species page about the specimen that they have identified. Finally, they may report to the system where they found the species.

    Guide builders have a powerful set of on-line modules to speed guide buiding and creating species pages. These modules are Web based and are fully integrated with features of the global mapper, image center, record manager, index and search tools described below. The software enables multiple individuals from across the Web to contribute simultaneously to a guide and its associated species pages. The builders' menu includes features to import species lists and other data from speadsheets and databases; add, rename, and drop taxa; specify rules to score attributes for multiple taxa simultaneously; process images to illustrate states and species pages, write text, and parse information from the Web into species pages.

    The underlying logic behind IDnature guides is unlike other interactive identification software that requires guide builders to complete an entire character-state matrix before a guide works. Instead IDnature guide builders may leave many cells in their matrix blank and still produce a working guide. A resolve feature helps guide builders determine when each guide has enough information in its cells to identify all species from each other. Consequently, guides with hundreds of species can be built very rapidly. The IDnature guide to North American ants includes over 700 species and 5000 images. It was assembled over the course of six months through the cooperation of individuals at over 10 institutions. The guide to North American trees and shrubs resolves over 1,200 species. Three University of Georgia undergraduates assembled and illustrated this guide over the course of six months.

Image links to
IDnature guide of trees & shrubs

© Cheryl Reese, University of Georgia, 2004
Rhamnus frangula
Glossy buckthorn
an invasive species in North America

Image links to
species page used by IDnature guide of ticks

© National Tick Collection, Georgia State University, 2004
Dermacentor variabilis
American dog tick, underside of female

  • Global Mapper

    We developed this tool in partnership with (see It allows users to overlay specimen records from partners' databases onto maps and aerial photographs served by Users can map multiple species simultaneously. Each point that is plotted links back to its source and more information through the record manager described below.

    From servers in Massachusetts, makes global maps available to the mapper at 1:1,000,000 scale, topographical maps to 1:24,000 scale for the United States, and aerial photographs at 1 pixel per square meter resolution or better for 89% of the United States, in total over 25 TB of data.

    The Global Mapper includes a gazetteer with over 7 million georeferenced places. Depending on a map's resolution, it automatically converts data between latitude-longitude (decimal degrees or degree-minute-seconds) and UTM coordinates. It uses the WGS84/NAD83 datum and can convert data from NAD27.

Image links to
demonstration of Global Mapper

  • Image Center

    High-resolution images are key components of our IDnature guides and species pages. Eventually we intend to document the life stages and diagnostic characters of each species with numerous images. Image center software allows our partners to contribute, manage, and process large numbers of images rapidly. Automated programs enable each of our servers to process up to 4,000 original high-resloution images daily, storing them at the five resolutions that we use in display and zooming. Image titles, captions, and metadata are processed, stored, and retrieved by the record manager described below.

    Users can search for and see images using the IDnature guide software, by browsing, and by specifying unique image identifiers. They can display images either individually, in sets, or as part of the dynamic species pages. The software's options allow end users and participating Websites to display images at various sizes. They can display individual images, order them in a slide show, group them as thumbnails, or list numerous images together with their associated text, copyright statements, and metadata in a single page.

Image links to
slide show of shorefishes

Source: Shorefishes, Tropical Eastern Pacific
Ross Robertson, STRI

Acanthurus achilles
Achilles tang
  • Record Manager

    This tool allows users to add and retrieve data records associated with images, collection events, and specimen determinations (see Contributors can import data from spreadsheets and databases into the record manager. The manager uses simple file formats that speed translating and importing both flat files and relational data. Alternatively, contributors can enter data manually using Web forms.

    The manager integrates data stored on partners' servers with data stored on Discover Life's. It gives data providers maximum flexibility and does not force them to use a standard data schema. Providers name and order the fields that they wish to share. The manager indexes key fields, such as scientific name and geographic coordinates. It passes geographic information to the Global mapper, which in turn combines data from all contributors into maps.

    Every night the manager automatically indexes millions of records from contributing databases, large and small alike. It updates the databases that it mirrors. These include Missiouri Botanical Garden's Tropicos database, which contains over 2.3 million specimen records.

    The manager has an option to print labels with secure, globally unique identifiers to track specimens with machine readable data matrix symbols.

Image links to
Record Manager's retrieve function

Insect label with data matrix symbol
  • Search Box

    The search box on the right returns pages for over 200,000 species. For details on how to customize and use it on your Website, please see the page source of

Discover Life
Enter common or scientific name

  • Database Indexes

    Fast database indexes glue the above software tools together and enable them to share data seemlessly. Contributors and system operators update these indexes as they add information. Automated programs also update them each night, adding information from our partners' on-line databases.

    The tools that search for and display species information, for example, draw from various sources, including the indexes used by the IDnature guides, Global mapper, Image center, and Record manager. Consequently, individuals who build guides, provide images, and add specimen records contribute to the search tool and species pages without explicitly doing so.

