– Douglas Adams.

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) brings together knowledge about life on Earth (articles, media, maps, data and more) into a single curated, open database available both as a website and a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs).

Every day EOL computers gather up ("aggregate") information about living creatures that is stored in databases and filesystems of EOL's Content Partners all over the world. This information is organized in EOL by the names of species. For example, even though EOL gets information about wolves from many sources, it is all organized together in one place to make it easy for you to find (search for “wolf” and see for yourself). Once it is organized, visitors to the EOL website explore it by visiting EOL pages, where they can leave comments, create EOL Collections, and share their expertise by writing articles, curating content, or by becoming EOL Content Partners. Over time, as new EOL Content Partners and Members become active, the information in EOL becomes steadily broader and richer. EOL is currently home to about two million pages of remarkable information, pictures and resources. Despite this, from time to time you will encounter an EOL page that has a lot less information on it than you might have hoped or expected. When this happens please leave a comment to let us all know what you were looking for.

EOL has been designed to be engaging, accessible and personal. The best way to learn how to use EOL is simply to start using it. To help answer questions you may have, we've prepared some help for you on the following topics:

Introduction to EOL - Biological diversity, often shortened to “biodiversity,” is the variety of plants, animals and microorganisms living in an area or region. EOL brings together information about biodiversity and tools and resources for learning about life on earth. Visit EOL Education.

EOL Search - There are many ways to explore EOL, but the most powerful is EOL's Search capability. You'll find a search box at the top of every EOL page.

The Taxon Page – Scientists use the word taxon (plural taxa) to describe a group of one or more organisms. They give these groups a rank (such as “species”) and a name (such as “Homo sapiens”). EOL gathers information from its many Content Partners together into taxon pages, which are also referred to as "EOL Pages". Learn more about Taxon Pages.

Your EOL Profile – When you register to become an EOL Member, you gain the ability to make use of the interactive features of EOL. Your EOL Profile contains information you choose to share about yourself, a record of your activity on EOL, your EOL Collections and more. 

EOL Collections – You may wish to simply collect pictures of pretty birds, or you may wish to assemble a definitive list of endangered species of Costa Rica. Whatever your goal, EOL’s Collections give you the ability to gather together the pieces of EOL that are of greatest interest to you into a “virtual collection” you can name, annotate and share. Learn more about Collections

How to contribute to EOL – Whether you’re a professional scientist, an enthusiastic amateur or just someone who wants to get involved in the work of building EOL, there are many ways to contribute your expertise and energies to EOL. Learn more about how to contribute content to EOL.

EOL Curators – If you have scientific credentials (professional or otherwise) or if you are committed to earning them, you can request to become an EOL Curator. EOL relies on its growing community of Curators to review content contributions to determine whether they should be displayed on EOL. 

EOL Content Partners – If you are an individual with a large amount of information you would like to share with EOL, or belong to an organization with similar resources, EOL would be delighted to work with you to make it possible to share your content with the world through EOL. Learn more about EOL Content Partners.

Technologies and APIs – The technology infrastructure of EOL has been developed over a period of years to become a reliable, robust platform for gathering, generating and sharing biodiversity information. At the same time, a machine-readable application programming interface (API) has been created to allow third-party applications of all sorts to access and use information stored in EOL.