The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 1, Number 21

November 1, 2002

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


REFORGEN is the global information system from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that covers forest genetic resources. The Web site's database provides "information on forest tree species and their genetic management as well as information on national institutions active in this field." The database is easy to use and may be searched by country or species name, which appear in convenient drop-down lists. REFORGEN was created to "make available reliable and up-to-date information on forest genetic resources activities for use in planning and decision making at national, sub-regional, regional and international levels." [RS]
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Glossary of Botanical Terms in French and English
The research department at the Missouri Botanical Garden has recently added this online glossary of over 1900 botanical terms in French and English. Users may translate terms from English to French and vice versa, or view terms alphabetically in either language. While the list is not yet complete, it does provide "a sizeable number of terms to search through for some of the most commonly used words in botanical literature." The glossary lists the etymology and definition for each term. [RS]
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Nevada Mountain Atlas
This Web site comes from the Biological Resources Research Center (BRRC), part of the Department of Biology at the University of Nevada-Reno. The BRRC was established to "conduct scientific research and planning efforts necessary to preserve the distinct biotic diversity of Nevada while simultaneously providing for economic viability and other needs of its citizens." The BRRC's new GIS-based Nevada Mountain Atlas is an "interactive Web application that provides data on plant, animal, and sensitive species in Nevada's mountain ranges." Users can choose from a different tools and map layers to create any number of informative maps. The Web site's mapping program does not include instructions for use, but is fairly straightforward. This site is also reviewed in the November 1, 2002 Scout Report.
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The Zebrafish Book
This Web site comes from the Zebrafish Information Network, established to provide an online database of information for zebrafish researchers. The Web site contains an electronic version of The Zebrafish Book: A Guide to the Laboratory Use of Zebrafish Danio (Brachydanio) rerio, by Monte Westerfield of the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Oregon. The chapter headings in the hypertext table of contents are further broken down by topic in order to quickly find sections of interests. The book provides detailed instructions for everything from general care and feeding of zebrafish to dozens of experimental protocols. [RS]
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The World Information Network on Biodiversity
The World Information Network on Biodiversity (REMIB) is organized and provided by Mexico's National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of the Biodiversity. REMIB is a network of shared biological information databases from research centers in Mexico, the US, Costa Rica, and Spain. The databases contain "curatorial, taxonomic, ecological, cartographic, bibliographic, ethno-biological type, use of catalogues on natural resources and other subject matters." Currently, REMIB gathers information on taxonomic groups of plants, as well as terrestrial and aquatic vertebrates, and invertebrates. The network contains information on over 6 million specimens from over 200 countries, and will be soon be incorporating collections from additional sources, such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Kew Herbarium. Users must first click on Access to the Information and accept the conditions for data use before reaching the network's search engine. The main page includes links to the home pages of partner institutions. [RS]
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Land Bird Monitoring Program
The Web site is featured by BirdSource, a joint project of the Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, which was created to bring birders and scientists together to promote conservation and environmental education. Visitors to this well-designed Web site can view results from the University of Montana's Land Bird Monitoring Program, including general results by location, habitat use by species, species abundance by habitat, and population trends of selected species. The site also includes some information about research methodology and data analysis. This site should be of interest to birders as well as to ornithologists and researchers in the conservation arena. [RS]
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Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center: Center for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Current Research Projects
This Web site contains an overview of current research at the Center for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (CDCN) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School's Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center. The CDCN "is devoted to interdisciplinary research on the development and neural bases of higher cognitive functions." Current research projects aim to enhance understanding of "cognitive development, brain-behavior relations in development, interactions between the brain and environment during development, and how and why problems in any of these arise." Available project descriptions contain short research summaries, some with links to related pages. [RS]
