Have you heard about the Map of Life? They just released their first demo version of the mapping program. The program integrates data on species distributions from a number of sources, such as, point data from collection records, local inventories, and regional checklists. You can either look up a particular species and see where it lives or choose a location in the world and see a list of the species that occur there.
Thus far they have included Birds, Freshwater fishes, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Mammals. I have suggested to one of my fellow UConn alums, Adam Wilson, who is working on the project, that mosses be added to the mapping list next. Mosses are listed in the Global Biodiversity Inventory Facility (Gbif), so the data is available to add them to this project, but I am guessing that I will have to wait a while until mosses are included. What group would you like to see added to the mapping next?
Below is an example of the maps that are produced. They use Google Maps and can show multiple layers of distribution data from different sources. The maps are fully interactive and allow you to zoom in to a particular area of interest. I think that this is going to be a really great resource for scientists and amateur naturalists. Imagine going on travels or a collecting trip and being able to pull up a list of all the species in your area, and also a map of previous collection sites so that you can hunt for organisms. (This does assume that you have a fancy phone with web capabilities for the field and that you are not somewhere too remote for a signal.) However, I think that this would be a useful tool prior to heading into the field or for planning a collecting trip.
As an example, this is the distribution map from the smooth earthsnake that I posted about last week.
Some additional information- An article in Trends in Ecology & Evolution about the project.