The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 4

February 21, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Information Resource: About Herbs, Botanicals, and Other Products
This Web site from the Integrative Medicine Service of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) provides oncologists and other healthcare professionals with objective information on medicinal herbs and other botanicals. Users may search for a particular plant name or browse the entire catalog by letter of the alphabet. Searches yield a clinical summary for each plant, a description of purported uses, information on adverse effects and drug interactions, and so on. The site also includes a News and Alerts section, a FAQs page (mostly about possible risks and complications), and evaluations of alternative or unproved cancer therapies. The general reader should also find this regularly updated Web site helpful, but MSKCC cautions against substituting the site "for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem." [RS]
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Diatom Paleolimnology Data Cooperative Home Page
The Phycology Section of the Patrick Center for Environmental Research, part of Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Science, presents the Diatom Paleolimnology Data Cooperative (DPDC). This database contains information on diatoms and related ecological and paleolimnological data applicable to the study of global climate change. Users have three search options: browse and download stratigraphic and calibration data sets; view individual diatom counts; or search for occurrences of specific taxa in all data sets. The site includes links to algae databases, also from the Academy of Natural Science. Researchers are encouraged to submit diatom core and surface sediment data to the DPDC. [RS]
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Flora of the Hawaiian Islands
The Smithsonian Institution Department of Systematic Biology presents Flora of the Hawaiian Islands as part of a long-term project to "eventually provide the Internet community with the most complete reference on the flora of oceanic islands of the Pacific." Presently, available databases provide plant checklists and specimen type data, and will include additional information in the future. The site also contains a searchable image gallery and an electronic supplement to the Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai'i, the volume that serves as the basis for this Web site. [RS]
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Eco-Index, a project of the Rainforest Alliance, is "a searchable almanac of current and past conservation projects in Mesoamerica, with project descriptions, goals, achievements, lessons learned, and more." With current, well-presented features covering a range of biodiversity conservation issues, Eco-Index offers an excellent way for conservation researchers and practitioners to keep abreast of activity in their field. Users are encouraged to add their own project descriptions to the Eco-Index database. Available in English or Spanish. [RS]
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The Dung File
The Dung File is a collection of references relevant to the archaeological and paleoenvironmental analysis of coprolites and latrine fills, with a focus on North American research. Compiled by the University of Alberta's Alwynne B. Beaudoin, the Dung File includes ten sections: four to do with deposit origin; one devoted to theses; two on modern comparative studies; another listing articles from the popular press; and two broader categories including a section on procedural and analytical techniques. Each section contains a straightforward list of annotated references. [RS]
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Animal Welfare Information Center
The Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) from the US Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library provides "information for improved animal care and use in research, teaching, and testing." The Web site contains several sets of links to animal welfare information and other resources. Current animal welfare legislation, AWIC and non-AWIC publications (some available in Spanish), fact sheets from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Information Service, animal use alternatives, and links to dozens of useful databases are just some examples of what visitors can expect to access from this site. The site includes separate sections for lab animals, farm animals, zoo/ circus/ wildlife animals, and companion animals. [RS]
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The Last of the Last: The Old-Growth Forests of Boreal Europe [.pdf]
The Last of the Last represents the first time that "maps and other information on the old-growth forests of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Northwest Russia have been compiled into a single publication." Provided by the Taiga Rescue Network, this report offers a collection of maps and background information covering the ecology, conservation status, and land use history of European boreal forests as gleaned from GIS data, satellite imagery, ground inventories, and other research. Clicking locations from the provided list or on the pop-up overview map will open specific area maps in Adobe Acrobat. The Web site covers the boreal forests of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Karelia, Komi, Murmansk, and Arkhangels. [RS]
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Environmental Enrichment for Primates: Annotated Database on Environmental Enrichment and Refinement of Husbandry for Nonhuman Primates
The Animal Welfare Institute, a nonprofit organization founded "to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans," offers this frequently updated bibliographic database for information on all aspects of environmental enrichment for nonhuman primates. Search results include a list of relevant references with complete bibliographic information, brief summaries of each entry, Web links to full-text documents where available, and a keyword index for easily finding related sources. Users may also browse the entire contents of the database alphabetically. Primatologists and animal handlers alike should find this comprehensive database particularly useful. [RS]
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Biodiversity Counts [.pdf]
This extensive collection of activities from the American Museum of Natural History offers middle school students "an exciting and creative context for involving students in the scientific process while introducing them to the rich diversity and beauty of their local ecosystem." Lesson plans, Web-based interactive activities, useful Web links, profiles of AMNH scientists and staff, and other features help students inventory and analyze the plants and arthropods found in their own neighborhoods. All activities address national science standards, and have been "field tested" in schools around the nation. Biodiversity Counts even has students develop their own exhibitions for their findings -- a great way to build science communication skills. [RS]
