The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 1, Number 22

November 15, 2002

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


The State of the Nation's Ecosystems [.pdf]
This Web site is provided by the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment -- "a nonprofit institution dedicated to improving the scientific and economic foundation for environmental policy." The State of the Nation's Ecosystems is a comprehensive report prepared by "experts from businesses, environmental organizations, universities, and federal, state, and local government agencies," intended for "decision makers, opinion leaders, and informed citizens who seek an authoritative, comprehensive, and succinct overview of what the nation most needs to know about the changing state of its ecosystems." This well-presented report offers information from research in many fields, and is organized into chapters covering coasts and oceans, farmlands, forests, fresh waters, grasslands and shrublands, and urban and suburban areas in the US. The entire report may be searched by keyword, and each chapter may be downloaded. This Web site offers a fantastically comprehensive source for a "scientifically sound and nonpartisan" characterization of US ecosystems, and is careful to highlight existing gaps in the data. [RS]
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Florida Museum of Natural History Zooarchaeology Comparative Databases
The Florida Museum of Natural History offers a number of Web-accessible databases, including this group of databases for the museum's zooarchaeology collection. The physical collection contains "skeletons of vertebrates and exoskeletons of mollusks and crustaceans and their associated data." Information is accessible through individual databases for birds, bivalves, crustaceans, fishes, gastropods, mammals, and reptiles and amphibians. The databases may be searched by taxonomic, geographic, or catalog number query. The collection primarily contains specimens excavated from areas in southeastern US, West Indies, Caribbean, and northwestern South America. It is intended for use "in a comparative way to identify the fragmentary remains from archaeological data" as well as to "estimate size, age, and season of death of animals recovered from archaeological contexts." Researchers are encouraged to offer suggestions for improving the databases. [RS]
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Science in Your Watershed
Provided by the US Geological Survey, this Web site is intended to help users "find scientific information organized on a watershed basis" for use in "characterizing, assessing, analyzing, and maintaining the status and health of a watershed." More specifically, Science in Your Watershed "provides rudiments of a decision-support process by making accessible recent case studies of projects that have occurred, publications produced, databases and information assembled, and providing access to free and nearly free software tools for manipulating spatial information." Surf Your Watershed is a search tool that allows users to locate a particular watershed by name, general location name, or with maps. Additionally, the site includes dozens of links to related educational information, basic instructions for using GIS-based programs, a Water Glossary, and more. Planners and science researchers alike should find this Web site exceedingly useful. [RS]
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Coral Reef Information System: Discover NOAA's Data
Part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS), this Web site is "designed to be a single point of access to NOAA coral reef information and data products, especially those derived from NOAA's Coral Reef Initiative Program." With Discover NOAA's Data, users can access information by a text search of metadata records, or by a spatial search using an Arc IMS application. The two approaches share many of the same data sets. With the text search, users may search NOAA coral reef information by title, author, keyword, etc. The map program includes "over 19,000 aerial photos, 400 preview navigational charts, tide stations, paleoclimatological studies, photo mosaics, coral reef monitoring, bleaching reports, and more." The site provides numerous help features for both search methods. [RS]
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Biological Biochemical Image Database
The National Institute on Aging -- one of the National Institutes of Health -- provides the Biological Biochemical Image Database, "a searchable database of images of putative biological pathways, macromolecular structures, gene families, and cellular relationships." The database is intended for researchers "working with large sets of genes or proteins using cDNA arrays, functional genomics, or proteomics." The database may be searched by gene name, pathway, cell or tissue type, disease name, biological level, etc. Database users are invited to submit additional diagrams, suggestions, and comments The Web site also includes convenient lists of gene names and keywords, as well as links to biological/ biochemical pathway Web resources. [RS]
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The Mammal Species of the World
The Department of Systematic Biology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers this Web site for The Mammal Species of the World (MSW) -- a database of mammalian taxonomy containing the names over 4,000 currently recognized mammal species. This database is intended for use as a "convenient on-line reference for identifying or verifying recognized scientific names and for taxonomic research." The database may be searched using a number of different fields, including scientific and common names, original publication citation, type species or locality, and distribution. In addition to serving as an online reference, MSW can be "adapted as an authority file for collections management activities of mammal collections." [RS]
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Digital Dragonfly Museum
