The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 2

January 24, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Cleared Leaf Collection
The University of California-Berkeley Museum of Paleontology has recently launched this online database of the Daniel I. Axelrod and the Berkeley leaf collections, which contain over 2000 modern leaf specimens bleached and stained to make their venation patterns more visible. Data records for both collections are now online, and images (including a higher resolution mode) will eventually become available for each specimen beginning with those in the Axelrod collection. Using the database is somewhat tricky, but a detailed help page is provided. [RS]
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National Wildlife Health Center Publications and Metadata [.pdf]
This Web site from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center contains publications and metadata regarding wildlife disease, necropsy, morbidity/ mortality, etc. A number of documents are available, including a field manual of avian diseases, sea turtle and avian necropsy manuals for biologists working in remote areas (English and Spanish versions available), fish and wildlife mortality reports, conference proceedings, and more. The avian disease field manual is a hefty file (43 MB), but the extra download time beats paying the $48 for a print copy. All the field guides and manuals available from this site include high-quality, well-labeled photographs and easy-to-follow instructions. [RS]
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The Electronic Plant Information Centre
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew presents the Electronic Plant Information Centre (ePIC), an online resource designed to serve as a single gateway to all digitized plant information generated by Kew. ePIC brings together Kew's major specimen, bibliographic, and taxonomic databases in an easy-to-search interface. Simply enter a scientific plant name into the search engine, and ePIC will retrieve all available information on record, as well as links to related information resources from external organizations. Search results may be downloaded as an email message. More information, including digital images and electronic documents, will be added to ePIC as it become available. [RS]
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Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce: The Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory
Florida's Indian River Lagoon (IRL) is recognized as possibly the most biologically diverse estuarine system in the continental US. The Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce manages the IRL Species Inventory Project, which includes an online database of taxonomic, ecological, and life history information of species in the estuary. Researchers, educators, and resource managers are encouraged to make use of the IRL Species Inventory Project, which will be expanded as research continues. The database includes a search engine with helpful tips, species reports; alphabetized species lists, detailed descriptions of IRL habitats, and more. A photo gallery has been recently added, featuring the work of local photographers. [RS]
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Flora and Fauna of the Great Lakes Region: A Multimedia Digital Collection
This Web site offers online access to selected materials from the Fish and Mammal Divisions of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and from the Fungus Collections of the University of Michigan Herbarium. Intended to facilitate use of the collections by the general user as well as the specialist researcher, this Web site offers four search options: by specific collection or group of collections, a map-based interface that searches materials by county, a project-wide content search, and a search engine for eleven major monographs that include species descriptions of fungi. Materials retrieved include collection records, bibliographic references, field notes, images, distribution maps, species descriptions, and more. [RS]
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ScienceNOW is a regularly updated Web site from the California Academy of Sciences, which features a changing display of Academy research in the natural sciences. Four featured sections -- Headline Science, Academy Research, Where in the World, and Wild Lives -- offer brief overviews of discoveries by Academy scientists and other "headline-making" science news. Each section includes photos and figures, as well as links to related Web sites or news stories. In general, ScienceNOW offers a quick and agreeable way to keep up with Academy projects and news-making natural science research around the world. [RS]
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Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology and Environmental Teratology Information Center Database
The Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology and Environmental Teratology Information Center (DART/ ETIC) Database is made available by the National Library of Medicine's Toxicology Data Network. The database contains over 100,000 current and earlier literature citations covering teratology and other aspects of developmental and reproductive toxicology. Users may search the database by subject, title words, chemical name, Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number, and author. The Web site also includes a useful help page and sample record for familiarizing oneself with the database. [RS]
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Environment Australia's Online Image Database
Environment Australia -- Australia's Department of Environment and Heritage -- has made its extensive collection of photographs freely available for non-commercial use. Researchers and students in the environmental sciences may find this collection of well-composed, high-quality images a useful resource for presentations and publications. Users may easily search the database by keyword, general subject, and/or geographic area. Search results yield a table of thumbnail photos together with summary information for each image. Before publishing an image from the database, users must first contact Environment Australia (via provided Web form). [RS]
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Florida Springs: Protecting Nature's Gems [.pdf]