Image links to
Open Directory Project's
Flora & Fauna

Pan troglodytes
© Irven DeVore, AntroPhoto
Pan troglodytes
yong chimpanzee
Gombe, Tanzania
  • Web Services

    Discover Life provides Web services to share its tools and content with other Websites. We discuss this technology below under Partners, because it so integral to forging the partnerships that we need to gather and share information on a million species.

Image links to
species page
with numerous contributors

Acer rubrum
© Kay Yatskievych
Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003

Acer rubrum
Red Maple
  • Other Software

    We use non-Web based programs, some of which are automated, to manage security, data integrity, cross-site back-up of files, and load management across servers. We also have a growing set of programs that help us find and incorporate information from other Web sites into our databases and the pages we serve.

Please see for links to Discover Life's content, tools, and on-line help. For further technical details see

Image links to
global map of
two invasive fire ant species

Solenopsis invicta
© Brian Fisher/AntWeb
California Academy of Sciences, 2004

Solenopsis invicta
Red imported fire ant
an invasive pest

Legal organization

Discover Life is a Website started in 1998 to support the ATBI in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has since evolved to provide Web technology and services to everyone wanting to contribute and share information about species around the planet. The proposed centers will each house Discover Life computers that will provide regional mirrors of all contributed data.

The Website's legal umbrella is The Polistes Foundation, a 501-c-3 non-profit organization based in Massachusetts. This foundation's team of advisors includes world leaders in science, education, conservation, and technology (see Its partner are an eclectic, loose-knit group of individuals, organizations, and companies that contribute information, support, and services (see

Discover Life's main computers are housed at the University of Georgia and Missouri Botanical Garden. In August, 2005, they served over 2.9 million pages and images. The Website's long-term future does not depend on its current legal or physical homes. The five-year cooperative agreement between NBII and Polistes states that we will transfer Discover Life to a government agency or another non-profit should Polistes be unable to maintain the Website.

Click on image to
enlarge and download

Heliocarpus_popayanensis, fruit
© Steven Paton
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2005

fruit from Panama


We need to build a worldwide team to accomplish the goals in this prospectus. If you support them, please may we partner with you? To join our endeavour and share your expertise through the proposed centers, please contact one of the participants listed above.

  • Web services

    We provide tools and content to other sites as Web services. Any non-commercial Website may customize URLs and forms on their pages to use our services. The information returned appears within their site's framework and does not appear to come from our servers. The navigation bars, for example, help keep users on participating sites and do not transfer them to our servers. While we take care to credit content providers, our Web services can be set up to hide their role to end users.

    In a Web emblazened with logos, banner ads, and unwanted commercial pop-ups, providing behind-the-scene Web services may seem foolishly altruistic. It is not. We do it to encourage other sites to share our content widely. Hopefully we will partner together to share their content too. Web managers and data providers will help us more if we give them content and credit, do not syphon off their end users, and refrain from clutterng up their sites with extraneous logos and sponsored links.

    We encourage contributors to use our Web services as an efficient way to cross-link all our Websites. Cross-links increase our combined visibility to end users. Google and other search engines weigh the number of links to pages in ranking what to list at the top of their results. By cooperating and linking our sites together, we will all get more visitors than if we stand alone.

    The images on the right of this page showcase our Web services. They integrate, display, and credit information from numerous Websites and databases. The red text above each image describes the resource. The links below go to credit and species pages. Our servers generate the returned pages dynamically, querying multiple databases and Web pages for information on the fly. If necessary, please use your browser's "Back" button to return to this page.

For a partial list of organizations who have contributed to our efforts in some way or other, see

Image links to
checklist of Jamican land snails

Orthalicus undatus
© Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, 2004
Orthalicus undatus
land snail from Jamaica

Where will the centers be?

We plan to equip and staff a network of 8 regional centers outside the United States that will provide worldwide training and support to collect and share biodiversity information through Discover Life and our partners' Websites. Unless we are fortunate enough to find one large donor, funds will come from multiple local, regional, and international sources. We will establish the centers as funds for each become available. As a first phase, we propose to establish three centers with our partners in Malaysia, Morocco, and Panama. These will respectively provide support in Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, and Spanish speaking countries in Central and South America.

In addition, we propose to establish a network of centers in North America to focus on assembling knowledge from more experts and building local identification guides to parks and school yards throughout North America. One of these centers will be in Chicago and include individuals working at the Field Museum, Chicago Botanic Garden, and Northwestern University. Another will be in Kentucky and include Western Kentucky University and Mammoth Cave National Park.

In conjunction with the NSF Center for Integrated Pest Management at North Carolina State University, we are in the process of selecting additonal centers from the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Southern Africa and Madagascar, India, and Australia/Pacific. We are considering a number of factors in choosing potential homes for the centers. These include everything from geopolitics, geography, and regional biota to reliable electricity, security, and Internet band width. Above all, we want broad based local support across several agencies and organizations. We will select centers that have strong ties to research organizations, field stations, universities, and K-12 schools. Each must provide balanced support to all the facets of society that are collecting and using biological information.