The Digital Dragonfly Museum is a project of the entomology program at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, part of Texas A&M University. This frequently updated Web site is intended to provide entomologists with multiple images of dragonfly species found throughout the state of Texas. "Having multiple specimens of each sex of a single species will allow the interested individual to assess (to a degree) color pattern, wing venation and dragonfly morphology." Visitors may also access dragonfly life history information, collection records, related links, and more. The image gallery is organized by family and by photographer. Recent additions include images of the Western Pondhawk, Seaside Dragonlet, and Marl Pennant. [RS]
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NCBI Trace Archive
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the National Library of Medicine offers the Trace Archive -- "a repository of the raw sequence traces generated by large sequencing projects." The Trace Archive is the sole source of raw sequence data for projects that rely on a Whole Genome Shotgun strategy. Users can search the archive by BLAST or by a number of other query options. The archive offers trace files, fasta files, quality scores, and ancillary data. The Web site also includes a useful FAQs page for help in using the database. [RS]
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Dream Anatomy Learning Station
This Web site contains the educational materials for Dream Anatomy, a new exhibit at the National Library of Medicine. Viewable online, the exhibit offers a somewhat macabre but undeniably fascinating survey of changes in anatomical representation over the last five centuries. Recently added to the main Dream Anatomy Web site, Learning Station provides lesson plans and activities intended for 6-12 graders. The material can be used exhibit or its online version. The lesson plans titled Beginnings of Anatomical Illustrations (grades 6-12) and Anatomical Metaphors (grades 7-8) have especially strong life sciences applications. Other online activities offer "fun ways for high school and older students to explore the content of Dream Anatomy." Altogether, Dream Anatomy Learning Station offers students a unique look at the intersection of art, science, and the imagination. [RS]
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Listening to the Prairie [.pdf]
The travelling exhibit Listening to the Prairie was created as part of Forces of Change, a "new program about the dynamics of global change" from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. This Web site contains "a number of educational materials for teachers, school group leaders, and families to help focus tours of the exhibit," although the materials also function as stand-alone lessons without an exhibit tour. The lessons and activities focus on the prairie ecosystem, "but could applied to the study of any natural system." Material is available for every grade level (Pre-K through 12), and each lesson provides a fun, hands-on way to learn how ecosystems work, with emphasis on the interconnectedness of living things. [RS]
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Skulls [QuickTime]
The California Academy of Sciences (last mentioned in the July 5, 2002 Scout Report), offers this well-designed and comprehensive Web site about skulls. Visitors will learn about skull structure and function, skull diversity, the living tissue associated with bones, and the role of the academy's skull collection in scientific research. This Web site is made especially appealing by its liberal use of sharp, well-presented skull photos. Many of the images can be rotated for a full 360 degree view (using QuickTime). Much of the information provided in this Web site comes in a easy-to-follow question and answer format. The site also includes a section titled Skulls in Culture, which relates how "cultures around the world have turned to skulls to express ideas about both life and death." This Web site would be an excellent complement to classroom material on skulls, or on craniates in general, for any grade level. [RS]
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Highlight of Biochemistry: Molecular Structures Made Visible [Chime]
This Web site from the University of Hamburg Faculty of Biology offers useful three-dimensional images of molecular structures, many of them animated. The dozens of images included in this site should help visual learners understand molecular structure and function in a number of contexts, including virology, immunology, neurology, photosynthesis, genetics, and more. Detailed descriptions and related information accompany each image. This Web site also provides links to three tutorials covering amino acids and peptides, protein architecture, and biomolecular structures. The plugin Chime is required for viewing the images (download link available). Browser compatibility may be a problem for some; users should refer to the provided compatibility information before downloading the free plugin. [RS]
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Forever Wild? [.pdf, RealPlayer, Shockwave, Windows Media]
Forever Wild? is a recently aired episode of Scientific American Frontiers on PBS. This companion Web site provides loads of online features relating to the program, which explores how scientists are scrambling "to understand the intricate natural systems on which all life depends -- before it's too late." The Teaching Guide includes two downloadable lessons and a quiz intended for grades 5-8. In the first lesson, students study the effects of biological processes on a closed system while germinating pumpkin seedlings. The second activity is a lesson in geometry that borrows from the geodesic domes of Biosphere 2, which is featured in the program. The quiz contains question based directly on the program, such that Forever Wild? could serve as a classroom lesson in itself. Users may watch the entire episode online or read a detailed synopsis of the broadcast. Each major segment of Forever Wild? has a corresponding Web feature offering in-depth information and the occasional multimedia activity. [RS]
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4 Girls Health
