The Map of Life Protecting biodiversity using data

Map of Life supports biodiversity monitoring of education, research, and decision-making with Google Cloud Platform products to gather data, visualize and examine global data variety and abundance in the life of Earth is the foundation of the diverse ecosystems that reside within it. However, various issues like pollution, climate change, unsustainable agriculture, and the destruction of habitats are threatening the world's ecosystems and their inhabitants. It is estimated that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that the number of wildlife species in the world decreased to 58% from the years 1970 between 1970 and 2012...

To stop these trends, conservationists, scientists, and officials from the government must determine the best areas for efforts to avoid the loss of species. The solution they offer, Map of Life, includes data on vertebrates, plants, and insects from national, international, and local sources, like BirdLife International, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Yale and UF decided to choose Google Cloud Platform to host Map of Life's storage for data and analysis and mapping due to its ability to scale and integrate and manage, analyze and display data. "Google Cloud Platform comes with all the tools needed for managing large-scale data as well as for analytics," says Walter Jetz, Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. "Its connectivity with Google Earth Engine and Google Maps makes it perfect for visualization of data."

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The mapping of areas where species are in danger

Map of Life currently draws from more than 600 million records from all over the globe, which include data about 44,351 species of vertebrates, insects, and plants and more than 700,000 species' names. The Map of Life CARTO Service is executed in Google Compute Engine virtual machines that improve the scaling of the vector mapping on demand and the query requirements.

Combining data from various sources permits Map of Life to calculate its distribution of and trends in at-risk species. Map of Life makes this information accessible to naturalists, conservation organizations, natural resource managers, scientists, and curious amateurs. Anyone who visits the site or installs the mobile application can access the data.

Recording species in Map of Life app, Source: Youtube, Map of Life

Google Compute Engine performs complex analysis of data to determine which species are most at risk. The research behind understanding biodiversity and the ability to predict patterns within species require multiple analytical iterations, each one that considers adjustments and input from scientists. Google Compute Engine is particularly suitable for this task because it can process each new iteration.

Map of Life continuously includes new data sets from individuals who provide observations on vertebrates, plant species, and insects. The platform also incorporates remotely-sensing datasets of Google Earth Engine and uses Google BigQuery to analyze large amounts of unstructured information.

"Map of Life utilizes Google BigQuery to analyze massive datasets, rapidly," says Jeremy Malczyk, the Lead Software Engineer at Map of Life. "We can conduct a search of 600 million records of species occurrence in under one minute, allowing scientists to make decisions faster."

Global conservation based on data

Over 100,000 researchers and citizens use Map of Life for biodiversity research and exploration. Map of Life is also creating the latest tools and visualizations that help meet the specific requirements of conservation and government agencies—organizations to aid in formulating environmental policies.

Global animal movements based on Movebank data (map), Source: Youtube, Movebank

Map of Life is creating dashboards that display data for park managers who can use biodiversity data to help improve conservation strategies for protected areas throughout Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

"Humankind has always had few details about biodiversity that had sufficient spatial details at an international scale. Map of Life is setting the goal of changing this," adds Walter. "By merging data and models, we want to aid everyone, from eco-tourists who want to enjoy the diversity of their travels as well as resource managers that must manage the development process.


Map of Life supports global biodiversity monitoring, education research, and decision-making by integrating and analyzing global data on species distributions and dynamics. Utilizing cloud-hosted technology, Map of Life makes its data accessible to researchers, scholars, students, teachers, and conservationists.

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