This educational Web site from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection offers an in-depth exploration of Florida's freshwater springs and the aquifer that supports them. The site includes many informal (and highly visual) learning opportunities, such as an animated demonstration of the hydrologic cycle and classroom lesson plans based on Web site content. The four lessons plans (one each for grades 1-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) emphasize ecosystem interconnectivity and how human activity impacts groundwater resources. [RS]
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BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research is the product of the National Research Council's Committee on Undergraduate Biology Education to Prepare Research Scientists for the 21st Century. Offered by the National Academies Press as a free electronic report, BIO2010 details recommendations for "bringing undergraduate biology education up to the speed of today's research fast track." The report emphasizes a highly interdisciplinary approach to learning biology, with a stronger focus on the physical sciences and mathematics than is currently in place. Biology faculty and administrators at the undergraduate level may find BIO2010 a worthwhile read. [RS]
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The Science Behind the News: Cancer
The National Cancer Institute's Science Behind the News Web site offers in-depth tutorials for cancer-related topics that make the headlines. Cancer -- one of the seven tutorials available -- provides a general introduction to cancer, demonstrates the link between cancer and genetics, explains what we know about the causes of the disease, and outlines cancer detection and diagnosis. While no formal lesson plans are provided, this straightforward tutorial offers a clear and well-illustrated guide to understanding cancer and related issues. Visitors may view tutorial pages in sequence or use the index to skip around to pages of interest. This Web site is also available in Spanish. [RS]
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AskERIC: Pass it On [.pdf] kills/HPS0202.html
In this Educational Resources Information Center (AskERIC) lesson plan, 1st and 2nd graders are introduced to germ transmission and the human immune system. A fake sneeze and a dusting of confetti (i.e., germs) sets up this lesson plan submitted by Ronda Loetterle of Hastings College, Nebraska. The 30-40 minute activity includes a reading of "I Know How We Fight Germs" by Kate Rowan, followed by a classroom exercise that demonstrates how easily germs are spread. Sample assessment questions are also provided. [RS]
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Scientific American Frontiers: Deep Crisis [.pdf. RealPlayer, Windows Media]
"Deep Crisis," a new documentary from PBS's Scientific American Frontiers set to air January 28, 2003, explores the "past, present and uncertain future of the ocean's long-distance travelers - salmon and tuna." This companion Web site includes two lesson plans designed for grades 5-8 (see Teaching Guide), as well as a quiz based on program content. Homing Salmon focuses on the odor cues that researchers believe help salmon find their home streams for spawning. Salmon Counting introduces students to population sampling techniques. Both lesson plans include printable versions and answers to activity questions. Deep Crisis may be viewed online with RealPlayer or Windows Media. [RS]
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MIT OpenCourseWare
With MIT OpenCourseWare, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology plans to make course materials for nearly all its undergraduate and graduate subjects available online, free of charge to anyone who cares to use them. An ambitious project created as part of the university's mission "to advance knowledge and education to best serve the nation and the world," MIT OpenCourseWare currently offers course materials for a wide range of subjects, including biology, with much more on the way. Users should bear in mind that MIT OpenCourseWare is an informal learning venue only, not a degree or certificate-granting program. [RS]
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ReproLearn: Care of Women with HIV in Limited-Resource Settings [RealPlayer, .ppt]
Reproductive Health Online (ReproLine), an Internet resource associated with Johns Hopkins University, offers information and technical updates for reproductive healthcare providers, trainers, and faculty. ReproLine has developed eleven HIV/ AIDS tutorials as part of a series on the Care of Women with HIV in Limited-Resource Settings. These multimedia tutorials (each about 25-35 minutes long) include audio and/or video presentations from reproductive health experts, instructive photos and diagrams, links to related ReproLine articles, and a self-graded quiz. Users may also download tutorial transcripts and slides. [RS]
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Photosynthesis, Energy, and Life
With this recently updated Web site from the Flying Turtle Company (created by David Watson), learning about photosynthesis is almost fun -- definitely more engaging than what the standard biology textbook has to offer. Fantastic illustrations and light-hearted narrative make the complicated biochemical processes of photosynthesis much easier to absorb. In addition to providing comprehensive coverage of photosynthesis (along with interesting trivia bits), this Web site works to encourage a fascination for the often under-appreciated plant kingdom. [RS]
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The Life of Mammals [Flash, RealPlayer]
The Life of Mammals is a new 10-part BBC Nature series hosted by David Attenborough. This "biggest ever wildlife series devoted to mammals" has a suitably enormous companion Web site, which offers more interactive, multimedia features than you can imagine. Video previews, quizzes and challenges, Web cams, in-depth articles, recommended books -- the list goes on. Mammalian social behavior, body shape, intelligence, diet, and habitat comprise the main themes of this Web site, presented with so much dazzle as to cast aside any doubt that we as mammals find ourselves endlessly fascinating. Particularly engaging are the Web cams, including one for Margot the mouse and her new brood (born January 12, 2003). [RS]
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America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks
To increase awareness of the problems that threaten all US national parks, the National Parks Conservation Association (NCPA) presents its 2003 list of the ten parks in "most need of immediate attention." For each park listed -- from Big Thicket to Yellowstone -- NPCA describes the park and its particular problems, while encourages readers to help in achieving a solution. The section titled What You Can Do offers concrete suggestions for public participation, such as writing letters to public officials (information and Web forms are provided). [RS]
