Dr James Rosindell (Life Sciences) recently launched the website www.onezoom.org, which maps the diversity of life on earth and shows how it evolved.
Why did you decide to launch this website?
Thanks to advances in genetic analysis scientists have sequenced many different biological species and can produce bigger and bigger evolutionary ‘family trees’. However, there is no way to visualise this large amount of data. I believe that scientists and the public would benefit from a website where they could easily explore this information in an appealing and user-friendly way.
How did you achieve this?
I used algorithms based on a branch of mathematics known as fractal geometry that is not typically applied to data visualisation. OneZoom adapts these techniques to automatically build a single, visually striking image containing huge amounts of information. Users can explore the information easily by zooming in and out, just as they would on a large map – hence the name OneZoom.
Can you adapt OneZoom?
OneZoom currently acts as a visualisation tool for universities, researchers and schools, but we can also imagine it as a touch screen display in museums or exhibitions. I have already adapted it for use as an index for Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. On their customised display, species on the tree include information about the relevant departmental researchers studying them. In general, the OneZoom concept should be useful in any big data visualisation, from recording threatened species to charting government spending. It is a novel way to make large amounts of data freely available, easy to understand and fun to explore for a non-expert. I hope that what we have seen so far in OneZoom is just the start of something much more.
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