The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 1, Number 23

November 27, 2002

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Predicting Invasions of Nonindigenous Plants and Plant Pests [.pdf]
This Web site contains the free book Predicting Invasions of Nonindigenous Plants and Plant Pests provided by the National Academies Press. Compiled by the US Board on Life Sciences and the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, this 194-page book explores the difficulties in predicting the immigration and impact of exotic species. Researchers active in this field may find this free resource of use. [RS]
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Two News Releases from the National Institutes of Health
Study of Menopausal Women with Heart Disease
New HIV Vaccine Holds Promise of Global Effectiveness
Both Web sites contain recent news releases of research findings and activities of the National Institutes of Health. The first site describes a study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which found that postmenopausal women with heart disease did not benefit from high doses of antioxidants vitamins, whether alone or in combination with hormone replacement therapy. In fact, researchers found both treatments to be potentially harmful. The second site describes recently launched clinical tests of a new vaccine directed at the three most globally important HIV subtypes, as developed by scientists at the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and infectious Diseases. [RS]
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The Leiodid Beetles of Costa Rica
The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad in Costa Rica provides this visually pleasing Web site on the Leiodidae, authored by S. P. Beck of Carleton University and A. F. Newton of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. A simple drop down menu allows users to access information on leiodid beetle taxonomy, distribution, life history, biogeography, collection methods, and more. Most sections of this Web site contain straightforward text explanations of each topic, although some sections also include links to textbook-style diagrams, such as in the Illustrated Key to the Leodidae of Costa Rica and in Habitus Figures. In all, this Web site offers a brief and well-presented overview of Costa Rica's leiodid beetles. [RS]
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Low Dose Radiation Research
The US Department of Energy's Low Dose Radiation Research Program supports research that investigates the health risks from exposure to radiation at low levels. This Web site provides an overview of radiation biology, up-to-date information and archived results from program-related research, and other resources for the benefit of researchers and the general public alike. Some research projects include comparing low dose radiation to endogenous oxidative damage, determining thresholds for radiation exposure, determining genetics factors that make some individuals more susceptible to radiation-induced damage, and more. [RS]
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WormBase is the product of "an international consortium of biologists and computer scientists dedicated to providing the research community with accurate, current, accessible information concerning the genetics, genomic, and biology of C. elegans and some related nematodes." This frequently updated Web site has recently made available the complete C. elegans genomic sequence. Offering a number of ways to search the genome, the site provides a helpful User's Guide, genetic maps, related links, and much more. The About WormBase section provides additional links for the general biologist and the bioinformaticist. [RS]
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Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals
Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA), created by F. W. Nicholas of the University of Sydney, contains a database of published references on any phenotype for which familial inheritance has been claimed. OMIA offers reference information on a range of animals for which such databases do not already exist. The references in this frequently updated database are currently organized chronologically for each trait, while gene information and textual material are forthcoming. Constructive suggestions for improving the database are encouraged. [RS]
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What's its Name?
What's its Name? (WIN) is "a concise database of plant names and name changes for Australia." Based on information available from the Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), WIN is a collaborative project of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, and the Australian Biological Resources Study. The Web site includes instructions on how to use the database that provides a clear example. Search results include information sources and links to the more extensive entry in APNI. In addition to searching the database, users may view a list of plant genera that have been reviewed and updated in APNI for use in WIN. The site also offers a non-tabular version of WIN output. [RS]
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Stem Cell Task Force [.pdf]
This Web site from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides an overview of the activities of an NIH task force established to move the stem cell research agenda forward. The section titled Scientific Research may be of particular interest to researchers in this area. It provides links to the Web sites of stem cell-related research at a number of NIH institutes, as well as an extensive information index, a FAQs page about stem cell research, information on funding opportunities, and much more. [RS]
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Shakey Snake [.pdf]
This lesson plan comes from Science NetLinks, an online source of educational materials from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Designed for grades K-2, the lesson has students first read "The Adventures of Shakey Snake," an online illustrated story. The questions and activities that follow help students recognize how stories can attribute fictional features to animals. The lesson also touches on the influence of heredity on animal features, as well as the relationship between physical traits and ecological niche. The Web site includes downloadable activity sheets. [RS]
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The Global Bug Conspiracy [Flash]
A very cleverly designed Web site, the Global Bug Conspiracy puts students in the shoes of detectives on the trail of the microbes found in food and water that cause illness. Presented in the form of manila envelopes stuffed with notes and clues, this Web site creates a sense of discovery in learning about the viruses and bacteria responsible for cholera, salmonellosis, giardia, etc. Visitors can choose to use the flashlight option, which creates the feeling of sneaking into a dark office to snoop through secret files. Featured by the Science Center, the Global Bug Conspiracy is an online guide to educational resources sponsored by Chlorine Chemistry Council. [RS]