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A Practical Guide to Mycorrhiza [.pdf]
Created by Dr. Ted St. John, this Web site contains a detailed guide to mycorrhiza, the group of fungi that live in association with plant roots. Simply presented and easy to use, this online guide offers users loads of mycorrhiza-related information, including Ted's Chunky Style Myco-bits, a section that describes the types of mycorrhiza, the benefits of mycorrizal inoculation, details on soil structure, and much more. The Web site also includes descriptions of two mycorhizza restoration projects complete with photos, with more project descriptions on the way. Numerous downloadable papers on mycorrhiza and habitat restoration are available, mostly authored by Dr. St. John. A Practical Guide to Mycorrhiza is also available in Japanese. [RS]
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Scientific American Frontiers: Make Up Your Mind [.pdf, RealPlayer, Shockwave, Windows Media]
This Web site is the online complement to Make Up Your Mind, a recently aired episode of the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers. This site would be a great addition to classroom material on brain anatomy and function, and could be tailored for a broad range of grade levels. Features include a Teaching Guide with downloadable activities and a quiz (for grades 5-8), plus Web links and other references. Users can also watch the entire documentary online, and view related stories from earlier episodes. The online version of the program allows users to jump to specific sections within each video segment, which would make it easier for educators to pick and choose segments to use in the classroom. The site also contains a simply presented interactive tour of the human brain. [RS]
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Biodiversity 911: Saving Life on Earth [.pdf, RealPlayer, QuickTime]
Biodiversity 911: Saving Life on Earth is a traveling exhibit developed by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), currently on display at the National Geographic Society and the Houston Zoo. This Web site offers students loads of information about biodiversity and related issues. Biodiversity Basics provides a thorough introduction to the diversity of life, and also includes a music video and a hilarious parody of a hospital drama (created by the same people who brought us Wallace and Grommit and Chicken Run). Wildlife Trade describes the problems associated with the black market for illegal animal products and provides a link to another WWF site that has an related educational game. Soil, Forests, Fisheries, Toxics, and Climate Change make up the other main categories of this Web site, each containing a wealth of well-presented information, interactive multimedia features, links to additional resources, and tips on how to make simple lifestyle changes that will help protect biodiversity. While geared towards younger kids, this site should be entertaining and informative for any audience. [RS]
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Journey Into Amazonia [Flash]
Journey Into Amazonia is a three-part wildlife series from PBS that "offers an enchanting look at rarely-seen creatures" in the region. This Web site offers educational materials "designed for upper elementary, middle, or high school students (grades 5-10) although extension suggestions may help you modify them for younger or older students." In addition to providing background information about the Amazon basin, this site contains lessons plans that incorporate "video clips from the Journey into Amazonia documentary, though the lessons also function as stand-alone activities." The lesson plans include procedures, links, assessment recommendations, and more. The site also includes suggestions for getting involved in Amazon rainforest conservation. [RS]
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Human Anatomy Label Me! Printouts
This Web site from Enchanted Learning (last mentioned in the June 28, 2002 Scout Report) contains elementary-level human anatomy diagrams, which may be printed out and labeled for practice. The diagrams come with a word bank, complete with definitions printed on the same page. Many of the diagrams lend themselves to coloring-in. A number of diagrams are available, including the human eye, ear, brain, skeleton, teeth, and more. Some of the diagrams are also available in French, German, Italian, or Spanish, and would be an interesting addition to language classes at any grade level. [RS]
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Meet the Microbes
This Web site from the American Museum of Natural History (last mentioned in the October 4, 2002 NSDL Life Sciences Report) provides an introduction to microbes, covering the three major types -- bacteria, viruses, and protists (protozoa). The site contains very brief but colorful and effective descriptions of each type of microbe. The use of animation in the Size-O-Meter feature help relate the relative scale of microbes compared with us and with one another. Links to useful external Web sites are also provided. Although no lesson plans are provided, this site would be a useful addition to related classroom activities for younger students. [RS]
