Calcareous nannofossils and coccolithophores are used by a wide range of scientists, including marine biologists, palaeoceanographers and geologists (stratigraphers).
The effective use of coccolithophores is dependent upon the availability of up to date and reliable information concerning their classification (taxonomy - which species is which, and why?), their ecology (which species live where, when and why?) and their geological history (which species lived when and where?). However, this information is frequently difficult to find because it is dispersed throughout specialist publications. In order to widen access to this crucial information we are working on a web resource called Nannotax (nannotax.org) that we hope will become the online reference source for anyone needing to obtain basic information on coccolithophores and nannofossils. Our pilot version focused on the relatively recent, Neogene, fossil record (0-23 million years ago) but we are now adding more species (the older fossil record, plus all the living species), adding more data types (age, ecology and where appropriate biology), expanding the content (glossary, guides to identification and methods of study) and bringing the site to the attention of those who will most benefit from it. The end product Nannotax website will provide a complete listing of living and fossil coccolithophore and nannofossil taxa, with short descriptions, age data, multiple illustrations, bibliographic references and original descriptions. There will be identification keys and linked pages providing information on study methods. We think that the development of this system is essential to the hydrocarbon industry and to academics and educators involved in nannoplankton research, training and learning. By removing the barriers to learning nannoplankton taxonomy, identifying specimens and obtaining accurate information on species, existing users will be enabled to expand their expertise, and we believe it will also attract a range of new users.