The Office on Women's Health in the US Department of Health and Human Services offers this Web site, which focuses on "many health topics that respond to adolescent girls' health concerns and motivates girls to choose healthy behaviors using positive, supportive and non-threatening messages." Topics covered include everything from puberty to stress relief to body image. Far from the outdated reel-to-reel films some of us had to endure in 5th grade health class, this Web site is a well-designed clearinghouse of helpful information and advice. The language is clear and straightforward, and dozens of Web links are available for more information and related news stories. Mind Over Matters includes a stress map scale, which visitors can use to estimate their stress level. 4 Girls Health also has a related Web site for girls with disabilities or chronic illness, and a special section for parents and other caregivers. [RS]
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Do-It-Yourself Immunoglobulin Gene Rearrangement
Created by Wendy Gorman of Northland College, this lesson plan is made available by MicrobeLibrary, an educational program of the Society for Microbiology (ASM). The lesson plan offers "hands-on experience in visualizing and understanding the difficult concept of immunoglobulin gene rearrangement and isotype switching." The exercise, which has students model the looping and joining of heavy chain gene segments using paper cutouts, is intended for students already familiar with the basics of gene expression and gene rearrangement. Users must notify and credit the author and ASM if using this free lesson plan, made available for non-commerical educational purposes. [RS]
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America's Backyard: Exploring Your Public Lands
America's Backyard: Exploring Your Public Lands is the featured topic of National Geographic's Geography Action! -- an "annual conservation and awareness program designed to educate and excite people about our natural, cultural, and historic treasures." This Web site offers a number of public land-related educational activities, many of the which apply directly to the life sciences. Activities are available for grades K-12, and cover such topics as the role of forests in our daily lives, conservation issues on public lands, and pollution as a pan-political problem. Each lesson plan includes background information, procedural instructions, links to related Web sites, a list of National Geography Standards, and more. The site also offers a number of other activities related to public lands, including a tour of the Online Public Lands Museum and ways to participate in Geography Awareness Week (November 17-23, 2002). [RS]
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Operation Migration [RealPlayer]
Operation Migration, a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to teaching safe migratory routes to endangered and threatened birds, was co-founded by William Lishman -- the pilot who pioneered the use of ultralight aircraft to lead birds in flight. Operation Migration is part of a consortium created to safeguard the endangered Whooping crane against extinction. Visitors to this Web site can track the progress of seven ultralight-led Whooping cranes now making their way from Wisconsin to Florida for the winter. The Web site provides daily field reports of the migration, a map charting the progress of the flock, loads of photos, crane biographies, video clips, and more. The site also relates the engaging story of how Operation Migration got started, one that should sound familiar to those who've seen the feature film Fly Away Home. [RS]
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Two on DNA Forensic Identification
NPR: Titanic Baby [QuickTime, RealPlayer, Windows Media]
Human Genome Project Information: DNA Forensics [.pdf]
The first Web site contains an audio file of a story broadcast on National Public Radio earlier this month. The broadcast relates the poignant story of a four-year effort to identify the exhumed body of a 13-month-old child who died in the Titanic disaster. A metal medallion buried with the body serendipitously preserved a bit of the wrist bone, from which forensic scientists could extract mitochondrial DNA and eventually find the child's living relatives. A detailed introduction to DNA forensic identification can be found in the second Web site, provided by the US Human Genome Project (coordinated by the Department of Energy and the national Institutes of Health). The site includes descriptions of or links to a number of fascinating case studies, such as proving the son of executed French King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette did indeed die as a child in prison, and testing claims that African Lemba tribesmen are directly descended from the ancient tribes of Israel. [RS]
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Microbiology Current Issues: Water Quality
This well-designed Web site from the American Society for Microbiology offers a comprehensive introduction to microbial contamination of the water supply. Visitors to the site will find information on water-borne pathogens and the diseases they cause, where our drinking water comes from, how water becomes contaminated, scientific advances that could make our water supply safer, and much more. The information in this Web site is clearly explained and does not require an active interest in microbiology to hold one's attention. [RS]
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Tox Town [Flash]
Tox Town, a Web-based project of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), is "an interactive guide to commonly encountered toxic substances." This highly visual Web site provides a wealth of information and related resources, such as an introduction to everyday locations where toxic chemicals might lurk, non-technical descriptions of toxins, the effect of toxins on human health, and more. Users access information by clicking on a topic of interest, which then links to comprehensive Web pages from NLM's MEDLINEplus, TOXNET, or other authoritative sources. Only recently launched in October, 2002, Tox Town does not currently provide information on all commonly encountered chemical toxins, but future plans for the site include the addition of more chemical descriptions and other features. [RS]
