Public interest in plants and animals is not boundless. We are all busy, and easily distracted. We all have many priorites, and identifying a plant or animal, or learning more about one, is something we cannot all find much time for.
What we need is something that can make such identification and learning quick, easy, and rewarding.
Books are always the result of immense quantities of hard work and good intentions. Books on wildlife reflect this, and most are beautiful, delightful, and informative. But books do not serve us as well as we might wish...
books are expensive. Zipcode Zoo is free;
books often contain plates in one section, text in another, so that absorbing all the information about a species demands much page turning. Zipcode Zoo puts all the info on a species in one place;
books don't support hypertext, so jumping from one topic to another, or looking up a definition requires flipping to the index, browsing, and turning pages some more. A poor index makes this effort even more fruitless. Zipcode Zoo, on the other hand, offers popup definitions and many hypertext links on every page.
because of cost considerations, books cannot include many photos, or large photos, or many species. Zipcode Zoo comes along in the era of inexpensive storage and high bandwidth, and today includes
photos. Many species have more than one photo. Photos are generally large, and generally in color.
books can't be revised frequently. Zipcode Zoo is revised and expanded nearly every day, with new pages posted at least weekly.
The Internet is terrific, and getting better. But we could wish for improvements in many of the existing sites.
Many sites expect you to know what you are looking for before you begin your search. They'll ask you to enter the scientific name, the genus, or something else you may not know before you can begin. Zipcode Zoo will allow a search on any word on any of its pages -- so if you see a brown bird, you might search for brown bird and begin your browsing there.
Sometimes these sites don't put all the information on one page, making them as cumbersome as books.
Many sites are not comprehensive, specializing in reptiles of Italy or other subsets. Zipcode Zoo will soon encompass all species of plants and animals.
Neither books nor the Internet care where you were when you spotted some plant or animal. So your effort to identify something can lead you through a maze of species that have never been within 1,000 miles of your observation point. Zipcode Zoo can use your zipcode to key a plant or animal, helping you sort through the possibilities and quickly focus on "most likely".
Few internet sites have special features designed to teach. They don't try to prevent learning, but don't do enough to enable it. Example: a web site could present flash cards, and help a user learn to match names with pictures, identify teeth, bones, nests, coloration... Zipcode Zoo offers such features.
Behind the Scenes
Zipcode Zoo is a project of the BayScience Foundation. If you have suggestions for what we should be doing, please write.
July 25, 2005,
this site is home to
web pages describing 44,422 plants and 74,664 animals,
photos taken by
sound recordings, and definitions of
July 25: Added thumbnails to each Photographer's index page. See links from here.
June 22: Added "Update My LifeList" option to the bottom of pages. You will now be able to maintain your own personal LifeList if you register. Added Search Tips to our Search page, to help improve search results.
June 20: Added "Print this page", "Bookmark this page", "Mail this Link", and "Report a Problem" buttons to the bottom of pages.
May 17: Quiz is now here in beta, with more to come. Quiz now includes a dozen interactive crossword puzzles that will challenge and build your vocabulary.
May 16: Fixed bug in code that generated featured photo for custom home pages for registered users here.
May 10: We welcome Bitinia Espinoza, our first photographer/naturalist to offer her beautiful prints for sale through this site. See our description of the Marine Iguana for links to order a print from her. Other photographers are invited to join Bitinia in this approach: a low resolution photo here, and a link to order a print directly from the photographer.
April 20: Added U.S. distribution maps for 37,412 U.S. species; improved taxonomic information and added links for more info for most species. Added many photos. With the added photos and taxonomic info, Key is now improved.
April 12: If you register, your home page will now show a picture of something in your area, a list of some species in your area, and a list of newly added/revised pages on this site.