Doug Soltis and the Tree of Life

This year, Doug Soltis was named a member of the National Academy of Sciences, honoring his seminal role on the Tree of Life project, which aims to catalogue and portray the relationships among Earth’s 2.3 million named species. Knowledge of these relationships is crucial for ecology, agriculture, medical science, and conservation. The Tree of Life, a traditional symbol of connection and natural wonder, now serves as an organizing principle of biodiversity. As the project’s chief metaphor, the Tree of Life deftly threads scientific and cultural meaning, providing a unique connector to the public. Indeed, Soltis and his colleagues are developing innovative means of engaging the public in celebration of biodiversity and its practical benefits, such as the discovery of medicines and improvement of crops. In November, Doug and Pam Soltis worked with the Florida Museum and international multimedia artist Naziha Mestaoui to present the Tree of Life to the local community. The Tree of Life collaborators will continue to offer novel methods of visualizing Earth’s remarkable variety of life.