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ToL Scientific Contributors: Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains Frequently Asked Questions we have received from scientific contributors to the Tree of Life.

I would like to author a Tree of Life page, but I don't have the time or computer resources to create the page myself. Can I get some technical help in creating my pages?

Technical help is available. Upon request, we provide full composition services, and we assist authors in getting started and in trouble shooting preliminary pages. Authors who would like assistance should contact us at

Authors of branch and leaf pages, please be sure to look at the Technical Help page for instructions on how to send your materials to us.

Can I just send you the tree from my most recent phylogenetic analysis, and you put it up on the ToL site?

When we construct a ToL branch for a given group, we want to have all the taxa in that group included in the tree or taxon list, i.e., not just the ones that were included in a particular phylogenetic analysis, and not just the ones that occur in a particular faunal region. One reason for this requirement is to emphasize that the phylogenies presented on the ToL should not just be the result of a single analysis, but should synthesize all available information. If the structure of a ToL branch is based on studies that used only exemplar taxa, then the rest of the known taxa should be added to the ToL trees or taxon lists. If the phylogenetic position of a taxon within a group is entirely unknown, it can be placed incertae sedis below the tree. See Tree/Taxon List Formatting for more information.

I would like to author ToL pages for a genus and its species, but there's no page for the family yet. Do I have to wait until the authors of the family page get their act together?

There's no need to wait. We can work with you and the coordinators for your group to build a temporary page for the family that will let ToL visitors navigate to your genus and species pages. Contact if you need help in getting your group connected to deeper pages in the tree.

Who owns the copyright for the content of the Tree of Life pages?

ToL contributors generally keep the copyright for their contributions, while the Tree of Life project owns the copyright for the Tree of Life design, software, and documentation. For more information, see Tree of Life Use of Contributions and Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Are my pictures protected by copyright or will people steal them?

We require Tree of Life authors to include an appropriate copyright statement for all the images on their pages. This lets potential pirates know that copyright owners may seek legal recourse should their material be reused without permission. See Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

However, since it is so easy to grab and reuse pictures on the web, people may still steal your images even if you have legal protection. If we find out that another web site uses pictures pirated from the ToL collection, we generally get in touch with the site owner or their internet service provider to get the illegal copies removed from their server. So far, our efforts in this regard have always been successful.

At least in U. S. copyright law, the doctrine of fair use gives people the right to use your images for certain personal or educational purposes; e.g., it's legal for a teacher to download your image and print it out for her students without asking you for permission. One thing important to note is that pictures published on the web are generally of too low a quality to be republished on a printed publication, so there's not much danger of your pirated images showing up on the cover of People magazine.

I have just published a review paper on my group; can I reuse that text in the Tree of Life?

It depends, see the page on Copyright Issues for a discussion of this topic.

Can I reuse illustrations that I created for a printed publication on my Tree of Life pages?

It depends, see the page on Copyright Issues for a discussion of this topic.

I would like to use somebody else's pictures on my Tree of Life page. What do I need to do?

See the page on Copyright Issues for a discussion of this topic.

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