Who is the audience for visualizations of the Tree of Life? Our current working audience categories are:

  • middle school/public
  • high school
  • college students in diversity courses
  • professional users of systematic information
  • systematic biologists

For these audiences, displaying & interacting with tree of life (tol) information would help them answer these questions, respectively:

  • ms/public: where do I fit?
  • high school students: where do basic life structures show up on the tol?
  • college: what do I need to understand about the tol to be a savvy biologist?
  • professional users: what tol do the biologists agree upon?
  • systematic biologists: what are the various tols we agree and disagree on?

In addition, tree of life visualization applications should consider the needs of:

  • teachers of the high school and college student audiences listed above, who may desire to develop a custom view of the tree of life to emphasizes the curriculum content particular to their course
  • scientists on the committees that will be maintaining the tree of life information data base, who will need to edit the information and relationships as these are updated by scientific work.

There are many different ways to visualize tree-structured data. The particularly interesting ground which the first three audiences invite us to explore is that of summarizing a large, complex tree in a way that reduces it to a smaller tree that reflects the major important relationships. This should be done automatically, as a computational derivative of the complete tree, thus avoiding a summary tree that must be updated by hand.