Tools for the Tree of Life Workshop

July 7 and 8, 2016
Abromson Community Education Center
University of Southern Maine
Portland, Maine

A workshop to showcase and further collaborate on new web based programs developed for scientists, educators and students to collect phenomic information for assembling and annotating the Tree of Life. Publically available tools focused on natural language processing, computer vision and crowd sourcing.

For details about the workshop and registration, please go to

Next Generation Phenomics for the Tree of Life

A multi-institutional collaboration to increase the use of phenomic data for phylogenetic tree-building by using:

Crowd Sourcing

Natural Language Processing

Computer Vision

Darwin’s theory of evolution explaining that species are related dealt biologists and paleontologists the enormous challenge of discovering what the Tree of Life looks like for millions of species. Ongoing work on this significant branching diagram builds the map of life on Earth and answers questions such as ‘what is the closest relative of a species?’ and ‘what species have important products or chemicals?’ To build the Tree of Life scientists draw on all heritable features including genotypes and phenotypes (e.g., anatomy). Studying phenotypes, however, has remained complex and slow, never revolutionized by computer science and engineering. Here a team of biologists, computer scientists and paleontologists take up this challenge to adapt methods of computer vision, machine learning, crowdsourcing and natural language processing to increase work in the discipline of phylophenomics on a large scale.

The three-year goal is to release large phenomic datasets built using the new methods above and to provide the public and scientific community with tools for future work. Planned is the training of teachers and students (kindergarten – postdoctoral levels), and the engagement of ‘citizen scientists’. Huge phenomic datasets, many with images, will fill an important public interest in biodiversity and the fossil record.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology, "Assembling, Visualizing, and Analyzing the Tree of Life"