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Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body [.pdf, Windows Media, RealPlayer]
This Web site from the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh offers a look at the traveling exhibit Grossology, "a science-in-disguise exhibition where kids get the answers to many of the slimy, oozy, crusty, stinky questions they absolutely love to ask about the human body." A project of Science World British Columbia, Grossology is based on a book of the same name by Sylvia Branzei. While the Web site is geared toward those who can actually visit the exhibition, it also provides some stand-alone activities and features, such as audio files of gross body sounds, Really Gross Experiments (like making fake mucous), and downloadable activity sheets (the pre-visit quiz material works without the field trip). Grossology is also currently at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago and the Maryland Science Center, and will be found at museums across the country over the next few years. [RS]
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Creature Feature: Vampire Bats [RealPlayer, Windows Media]
This Web site from National Geographic (last mentioned in the October 11, 2002 Scout Report) offers a short multimedia introduction to vampire bats. Geared toward younger kids, this site includes vampire bat audio and video files, Fun Facts in the form of a brief but educational article, a map of vampire bat global distribution, links to bat-related Web sites, and an email postcard. It may be too late to get much Halloween mileage out of this site, but teachers and students should enjoy this quick and very visual look at a fascinating animal. The site includes links to other National Geographic Creature Features, and could be useful for reports and other activities. [RS]
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Learning about Rainforests [QuickTime]
K. Rubal provides this educational Web site she helped to create while a graduate student in instructional technology at California State University in Los Angeles. Designed for grades 4-8, this Web site offers students an introduction to tropical rainforests. The site includes a number of lessons organized by topic, rainforest facts, a good selection of narrated movie clips from related documentaries, useful links, and quizzes. Easy to use and filled with photos, this Web site would be a useful supplement to rainforest-related classroom activities. [RS]
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Climate Change: The Burning Issue
This Web site from London's Science Museum offers an easy-to-follow introduction to climate change. The creators of this visually appealing and well-organized Web site have taken pains to explain climate change in a clear and straightforward manner, and have even included a glossary (Jargon-buster) that demystifies the terms used in the climate change debate. Other features of this Web site include an interactive game, in which players see how the choices they make today affect the future of the planet, and a guide to making sound energy-use choices. Even those users who already have a sufficient understanding of climate change issues should benefit from this site's effective breakdown of the fundamental concepts. [RS]
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Unmasking Skin [RealPlayer, Windows Media]
This Web site is the online companion to Unmasking Skin, a feature article in the November 2000 issue of National Geographic Magazine, which offers an in-depth look at the body's largest organ. Visitors are invited to "go skin deep and beyond" with a photo gallery, a multimedia interview with the story's photographer, and related Web sites. The site also includes a portion of the feature article, a related Online Extra article, and a short piece about goosebumps. While not as comprehensive as the print article itself, this Web site provides an intriguing look at a part of the body that's often taken for granted. [RS]
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Gene Stories: The Court of Opinion [RealPlayer]
Part of a BBC Web site devoted to demystifying the world of genes, the Court of Opinion offers users a fun, interactive way to explore some of the ethical issues raised in the field of genetic research. Users step into a virtual courtroom to hear from "the scientists, the campaigners, the advocates and the voices of dissent." Three courtrooms are available, each focused on a different issue, such as the relative contribution of nature (our genes) versus nurture (our environments) to human behavior. In each courtroom, users may watch a newscast about the issue, listen to interviews of the "witnesses," visit the Jury Room to take part in a discussion forum, and cast their vote on the subject. Anyone interested in the application of genetic research should find this cleverly-designed site particularly rewarding. [RS]
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Two on Biological Threats in Aquatic Systems
Sea Trout Loss Linked to Salmon Farm Parasite
Scientists Investigate Toxin, Mussel Threats in Lake Erie [RealPlayer]