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Spices: Exotic Flavors and Medicines
This elegantly simple Web site demonstrates how the spice cabinet and the medicine cabinet are often one and the same. In exploring "the many facets of spices," this Web site from the Louse M. Darling Biomedical Library at the University of California-Los Angeles describes the general history, geography, and diverse uses of spices and culinary herbs. Plant specific information is also available; each of the over two dozen herbs and spices has its own Web page of detailed botanical, medicinal, and historical information. [RS]
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Nature: The Mouse Genome
This Web site from the journal Nature offers a one-stop online resource for information on the mouse genome -- "the experimental key to the human genome." Visitors have free access to all content from the journal's special mouse genome issue. Web features include an interactive timeline detailing the history of the mouse in genetics, related news articles and commentary, Web links, and more. Scientific papers and letters to Nature are also available for those who would like to delve into the subject at depth. Additionally, the site provides a selection of classic research papers free to registered users until March 5, 2003. [RS]
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Avocado Information [QuickTime]
To borrow shamelessly from Benjamin Franklin, guacamole is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. The Agricultural and Natural Resources people at the University of California-Riverside would seem to agree. In this Web site devoted solely to the lovely avocado, readers can learn all about the history and horticulture of this subtropical fruit (that's right -- fruit). Features include time-lapsed videos of avocado flowering, another video on how to correctly prune a small avocado tree, a "short" history of how the avocado got its name (actually a rather complicated etymological journey), basic horticultural information, and more. [RS]
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The United States National Arboretum: Invasive Plants
The US National Arboretum offers this straightforward guide to invasive plants that gardeners and property owners in general should watch for. The Web site begins with an explanation of what the term "invasive" really means, followed by photos and descriptions of species to avoid planting altogether (such as purple loosestrife), and those that are less problematic if managed wisely (like English ivy). The site also describes the origin and current distribution of some of the most commonly encountered invasive plants, and provides Web links for further information. [RS]
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Menopausal Hormone Therapy
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides this compilation of Web links for important information on the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy. The links lead to relevant NIH Web pages, including the most current NIH research on the subject. Topics covered range from NIH's Women's Health Initiative estrogen/ progestin hormone therapy study to the use of black cohosh as an alternative therapy to osteoporosis and ovarian cancer. A useful and well-organized resource. [RS]
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The Red Kite
The Gigrin, a family-run sheep farm in Wales with a conservation mindset, offers this Web site devoted to the red kite, a small raptor that humans have attempted to protect longer than for any other bird species in the world. Readers can expect a solid introduction to red kite natural history, and an encouraging example of conservation by private landowners. The main Web page provides a general background information about the red kite, including a short audio clip of a red kite call. The following pages contain photos, detailed descriptions of nesting and feeding habits, and links to other organizations involved in protecting the red kite. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Animal Tails
1. Scorpions Produce Two Venoms
2. Cebids
3. Rattlesnakes
4. Beaver [.wav]
5. Biology: Tokay Gecko
6. Talking Dog: Body Language
7. How Did the Peacock Get its Tail?
8. Midnight Zone
Call it tail envy. With only a vestigial nub to show for ourselves, perhaps it's no wonder that animal tails capture our attention. The following Web sites present some of the more interesting tails to be found in the animal kingdom. The first Web site contains a recent article from Discovery News describing new findings that at least one species of scorpion produces two distinct types of tail venom, which have completely different effects on their victims (1). The next site from Singapore Zoological Gardens introduces the cebids (our New World monkey cousins), some of which have amazing prehensile tails that are used like a fifth limb (2). The rattlesnake is another famously-tailed creature, highlighted in the following site from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (3). The site covers the main aspects of rattlesnake natural history, including a section on how the rattle forms. The Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, Kansas, offers a Web page devoted to the beaver, including tail trivia and an audio clip of a resident beaver surprised in his den at the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit (4). Anyone who has witnessed the freakishly fascinating spectacle of a gecko leaving its tail behind to distract a would-be predator will appreciate this brief bio of the Tokay gecko, presented by, the Herpetologist's Portal (5). Stacy's Wag'N'Train -- offering dog-training classes in San Jose, California -- provides this online guide to dog body language, which would have a very limited vocabulary without the tail (6). So, how did the peacock get its tail? It's a simple question that has driven zoologists crazy for over a century. The next Web site (7) contains an in-depth article on the subject from the Independent (London), offered through National Geographic News. And finally, the bizarre gulper eel -- able to tie its tail in several knots -- gets is own Web page on Pangea, the Web server for the Department of Educational Leadership and Technology at Southeastern Louisiana University (8). This deep-sea curiosity uses its bioluminescent tail tip to lure hapless prey into its impossibly gigantic mouth. [RS]
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