A $2.5 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation along with a $10 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation initiated the project in 2007. Over 30,000 pages of the Encyclopedia were released early in 2008 and the site has since grown to include more than a million authenticated species-pages.
Content is generated via the Biodiversity Heritage Library (a consortium of ten major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions), other Web-based resources, and by professional and citizen scientists. Wikipedia-style, people worldwide are invited to contribute text, video, images, and other information about a species and have it incorporated, upon review, into the authenticated pages. A final three-year grant made in 2009 supported the EOL’s efforts to expand its worldwide institutional base of participants and move it toward achieving self-sufficiency. The aims of the project largely accomplished, Foundation support ended in 2012.