The first Web site is an article from National Geographic News, which describes the link between "the explosion of sea lice in farmed fish populations and the decline of Scottish sea trout." In addition to the article, visitors can view a dynamic map of Shieldaig in western Scotland. The second Web site is an article from CBS News, covering the fish and bird die-offs in Lake Erie this past summer that researchers believe may be due to type E botulism, which is in turn linked to the invasive zebra mussel population. The site offers a video interview with Phil Ryan of Canada's Ministry of Natural Resources. [RS]
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Cirrus Digital Imaging: High Resolution Insect, Spider, and Wildflower Photographs
As photographer Bruce Marlin explains, "Cirrus Digital Imaging was founded primarily as a hobby, as a way to share the joy I find in the amazing flora and fauna the natural world provides us." Visitors to this Web site can enjoy over 500 stunning photographs of insects, spiders, and wildflowers, mostly taken at the Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve in Illinois. The image galleries are organized as thumbnails of major taxonomic groups, and may also be accessed by selecting a species name from a list. "All images, unless otherwise noted, have been produced in the wild, of unposed specimens, using available light photography." User must get express permission before copying or reproducing these images. [RS]
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The Platypus: A Very Special Australian
The Australian Platypus Conservancy, "an independent organisation dedicated to conserving the platypus and its freshwater habitats," offers this informative Web site about "one the world's most unusual animals." Visitors can learn about platypus biology and ecology in the Platypus Fact File; find out how become involved in platypus conservation efforts; read the latest platypus-related news in Ripples, the organization's newsletter; and more. The Platypus Fact File is particularly comprehensive. This Web site should convince visitors that the platypus is a fascinating mammal for more than its ability to lay eggs. [RS]
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Garden Questions: Horticulture and Crop Science in Virtual Perspective [QuickTime, Windows Media]
Garden Questions is a joint project of the Ohio State University Department of Horticulture and Crop Science and the OSU Extension's Franklin County Office. The Web site offers an archive of gardening questions and answers that's easy to use and quite comprehensive. Users may search the archive by topic, season, and keyword, or send new gardening questions by email. Many of the questions posted include helpful photographs, especially for questions about specific plants. Gardeners should find this archive extremely useful no matter what region they live in. [RS]
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The Gingko Pages
Teacher and Gingko enthusiast Cor Kwant, from the Netherlands, offers this comprehensive Web site devoted to Gingko biloba. This frequently updated site covers just about everything there is to know about this "unique tree, a living fossil, unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs." Visitors may read about gingko history, propagation techniques, botanical characteristics, various uses, and much more. The site also includes an extensive collection of photos, a useful bibliography, and information on where to find the oldest gingkos in the world. Kwant hopes visitors will share her fascination with gingko after viewing her Web site, which is also available in German, French, Spanish, and Dutch. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Animals Eyes
1. Eye, Eye, Eye, Eye: Questions About Eyes
2. Night Creatures of the Kalahari
3. The Eyes Have It
4. What Animals May See
5. B-Eye: See the World Through the Eyes of a Bee
6. Bird Vision: What Do They See?
7. What do Dogs See?: A Review of "Vision in Dogs"
8. Eyes Under the Microscope
The Web site from BioMedia (1) is a fascinating look (no pun intended) at the eyes of other animals. Various images of eyeballs link to essays that explain such questions as how animals can see underwater and how many times the eye independently evolved in the animal kingdom. The next site (2) is based on a PBS Nova documentary about nocturnal animals. Visitors can click on an image of an eye to learn more about the animal that uses it to see in the dark. The San Diego Natural History Museum provides the kid-friendly Web site, which does a terrific job of explaining the anatomy and function of different types of eyes (3). The next site, provided by Tufts University, offers photos of how squirrels, sharks, turtles, and bees might see the world compared with human vision (4). Andrew Giger, a neuroscientist working on bee vision at the Australian National University, wrote the program B-EYE for his research. Visitors to his Web site (5) can see what a selection of grey-scale images might look like from a bee's perspective. The next site (6) is provided by, offering a detailed article about bird vision. Similarly, the next Web site from the North American Hunting Retriever Association contains an extensive review of an article that appeared in the Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association about dog vision (7). Finally, the last site is a page from Micscape - the online monthly magazine of Microscopy UK - showing how the eyes of various mollusks look under the microscope (8).
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