go to the Tree of Life home page

Attaching Your Work

Background Information on Attaching Your Work

How the Tree of Life is Organized

To complete the process of attaching your treehouse or media to the Tree of Life it really helps to have an idea of how the ToL is organized. All of the information (text, images, audio and video) on the Tree of Life is stored in a database that is organized according to the genetic connections among the Earth's organisms.

Several different page types and media are attached to groups of organisms on the ToL. These groups of organisms (and therefore the media and pages attached to them) are organized according to the genetic connections among Life on Earth.

The image above shows that all ToL pages and media about organisms are attached to the Tree that represents the genetic connections between all Life on Earth.

Once you have some background knowledge of how the Tree of Life is organized we can do a better job of explaining to you why you need to attach your treehouse and media contributions to a group, and how to do it. Therefore, we highly recommend that you read through this page as well as visit the following pages to learn more about more the structure of the Tree of Life.

Treehouses Attached to Branch and Leaf pages on the ToL

A treehouse contains additional information that is related to the organisms on the branch or leaf page(s) to which it is attached. If you create a treehouse that contains an investigation about several types of ants you would attach your investigation to the Formicidae (Ants) group's branch page. When a visitor arrives at the Formicidae (Ants) page, they would then find a link to your treehouse under the Treehouse menu. If you did not attach your treehouse to the Ants page than you would not be able to access it from the treehouse menu on that page.

A Treehouse Page is linked to a Branch Page in the right sidebar menu, and Branch pages show treehouses that are linked to it in the right sidebar menu

Treehouses must be linked to branch and leaf pages, which provide the structural backbone for the ToL project, in order for them to be accessible to visitors to the Tree of Life. View example of treehouse shown above.

Once a ToL treehouse is attached to a group of organisms the treehouse:

Media Attached to the Tree of Life

We ask that you to attach media to those groups of organisms in the Tree of Life to which the contributed item is most relevant. By attaching your images, audio files and movies in this way you are helping us maintain the ToL database as a place where people can find media based on phylogenetic criteria, that is, their genetic connections.

For example, when you attach a picture of a platypus to the Ornithorhynchus anatinus group (platypus), people will find this picture not only if they search for platypus pictures, but also if they search for pictures of Monotremata, mammals, vertebrates, animals etc. (the groups of organisms that the platypus is related to).

The ToL Database

A database stores information and organizes it into many categories. For example, if you keep an address book, you have a type of database that is organized alphabetically and that stores peoples' names, addresses and phone numbers. The Tree of Life project is a computer database. The advantage of a computer database is that it can organize and sort information it stores in many different ways and do so with great efficiency. For example, if you are going to visit Alabama, you might want to view a list of all of the people that you know who live in Alabama. Rather than slowly sorting through your paper address book yourself, you could ask your computerized address database to show information geographically rather than alphabetically, e.g. ask the database to display a list of all your contacts in Alabama.

The Tree of Life Database has nodes that represent organisms, and all of the data on the ToL is attached to these nodes. The nodes are organized in the manner of the genetic connections between all Life on Earth.

All data on the ToL must be linked to groups of organisms. The image above represents a behind the scenes view of the ToL database structure that connects all ToL information. What ToL visitors see as ToL web pages are a collection of data (text, images, sounds etc.) organized into a page.

The ToL database structure allows for people to add information in a way that is organized according to their genetic relationships. Data in the ToL database are thus phylogenetically structured, allowing for the management and display of our diverse content within an evolutionary framework. If you ask the database to see a particular type of organism, say a whale (Cetacea), you will be able to find out information on whales that includes a framework for viewing the other groups of organisms that the whale is related to and the evolutionary history of whales.

When you attach your work to the Tree of Life we ask you to provide information that will help us organize the data that you have contributed so that others can find the information that they need. The more categories you assign the information that you initially put into a database, the more detailed your search results can be when you are looking for information. For example, when you made your computerized address book, if you marked some people as friends, and others as business associates, you could ask the database to produce a list of only friends or only business associates who live in Alabama. Taking care in attaching your work to the best place it fits on the ToL assures that other people will be able to find and use the information that you have contributed.

Building Treehouses

ToL Learning


building treehouses

building for teachers

Builders Toolkit

planning guide

treehouse tools

adding images/media

tips & guidelines