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Contact: Robin Ann Smith
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
Researchers aim to assemble the tree of life for all 2 million named species
The resulting tree will be digital, downloadable, continuously updated
Durham, NC — A new initiative aims to build a grand tree of life that brings together everything scientists know about how all living things are related, from the tiniest bacteria to the tallest tree.
Scientists have been building evolutionary trees for more than 150 years, ever since Charles Darwin drew the first sketches in his notebook. But despite significant progress in fleshing out the major branches of the tree of life, today there is still no central place where researchers can go to browse and download the entire tree.
“Where can you go to see their collective results in one resource? The surprising thing is you can’t — at least not yet,” said Dr. Karen Cranston of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center.
But now, thanks to a three-year, $5.76 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, a team of scientists and developers from ten universities aims to make that a reality.