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Antarctica as an Educational Resource
"As an educational resource, Antarctica is extremely broad in scope with the potential to contribute to a number of study areas," from the sciences to history, sociology, and politics. Authored by molecular biologist Clive Evans at the University of Auckland, this Web site provides a convenient resource for introducing Antarctica into the classroom and could be adapted for a range of grade levels. Luckily for life science educators, the site focuses primarily on Antarctic biology, adaptation, human impact, and the environment. Web pages contain detailed background information, as well as questions and suggested activities to stimulate discussion and help students explore the material. A more in-depth exploration of the material requires additional resources; references and Web links are provided. [RS]
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Two Dendrology Resources from Virginia Tech
The Meanings of Latin Names
The dendrology Web pages at Virginia Tech offer "tree identification fact sheets on approximately 800 species of trees, as well as lots of other tree information." The Web sites featured here include two resources that dendrology students should find especially useful. Anyone faced with the daunting task of memorizing hundreds of Latin names will appreciate the first Web site, which offers explanations of scientific names for hundreds of woody species. Additionally, clicking on a plant name in the list will open a fact sheet -- including helpful photos -- for that species. The second Web site contains two easy-to-use dichotomous keys (a leaf key and a twig key) with photographs, while also linking to species fact sheet pages. [RS]
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Molecular Medicine in Action [Flash, QuickTime, Windows Media]
The Molecular Medicine in Action program at the Indiana University School of Medicine is a selective "hands-on program for high school students to experience the methods scientists use for unlocking and modifying the genetic codes of diseases." Students don't have to be admitted to the program to make use of the excellent online materials available online from MMIA. This particular Web site offers high-quality animations to supplement related lectures or readings. Topics covered include cytogenetics, DNA isolation, fluorescence microscopy, flow, gel electrophoresis, gene therapy, infecting cells, PCR, vector production, and viral vectors. [RS]
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The Golden Ratio
This Web site provides a "basic introduction to one of the most amazing discoveries in mathematics: the Golden Ratio." Created by David L. Narain, this site offers a particularly engaging way to bring together math and the natural sciences in the classroom. Seven straightforward activities have students construct a golden rectangle and spiral, and also explore the Golden Ratio in nature and in other contexts. The site also includes a quiz; answers are not provided, though. The activities are designed for 9th and 10th graders, but would also be appropriate for middle school students. [RS]
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Community Science Action Guides: The Ethics of Genetics
This Web site contains The Ethics of Genetics, one of the Community Science Action Guides created by practicing educators working with The Franklin Institute and the Science Museum, London. The Ethics of Genetics "presents some of these ethical issues within an academic setting designed for today's youth," and fits well with classroom material on cells, reproduction, and general biology. A series of questions -- each followed by a related lesson -- guides middle and high school students in exploring the ethical issues involved in genetics. The site also includes a detailed Teacher Preparation section, as well as useful Web links for additional information. [RS]
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Antibody-Antigen Interactions
The experimental protocol in this Web site is just one of many microbiology resources provided by the University of Leicester. The procedure guides students in finding the antibody concentration of a test antiserum and the number of antibody binding sites on an antigen molecule. A results graph and correct answers to the required calculations are given, providing the option of performing a virtual experiment in lieu of an actual one. This activity is probably most appropriate for high school and undergraduate level biology labs. [RS]
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Basic Microscopy: An Important Skill for Plant Pathologists
This lab exercise is provided by the American Phytopathological Society Education Center as part of its Introductory Plant Pathology series. Created by Melissa B. Riley of Clemson University, Basic Microscopy familiarizes students with the use and maintenance of the compound and dissecting microscope. In addition to detailed procedural instructions, the exercise includes questions that test understanding of the material. The Web site also provides Instructor Notes and a link to the Nikon Microscopy Web site for feature articles, tutorials, and images that might be useful in the classroom. [RS]
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Natural History Guide to American Samoa [.pdf]
The National Park Service offers this incredibly extensive guide to the marine and wildlife resources of American Samoa, written by and reflecting the research of eight biologists at the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources of National Park of American Samoa and the Land Grant Program at the American Samoa Community College. The guide, which may be viewed online or downloaded, covers dozens of topics related to Samoa's marine and terrestrial environments, including coral bleaching, sharks, humpback whales, flying foxes, invasive and agricultural pests, bird checklists, and much more. The Web site also provides local facts and area maps. Well-designed and full of colorful photographs, the Natural History Guide to American Samoa is definitely worth a look. [RS]
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Bushmeat Crises Task Force [.pdf]
This Web site is the homepage of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force (BCTF), a nonprofit organization that works toward "identifying and implementing effective and appropriate solutions to the commercial exploitation of endangered and threatened species." In addition to providing information on BCTF projects and upcoming events, the Web site offers a comprehensive collection of articles meant to raise awareness of the bushmeat crisis, as well as a number of fact sheets, each covering a specific aspect of the bushmeat trade. [RS]