  • Panama -- In November, 2005, we started our first international center with support from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Steve Paton ( and Biff Bermingham at STRI are coordinating this center with the help of Mireya Correa at the University of Panama. Its first year goals are to get information from Panama on-line, focusing on birds, fishes, frogs, insects, plants, and physical monitoring. We hope to work with the IABIN, the Organization for Tropical Studies, INBio, Arthropods of La Selva Project (ALAS), and other regional organizations to expand support to Costa Rica and other Spanish speaking countries soon.
Image links to
interactive Global Mapper starting at NMNH

U.S. National Museum of Natural History
© & Maps a la carte, Inc., 2004
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution

What is a center?

Each center will provide training and technical support to individuals wishing to contribute information to Discover Life and our partners' databases. It will also serve information to Web users in the region's local languages from servers at each center.

Our initial goal is to recruit and train a staff of 1-3 biologists for each center, ideally a botanist, entomologist, and a generalist. By working with scientists and other experts, these individuals will be able to assemble and integrate information on a large number of species, covering everything from agricultural pathogens, to invasive species, to marine organisms. They will work with museums, herbaria, libraries, and other organizations to get checklists, identification guides, maps, images, and text about their region's flora and fauna on-line.

We propose to equip each center with high-resolution imaging systems that can photograph small things, such as of the Thaumatomyrmex ant shown above, to larger organisms, such as the plants shown. Gary Alpert at Harvard University will be responsible for overseeing the imaging systems and for training individuals to use them and the associated software. At each center we will hire individuals to operate these machines, process the images, and curate associated reference material. Thus, each center will provide regional support to those wishing to put high-quality images on the Web. This capacity is critically needed by the world's taxonomic experts. By sharing images of type specimens and unidentified ones, it allows them to determine rapidly what is new to science. Hence, it greatly speeds the process of naming and describing species.

We also propose to equip each center with computers that will mirror Discover Life's databases locally and, once translations have been made of text, serve the information in local languages in addition to English. We will remotely manage the the operating system and software on these computers from the University of Georgia, as we have been doing with our existing mirror at Missouri Botanical Garden since November, 2004. Each center's local staff will manage and have full control of the data contributed through their center.

Image links to
over 100 IDnature guides

Frullania pycnantha
© Matt von Konrat & John E. Braggins, 2004
Frullania pycnantha
Liverwort, New Zealand


Since 1998, students and staff at Discover Life's support center at the University of Georgia have helped our contributors to integrate information on over 200,000 species into on-line pages. Based on this experience, we are confident that the proposed 8 regional centers will be sufficient to faciliate building a digital encyclopedia with a million species pages within seven years.

Technology, training, and support are key to our success. In a nutshell, we propose to train the trainers. Once trained, the staff at the centers will leverage a vast quantity of regional knowledge about biodiversity and make it available to the world via the Web in English and local languages. Similar to the support center in Georgia, they will train and help scientists and other contributors in their region to build identification guides, process images, manage data, map specimen records, and build species Web pages.

Image links to
over 4000 Neotropical plant thumbnails from STRI

Abarema barbouriana, capsule
© Steven Paton
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2005

Abarema barbouriana
capsule from Panama


We seek funds to equip, staff, and run 8 regional centers over the next 7 years. Because specific costs will depend on the facilities, equipment, and matching contributions of the centers' host institutions, It is premature to present budget details now. We present only general estimates in U.S. dollars.

Initial equipment
We estimate that it will cost $40,000-$50,000 to equip each center ($20,000-$30,000 for microscopes and cameras; $20,000 for laptop computers and servers).

Staff salaries and benefits
We propose to staff each center with up to three local biologists with bachelor degrees, a half-time computer specialist, and three technicians who will process specimens and images. Assuming that the host institutions provide supervisors for these individuals, we seek $50,000 per year per center for staff salaries and benefits.

Travel and supplies
We seek $20,000 per year per center to support the staff and allow them to travel and provide training within their regions.

Indirect costs
We do not expect host institutions to charge the project indirect costs. In compliance with each host country's fair labor laws, we will hire staff as contractors. The Polistes Foundation, Discover Life's non-profit umbrella organization, will provide oversite and fiduciary services to the project at 5% of total costs.

Detailed budgets
Upon request by potential donors, we will prepare detailed proposals and budgets for one or more centers.

Image links to
All Living Things
a static HTML page

Hyla cinerea
© John Pickering, 1976-2001
Hyla cinerea
Green treefrog
a camouflaged species


The following emails were sent in preparing this prospectus. They give background, details, and supportive information. They consider important issues that we must address to join into a successful network and achieve our communal goals. They are listed by author and chronologically within author. Rachelle Wallace,, is managing them. Please send her any corrections.

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