Friday, December 22, 2006

The Tree of Life and Me

The Tree of Life project is an online database (funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Arizona) which compiles information about biodiversity and the evolutionary relationships of all organisms. Both professional and amateurs can contribute to it... which makes some entries more accesible than others. It's nonprofit, intended to help scientists and teachers, but surprisingly middle and high school students are finding it a great resource.

I only stumbled across it while vanity Googling (to check on publicity for my Tell It on Tuesday gig this past week)... because their using some of my photos!

Click here, search for "Ereneta"

They are using my pictures of the slender salamanders I found living under our green waste bin on the side of our house last Spring.

The pictures have been on Flickr since March. I posted them under a Creative Commons license, spelling out that anyone could use them for noncommerical purposes as long as they credit me. Oh, and I suppose it helps that the labelled the photos with the Latin name for the genus, instead of just saying "salamander."

Side note: I was hoping to catch Taricha torosa, the California newt, with my camera this rainy season, since they are plentiful in Berkeley and Oakland, if you know where to look. Although Googling around the web I discovered that its skin is coated with an acute neurotoxin (Only harmful if ingested, or introduced via a mucus membrane (like the eye)... one pet site helpfully suggested: "Don't place any newt in your mouth")). Washing your hands is supposed to be enough of a precaution, but an adult California newt has enough tetrodotoxin to kill 2500-7500 mice!

Note to self: don't let the boys pet one.

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