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Ready to Learn: All About Hepatitis C
This comprehensive online resource for information about Hepatitis C is provided as a public service by Schering Corporation, the medical research and development company. Anyone who has specific questions about Hepatitis C, or who wishes to learn more about the disease in general, should find this Web site of great use. The site offers a wealth of detailed information about this disease that affects over 170 million people worldwide. Causes, symptoms, transmission, prevention, and treatment are thoroughly covered. The site also offers a feature called Personal Advisor - a tool that helps users identify their needs and answers questions. Registration for Personal Advisor is free and confidential. A helpful glossary and numerous Web links to reputable sources are also provided. [RS]
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Wildlife Conservation Society: In the Wild
In the Wild is a Web feature of the Wildlife Conservation Society, a nonprofit organization working to conserve "wildlife and wild places by working on all fronts through its international conservation programs, living institutions, and pioneering environmental education programs." This Web site presents a new, comprehensive map of the human footprint, or "patterns of human influence across the land's surface." Recently published in Bioscience, the study reveals that human beings "directly influence more than three quarters of the earth's landmass," a finding that should serve as a "wake-up call" for making a concerted effort to find sustainable ways to use our natural resources. While this Web site may appeal more to those who take an academic interest in conservation issues, it also provide the casual visitor with a sound introduction to these global problems. [RS]
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Koko's World [QuickTime]
Koko's World is provided by the Gorilla Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to "bring interspecies communication to the public, in order to save gorillas from extinction, and inspire our children to create a better future for all the great apes." KokoTV, part of the Koko's World Web site, offers video clips of Koko (the famous signing gorilla) communicating with friends. A recently added clip contains footage of Koko purring, an expression of contentment. In watching this and the eight other available video clips, it's easy to see how Koko has charmed countless people around the world. [RS]
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Two on Medical Implant Innovations from NASA
Better Bone Implants [.mp3]
Bionic Eyes [.mp3]
Both Web sites come from Science@NASA, an online source for news and information about NASA-funded research. The first article describes the work of researchers at the Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space, who are developing artificial bones for long-lasting, pain-free hip and knee replacements. These ceramic bones are touted as "so much like the real thing that they could actually meld with living bone." Earlier this year, researchers at the Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center in Houston experimented with "photosensitive ceramic films that respond to light much as rods and cones do," the subject of the second Web site. Researchers hope these films will eventually be used to restore lost vision in human eyes. Each article is available as an audio file, and includes helpful diagrams and Web links for related articles and information. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Life at Hydrothermal Vents
1. Into the Abyss [.avi, QuickTime, RealPlayer, Vivo]
2. Explore Life at a Hydrothermal Vent [QuickTime]
3. Ocean AdVENTure
4. Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents
5. Dive and Discover
6. Introduction to the Pogonophora
7. Creature Features [QuickTime]
8. Gardens of Eden [RealPlayer]
The first Web site is a NOVA Online Adventure from PBS (1). Into the Abyss decribes the "pitch darkness, poison gas, heavy metals, extreme acidity, and enormous pressure" found at hydrothermal vents, and offers a look at bizarre and fascinating creatures found in this environment. The next Web site from Exploring Earth, an online earth sciences text book, contains video clips taken during research expeditions along the Juan de Fuca Ridge (2). Ocean AdVENTure, a ThinkQuest Web site, offers a comprehensive and well-designed introduction to hydothermal vents from research tools to fauna to unsolved mysteries and more (3). Visitors can choose their own scientific adVENTure to explore hydrothermal vents in this interactive feature from the University of Washington School of Oceonagraphy Exploraquarium (4). Dive and Discover is "an interactive distance learning Web site designed to immerse you in the excitement of discovery and exploration of the deep seafloor." This Web site (5) extends a virtual invitation to join scientists aboard research cruises to the depth of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, providing daily logs, video, and other features for each expedition. The next Web site from the University of California-Berkeley offer a closer look at the "strange tube-dwelling worm" phylum found only near hydrothermal vents (6). Creature Features, provided by the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Science, contains descriptions and video clips of tubeworms, vent crabs, Pompeii crabs, and ancient bacteria found at deep sea vents (7). The last Web site (8) is a transcript of a June 1997 PBS NewsHour interview with science writer William Broad. Broad discusses his book The Universe Below: Discovering the Secrets of the Deep Sea, and relates the exciting opportunities for scientific exploration of the sea floor made possible by the end of the Cold War. [RS]
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