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LichenLand offers a way to learn about lichen biology and taxonomy that's much more engaging than leafing through a textbook. This Web site, provided by Oregon State University, offers a number of features to help students become familiar with the subject. First-time users should visit LichenLand Lite for a quick introduction to lichens and instructions for using the Web site. LichenLand Main Door contains an illustrated set of characters that can be queried with simple drop-down menus. Query results yield a list of lichens that exhibit the characters selected, with information and photos for each species. The Web site could complement related coursework for a range of grade levels. [RS]
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Ocean Report Guide for Educators [RealPlayer]
The Ocean Report is a series of radio segments produced for SeaWeb that highlight a range of news and issues relating to the ocean. The Ocean Report Guide for Educators offers a comprehensive educational Web site based on these short radio pieces. Compiled by SeaWeb and KIDSNET, this Web site (designed for grades 4-8) is divided into three modules: Precious, Threatened Oceans; Teeming with Life: Amazing Ocean Creatures; and Protecting Our Seas: How You Can Help. Each section contains in-depth background information with related audio clips. The first two sections also contain detailed classroom activities, while the third section is intended as wrap-up for the entire guide. Teachers could choose to use only those activities with a direct life sciences focus, but time allowing, incorporating other activities based on oceanography, chemistry, and so on would go much further in enhancing students' understanding of the ocean. The Web site includes dozens of links to additional resources, including more audio clips, recommended videos, books for kids, Internet resources, and more. [RS]
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Web Geological Time Machine
The University of California-Berkeley Museum of Paleontology (last mentioned in the June 16, 1995 Scout Report) has recently updated its Web Geologic Time Machine, an online feature that helps users learn about the geologic timeline and explore related museum exhibits. The familiar geologic timeline appears on the main page of the Web site, with hypertext links for each division of time. Every page of the Web Geologic Time Machine site is liberally sprinkled with links to related UCMP Web pages; think of it as a portal to all online information available from the museum. Altogether, this Web site provides a well-organized and comprehensive resource for learning how the planet has changed over time, and would be a great addition to earth or life sciences classroom material for a broad range of grades. [RS]
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Energy and Garbage [.pdf]
Energy and Garbage is one section of a US Department of Energy's educational Web site for kids. Features of this Web site include a section detailing the connection between energy and garbage, a thorough introduction to the history of garbage that includes facts and figures on how much waste we produce, information on recycling and reducing garbage at the source, and much more. The information in this Web site is presented in a friendly, narrative style. A short downloadable activity titled Energy from Garbage, created by the National Energy Education Development Project, is also available (grades 4-6). [RS]
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This Web site provides an introduction to the cladocera -- the microscopic crustaceans abundant in lakes and ponds. Created by Gavin Simpson, a PhD student at University College London, this Web site is intended as "a source of information for anyone interested in lake ecology or palaeolimnology, and as a training tool for those who want to learn the art of cladoceran analysis for palaeolimnological investigations." A work-in-progress, this site has recently added an introduction to the cladocera, a bibliography, and a search tool. The completed site will cover water flea adaptations, anatomy, behavioral ecology, distribution, life history, and more. The site currently includes two protocols for using water fleas in the lab. [RS]
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Bioprospecting: Medicine Quest [.pdf]
Actionbioscience (last mentioned in the September 20, 2002 Scout Report) offers two lesson plans on ethnobotany and biodiversity based on an interview with Mark Plotkin, author of the popular book A Tale of a Shaman's Apprentice. The lesson plans that accompany this interview can be found under Educator's Resources at the bottom of the page, along with numerous links to additional resources and related articles. The two lessons are available in one PDF document; the first intended for grades 9-12 in general and the second for more advanced courses. Each lesson plan is quite extensive, requiring several days to complete. [RS]
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Biological Soil Crusts [.pdf]
Biological soil crust probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind when snapping that photo of the Delicate Arch at Arches National Park. However, without the algae, mosses, cyanobacteria, and other tiny organisms that inhabit the surface of desert soils, places like Arches and other arid environments would be quite different. The US Geological Survey provides an online guide to biological soil crusts in this easy-to-navigate Web site. Crust 101 contains a detailed introduction to soil crust ecology, and the Advanced feature offers an extensive technical reference. The Web site also includes a photo gallery, list of related references, and a short list of links. This site is also reviewed in the November 27, 2002 Scout Report. [RS]
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Two on Antibiotic Resistance
Honey Kills Antibiotic-resistant Bugs
Superbug Strikes Again
Both Web sites are recent news articles from the journal Nature. The first relates how raw honey may contain anti-microbial compounds that could be used to treat antibiotic-resistant infections in wounds. Clinical trials to support this hypothesis have yet to be done. The second article describes problems in treating a particularly stubborn strain of Staphylococcus aureus, just one of the many resistant bacterial strains that have resulted from widespread overuse of antibiotics. Each Web site provides numerous links to related stories and resources. [RS]
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The Butterfly Conservatory [IPIX, QuickTime]
