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[Press Conference] Toward a Better Taiwan Encyclopedia of Life: Here?s What You Can Do

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Wang Hsin-min, deputy director of ASCDC; Lin Hwa-ching, director general of the Forestry Bureau; Chaw Shu-miao, director and distinguished research fellow at the Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica and Shao Kwan-tsao, founder of the projects of TaiEOL and TaiBOL pledge their commitment to safeguard Taiwan’s biodiversity with representatives from their teams.Wang Hsin-min calls for the involvement of members of the public in expanding the Taiwan Encyclopedia of Life.Director general Lin Hwa-ching sharing his remarks.Dr Shao Kwan-tsao claims that biodiversity is Taiwan's most precious asset.Hsu Cheng-hsin, project manager of TaiEOL at ASCDC, presents the overall progress of the platform’s coverage of Taiwan‘s species, which reaches one third of what is now known in the region.Dr Chaw sharing her remarks.Dr Huang Shi-bin, post-doc fellow at the Biodiversity Research Center, presents how the project of Taiwan Barcode of Life works.Guided tour in the depository of wildlife biogenetic materials. One of the liquid nitrogen storage ware is shown to the guests.Dr Huang presenting the specimen of an extinct Taiwanese fish.Mr Hsu, project manager of TaiEOL being interviewed.A visitor perusing the LED bulletin of the TaiEOL project. ASCDC’s stall features how data preserved in TaiEOL and The Fish Database of Taiwan serve as materials for creative work across disciplines.

 

If you are a lover of nature and Taiwan‘s wildlife, give a hand to help Taiwan Encyclopedia of Life expand. And who says it’s rather the kind of thing for nerds and hiking fanatics? See how crowdsourcing and Creative Commons give the undertaking an impressive twist.

 

Taiwan Encyclopedia of Life (TaiEOL), Taiwan‘s online encyclopedia of the country’s species, is now looking for help to piece together the whole picture of the country‘s fauna.

 

The making of the encyclopedia dates back to 2011, when the Forestry Bureau of Taiwan launched a data platform welcoming professional’s and aficionado‘s attempt to document the species in Taiwan in response to the international call of Encyclopedia of Life (EOL). In the effort of over one hundred and sixty taxonomists and free scholars, TaiEOL has accumulated 21,642 entries of species, covering one third of the 59,2000 species hitherto known in Taiwan.

 

Taiwan Encyclopedia of Life in numbers

Insecta 7,377
Fish 2,754
Aves 565
Amphibia & reptilian 144
Mammalia 106
Fungi 887
Coral 264

 

Pictures (CC) 24,000 

 

Dr Shao Kwan-tsao, founder of TaiEOL, advisor of the Academia Sinica Center for Digital Cultures and ex-executive of the Biodiversity Research Center, points out that TaiEOL is the only data platform in Taiwan where abundant, accurate and authoritative information about the species in Taiwan is circulated. One gets to access via a user-friendly interface to illustrated texts that are easy to understand. Being the Taiwanese branch of the Encyclopedia of Life, TaiEOL serves as a portal visited by over a million people among which 270,000 are foreign visitors.

 

In fact, there lies an array of possibilities for making use of the data contained in this encyclopedia outside the framework of research, education and roadkill prevention – TaiEOL is a source of inspiration for environmentalist works of art as well. Chang Wei-lun, a graduate student at the National Taiwan University of Arts, has been producing illustrations of Taiwan’s endangered fish and whale with reference to TaiEOL. He contributes some of his works (incl. drawing s of Chaetodon rafflesii) to the encyclopedia in return, and this kind of sharing and reciprocal enrichment is what TaiEOL sets out to pursue.

 

The Academia Sinica Center for Digital Cultures accredits the success of running and maintaining TaiEOL to the long-standing financial aid offered by the Forestry Bureau and the core concept of combining professionals and crowdsourcing driving this project. However, too few free scholars and people outside the academia have been actively involved in contributing to TaiEOL, which has largely relied on the work of experts and governmental librarians. To effectively improve the as-yet scarcity of public participation in documenting the remaining two-third of the species in Taiwan, they intend to call for a wider public involvement and set up a committee to review submissions.

 

Wang Hsin-min, deputy director of ASCDC, acknowledges the importance of public participation by indicating that the so-called experts are not able to do fieldwork out there all the year round, so this people do need some help. And the good news is that tantalizing examples for rolling up the sleeve are not scarce: environmental photographer Huang Shijie has donated nearly 600 phtographs of Taiwan‘s native species; Prof Co Wen-jun, founder of The Forum of Fungi, has offered TaiEOL hundreds of pictures of Taiwanese fungi, without which the encyclopedia will be impoverished in fungi representation. The sense of crowdsourcing awaits to be broadened, as there is still a lot to be done.

 

Another resolution, as Wang Hsin-min announces, is that TaiEOL will be joined by members of Wikipedia Taiwan to barter for volunteers to revise submissions. The finalized entries will be available on both TaiEOL and Wikipedia.

 

The search interface of TaiEOL is currently undergoing a major going-over, aiming at including more search criteria and sections about popular science and natural history. TaiEOL seeks to raise the awareness of the fragile beauty of Taiwan’s nature and wildlife and advocate environmental issues.

 

Major updates of TaiEOL is jointly released with the project of Taiwan Barcode of Life (TaiBOL) at a press conference at Academia Sinica on May 24, 2018.

 

 

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