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Insect Information Sheets
The University of California-Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology offers its online visitors a number of informative resources on insects, including this collection of one-page illustrated Insect Information Sheets. While the fact sheets may be ordered from the museum for $0.10 a copy, many are presented online free of charge. Information sheets for over a dozen insects and arachnids are available, with more on the way. Informative and easy-to-use, this Web site should appeal to visitors looking for information about specific insects as well as those just having a general look. [RS]
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Natural History Notebooks
The Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN) offers an online version of its Natural History Notebook series originally published in 1977-81. Interesting facts and attractive black-and-white sketches are provided for each of the nearly 250 animal species (mostly vertebrates) featured in the Web site. All illustrations are by Charles Douglas, former chief illustrator at CMN. The notebook collection includes one each for mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, endangered or extinct species, prehistoric life, and another that allows users to search for animals by geographical region. [RS]
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The First Europeans: Treasures from the Hills of Atapuerca
This Web site is the online companion to an exhibit currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History, which presents the paleoanthropological findings from two sites at Atapuerca, Spain. The exhibit represents the "first time outside of Spain that this extraordinary material that documents the very earliest attempt by human beings to occupy Europe has been on display." The Web site offers an information-rich resource on hominid evolution and expansion, fossil evidence and the history of research at Atapuerca, and how Neanderthals compare with modern humans. Highly readable and easy-to-use, this site should appeal to anyone with an interest in human evolution. [RS]
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Prairie Wildflowers and Grasses of North Dakota [.zip]
The US Geological Service Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center offers this online introduction to the prairie wildflowers and grasses of North Dakota, based on a field guide written by Chris Grondahl and Andrea Evelsizer. The online guide is "intended to provide beginners with an overview of North Dakota's prairie wildflowers and grasses," and because prairies throughout the country have many species in common, those living in other areas should find this guide helpful as well. The site includes over fifty species, with botanical information and photos for each, and the flowers are conveniently organized by bloom season. The entire guide (2.1 MB) may be downloaded for offline viewing. [RS]
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Food and Nutrition Research Briefs
The US Department of Agriculture offers this quick overview of food and nutrition research conducted at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The Web site features a dozen topics (including Blueberries -- A Brain Booster? and Good News for Chocolate Lovers!) with research summaries and photos. The material is interesting and easy-to-absorb, and for further information, readers may get in touch with the ARS scientists behind the research. Contact information is provided. [RS]
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Clean Water Act Definition of "Waters of the United States" [.pdf]
US Environmental Protection Agency presents this Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the Clean Water Act definition of "Waters of the United States," which has important ramifications for wetland protection. The ANPRM requests information, data, and general comments from the public, which should be submitted by March 3, 2003, (forms provided). The site contains loads of information and relevant documents on the issue, including legal background, related wetland studies, and general information about wetlands. While this no-frills Web site won't appeal to the casual reader, those interested in wetland protection should find the provided resources of use. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Carnivorous Plants
1. Galleria Carnivora
2. Carnivorous Plants and Their Habitats
3. How Venus Flytraps Work
4. Venus Flytrap [QuickTime]
5. Nepenthes from Borneo
6. Nikon's Small World Gallery
7. Bladderwort
8. The Carnivorous Plant FAQ
The animal kingdom may have its egg-laying platypus, but the plant kingdom is not without its own odd twists on taxonomy. If movies like Little Shop of Horrors are any indication, carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap, sundew, and pitcher plant never fail to spark the imagination. The following set of Web sites presents a brief introduction to carnivorous plants and includes loads of great photos. The first site (1) contains the Galleria Carnivora, a terrific collection of carnivorous plant photographs, compiled by carnivorous plant enthusiast Barry Rice. Rice has created a virtual art museum for these photos, which, together with his tongue-in-cheek commentary, provides a fun way to get acquainted with this diverse group of plants. The second Web site contains another extensive image gallery (presented by Matthias and Oliver Schmidt), this time showing carnivorous plants in their natural habitats (2). The Venus flytrap is the first carnivorous plant many of us encounter. With this next Web site from HowStuffWorks, readers can find out exactly how the flytrap attracts, traps, and digests its insect prey (3). The following site from Indiana University's Roger P. Hangarter offers a cool QuickTime movie of a Venus flytrap in action -- part of the Plants-In-Motion video collection (4). In this appealing and informative Web site (5), Marlis and Dennis Merbach present the Nepenthes (a genus of tropical pitcher plants) of Borneo, the center of Nepenthes diversity. Visitors to the next site will be treated to a beautiful photomicrograph of a sundew plant, entered by Earl Nishiguchi in Nikon's Small World Gallery photo contest (6). Boston's Museum of Science offers an interesting magnified image of a bladderwort, a tiny carnivorous plant found in freshwater (7). And, another Web site from Barry Rice (mentioned above) provides an entertaining look at carnivorous plants on TV and the silver screen, from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes to Minority Report and more (8). [RS]
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