This companion Web site to the Butterfly Conservatory exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History offers a virtual respite from winter. Visitors can explore the museum's living collection of tropical butterflies with Butterfly Cams and the Virtual Tour feature. Butterfly Cams includes live Web casts from the conservatory as well as three pre-recorded movie clips, including one of a zebra longwing butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Virtual Tour offers a 360 degree view of the exhibit (not in real time). The Web site also include a butterfly FAQs page, a guide to planting a butterfly garden, and three downloadable backgrounds. Even without pictures, the FAQs page is worth a visit for the interesting topics it covers. [RS]
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Flu in the United States
Visitors to this Web site provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Infectious Diseases will find detailed, authoritative answers to any questions they may have about the flu. In addition to explanations of flu transmission, treatment, vaccination, etc., this Web site offers updated surveillance reports on the status of influenza in the US. The Questions and Answers page is a good source for quick, easy-to-absorb information, and it clears up many misconceptions regarding the flu and the flu shot. Visitors looking for more detailed information will find many useful links, particularly for recent news and reports. [RS]
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Chronic Wasting Disease [.pdf]
The discovery of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Wisconsin's deer population earlier this year received national attention in the news, but basic information about CWD is harder to find. This Web site from the University of Wisconsin (UW) provides a reliable resource for CWD news and information, and is a product of a UW panel of experts assembled to independently assess the state's effort for control the disease. The site includes comprehensive information on the biology of the disease and the issues involved in its eradication. Other features of this site include downloadable fact sheets on deer processing and the safety of venison. While geared toward a Wisconsin audience, this site should prove useful for anyone looking for more information on CWD. [RS]
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From Jungle to Lab: The Study of Life's Complexity [QuickTime, RealPlayer]
San Francisco's Exploratorium showcases the work of researchers at the Natural History Museum in London and Las Cuevas Biological Station in Belize, who are investigating the nature and diversity of life. From Jungle to Lab is part of the Exploratorium's Origin Project, created to explain how scientists explore "the beginnings of the universe, of matter, of the earth, and of life itself." This well-designed Web site contains loads of multimedia features, such as a slide show of Las Cuevas (including a 360 view of the biological station), video and audio clips of researchers explaining their work, ten recently recorded Web casts, and much more. The contents of this Web site are thoughtfully organized and skillfully presented. For example, the section titled Ideas appears as a virtual field notebook, each page addressing a different aspect of evolutionary mechanism for biodiversity. In all, this is a fantastic Web site that is worth a visit for design features alone. [RS]
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Prehistoric Life
This Web site from Museum Victoria in Australia presents an overview of fossils and what they tell us about prehistoric life. Museum Victoria developed this site in response to frequently asked questions and public interest in paleontology, resulting in a well-presented and easy-to-understand introduction to the topic. Five main sections cover invertebrate fossils, dinosaurs, Ice Age mammals, fossils found in Victoria, and a general explanation of fossils and fossilization. Although a bit text heavy with limited illustrations (but nonetheless engaging), this Web site should appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in paleontology. [RS]
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Easy-to-read Health Information [.pdf]
The National Network of Libraries of Medicine offers this collection of links to easy-to-read Web sites for health-related information. Topics cover everything from diabetes to wound dressing to environmental health and safety. The site appears as an extensive list of links organized by topic. A main menu at the top of the page allows users to quickly jump to subjects of interest. The links lead to pages from National Institutes of Health Web sites and other authoritative sources, and are selected for their brevity and clarity. Some Spanish version Web links are provided. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Thanksgiving Biology
1. Return of the Wild Turkey
2. L-Tryptophan: Nature's Answer to Prozac
3. Salmonellosis
4. Is Your Turkey Safe?
5. The Australian Brush Turkey
6. About Cranberries
7. Pumpkins and More
8. What's the Difference Between a Yam and a Sweet Potato?,11749,165790_13997,00.html
The first Web site (1) is an article from State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. It provides a short, readable introduction to the biology and natural history of wild turkeys in the US. Wild or domesticated, turkey meat is well know for its soporific power. Visitors to the Web site from International Anti-aging Systems (2) can learn all about tryptophan, the amino acid responsible for the post-Thanksgiving dinner nap. Also found in turkey (but much less appealing) is the Salmonella bacteria, which can cause debilitating illness in humans. The third Web site (3), from Centers for Disease Control Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, offers a reliable source of information about salmonellosis. Environmental Health and Safety Online offers some facts and figures about contaminated turkeys, citing studies from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (4). The wild turkey would have become the national bird of the US if Benjamin Franklin had his way, but North America isn't the only continent that's home to wild turkeys. The fifth Web site (5) from the University of New South Wales introduces the Australian Brush Turkey. The cranberry, another Thanksgiving staple, is one of the few native fruits grown commercially in North America. The Cranberry Institute offers a brief introduction to the history, botany, and harvest of cranberries (6). The University of Illinois Extension provides an in-depth Web site devoted to nothing but pumpkins, including a recipe for Traditional Pumpkin Pie (7). The final Web site, from iVillage, clears up in a brief explanation the confusion about yams and sweet potatoes (8). [RS]
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From The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2002.

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