go to the Tree of Life home page

ToL History/Future

Future of the Tree of Life Project

We are gradually expanding the information provided on the ToL website, and we are continuously implementing new features. Here are some projects we are currently working on and some we have planned for the future.

Developing New ToL Branches

Developing the ToL Media Collection

Sharing Data With Other Collections

Dynamic Tree Viewer/Navigator

Communication/Interaction Tools for ToL Visitors and Contributors

Forums, comments, user ratings, etc.

Customizing ToL Content

ToL visitors will be able to customize the content and format of ToL pages according to their own needs. See Customizing Your View of the Tree of Life

Alternative Tree Structures

Looking further into the future, development efforts will focus on adapting the ToL information architecture so that ToL content can be displayed in the context of alternative tree structures. Currently, the backbone for the ToL Web Project is provided by a single human synthesis tree, and all materials in the ToL database are represented by objects that are attached to particular nodes in this tree. In the current information architecture, this attachment is direct, i. e., for each object, there is an entry in the database specifying Object A is attached to Node X. If we want to support multiple alternative tree structures, each object will have to be attached to equivalent nodes in different trees.

The challenge is to find a way to automatically identify proper nodes of attachment for objects if the underlying tree structure changes. Different trees may use different names for equivalent nodes, a node may have been moved to a different position in the tree, and a node may have different descendents in different trees. In order to attain flexibility in the attachment of objects, while at the same time maintainig precision in the relevance of attachments, ToL objects will in the future be attached to nodes via a mapping rule. The mapping rule will specify a node or nodes to which the object is attached. The mapping rule might be as simple as "Attach Object A to this specific node in this particular tree," or it might be more complex, e.g., "Attach Object A to the node that is the most recent common ancestor of Node X and Node Y", in which case the rule could be applied (and thus the object could be attached) to any tree that has Node X and Node Y in it. Of course, any set of mapping rules will only be able to cover a certain range of possible changes in tree topology and nomenclature. The mapping rules will thus have to be constantly revised and expanded through expert input.

Once this system is implemented, ToL users will have the option to browse content according to a variety of different phylogenetic hypotheses, including those generated by supertree algorithms.

About the Tree of Life

About ToL

ToL News

Goals of the ToL


Structure of the ToL

ToL Home Picture



Citing the ToL