Interview: Using the Internet To Identify Millions of New Species

Each year, about 18,000 new species of plants and animals are discovered and described by science — a number considered woefully inadequate by entomologist and taxonomist Quentin Wheeler. Along
Snub Nosed Monkey
Thomas Geissmann/Fauna & Flora International
Snub-nosed monkey, identified in 2010
with a group of high-profile colleagues, Wheeler, the founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University, is calling for an intensive international effort to discover the estimated 8 to 10 million species that remain unknown. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Wheeler says the time has never been more critical to carry out such a project, considering the rapid rate of biodiversity loss. But he notes that the tools now available to identify all the world’s species are impressive, most importantly the advent of what he calls “cybertaxonomy,” which harnesses the power of the Internet to take three-dimensional pictures of specimens and place millions of pages of taxonomic information online. “Unless we know what species exist,” says Wheeler, “we are at a huge disadvantage to monitor changes in biodiversity.”
Read the interview