The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 6

March 21, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Two about Research on Genetic Response to Global Warming
Researchers Find Genetic Response to Global Warming: Changing Climate Prompts Genetic Change in Squirrels
Genetic and Plastic Responses of a Northern Mammal to Climate Change
University of Alberta biologist Stan Boutin and his research team have recently published findings that North American red squirrels exhibit genetic changes in response to a warming climate. The first Web site listed above contains a University of Alberta press release detailing this first-ever demonstration of genetic adaptation to global warming. The second Web site, from the Proceedings of the Royal Society, provides the abstract for this recently published research (full-text available only with paid subscription). With implications that extend far beyond the immediate research concerns of geneticists and environmental scientists, Boutin's work as presented in these Web sites should be interesting to wide audience. [RS]
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Neuromuscular: Acetylcholine and Acetylcholine Receptors
The Neuromuscular Disease Center at Washington University provides this comprehensive Web site for information on acetylcholine and acetylcholine receptors. Visitors will find detailed Web pages covering acetylcholine metabolism, acetylcholine receptors (including disorders, structure, venom binding, etc.), autonomic function, and myasthenic disorders. Related proteins are organized into data tables, which include links to protein-specific information from external sources such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information from the National Institutes of Health and the Expert Protein Analysis System (ExPASy) from the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. [RS]
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Digital Morphology: A National Science Foundation Digital Library at The University of Texas at Austin
The Digital Morphology library from the University of Texas-Austin is "a dynamic archive of information on digital morphology and high-resolution x-ray computed tomography of biological specimens." The library offers fascinating 2D and 3D visualizations of vertebrate internal and external structures -- as well as a growing number of invertebrates -- representing over 100 specimens from university and museum collections around the world. The library may be browsed by scientific or common name, or by cladogram. Many images in the collection include detailed annotations, some contributed by experts in the field. While the Digital Morphology library serves as important resource for education and "ongoing cutting-edge research efforts," the spectacular images definitely make this Web site worth visiting just for fun. [RS]
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Cambridge Scientific Abstracts: Ecotourism
Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA) latest Hot Topics feature is Ecotourism: the Promise and Perils of Environmentally-Oriented Travel, prepared by Heather E. Lindsay. The detailed report explores the opportunities and pitfalls of ecotourism, for which "finding a compromise between preservation and development is often challenging, and can generate additional environmental problems for the very regions it is intended to protect." Key citations for the report link to the full-text articles from scholarly journals in the CSA database, and over two dozen related Web links are also provided. Anyone interested in reviewing the impact of ecotourism will appreciate this well-organized, thorough report. [RS]
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Society for Endocrinology: Journals: Review Articles and Commentary [.pdf]
The Society for Endocrinology offers this collection of full-text reviews and commentaries from the Journal of Endocrinology and the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology. These peer-reviewed articles, available free of charge to any interested user, present "quality overviews of current topic in endocrinology." The bibliographic listing for each article link to a browseable abstract, which in turn links to the full-text document. The Web site includes an article archive dating back to 1996. [RS]
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Missouri Botanical Garden Research: Ethnobiology Discussion Forum
As part of a process funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Missouri Botanical Garden's online ethnobiology discussion forum invites ethnobiologists to "intellectually define [the] field, its intellectual content, methods, and applicable analyses and to review the present state of and need for education, funding and international collaboration in ethnobiology." This ongoing discussion will result in a white paper addressing how ethnobiologists can meet NSF's call for rigorous scientific research while preserving the multidisciplinary strengths of the field. Participants are also encouraged to register NSF proposals related to ethno- or economic biology for help in keeping track of grants. [RS]
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State of the World's Forests 2003 [.pdf]
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations presents this biannual report on the status of the world's forests. Available as a series of downloadable documents, this comprehensive report addresses recent developments in the forest sector such as agricultural expansion and mangrove conversion, conservation and sustainable development, forestry education and other institutional concerns, international policy, and other issues. [RS]
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With Genome@home, a project at Stanford University, computer owners can become de facto researchers in virtual genome protein design. By downloading and running the Genome@home protein sequence design client, users lend their idle computer time to run calculations for use with such projects as designing new medical drugs, understanding protein evolution, and determining the function of newly sequenced genes. The program can run during other applications without affecting computer performance. The Genome@home Web site also provides a mountain of scientific background information and other resources for understanding the overall project and learning what's been accomplished so far. [RS]
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Tissues of Life [Flash, QuickTime]
This Web site from the Science Museum of Minnesota offers a fun and interactive way to learn about the structure and function of the body's tissues. While some activities provided are designed to complement an on-site visit to the Tissues of Life exhibit, the Web site also includes many stand-alone Web-based features. For example, with Explore Body Tissues, students can take a look at cross-sections of actual human bodies, browse through a gallery of scar photos (and perhaps add a photo of their own!), explore parts of the human body at 30X actual size, or play a game while learning about the different cells involved in wound healing. Tissues of Life does not include Web-based lesson plans, but this engaging Web site would be a great addition to related classroom activities for a range of grade levels. [RS]
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Meiosis Tutorial [Shockwave]
Prepared by Drs. Rolf Christoffersen and Debbie Kaska from the Division of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of California-Santa Barbara, this animated tutorial helps students understand basic genetic principles by demonstrating the movement of chromosomes and the segregation of Mendelian genes during meiosis. The tutorial's straightforward and well-labeled animated sequences effectively illustrate the dynamic process of meiosis, which can be hard to visualize when presented as discrete phases, as in a textbook. Whether reviewing meiosis or encountering it for the first time, students from a range of grade levels should find this tutorial useful. [RS]
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AP Biology: Glenbrook South High School [.ppt]
This Web site is one of number of online resources created for AP Biology students at Glenbrook South High School in Illinois. Fortunately, this comprehensive collection of classroom lectures based on Neil Campbell's Biology (5th edition) is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Students enrolled in AP Biology or introductory college-level biology courses may find these PowerPoint lecture slides particularly useful, especially as Campbell's Biology is a commonly used textbook. The lectures include animations from Campbell's Interactive Study Partner -- good news for those who own used copies of the textbook and are missing this CD-ROM. A well-chosen list of related Web links accompanies each unit of lectures. [RS]
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The Wonder Pill [.pdf, RealPlayer, WinMedia]
The PBS series Scientific American Frontiers offers this online supplement to the documentary The Wonder Pill, which aired February 18, 2003. The entire episode -- an intriguing exploration of the placebo effect -- may be viewed online. The Web-only section offers interesting articles that examine natural remedies for the common cold, the placebo effect throughout history and across cultures, and more. The Web site also includes two stand-alone lesson plans for grades 5-8 and a pop quiz based on the documentary. Plus, students can get a head start on related research projects with the resources section, an extensive collection of useful links including the Web pages of scientists featured in the program. [RS]
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Simplified Science Animations
This terrific collection of science animations comes courtesy of Tom Diab, science teacher at Saline High School in Michigan. He offers these easy-to-follow animations on the Web free of charge, although users may also purchase the complete set on CD if interested. Animations available for the life sciences include about a dozen each for biology (cellular respiration, mitosis and meiosis, cloning, etc.) and for anatomy and physiology (heart pathway, nerve impulse, kinder filtration, etc.). Visual learners in particular should appreciate Diab's straightforward animations, which should help reinforce related classroom material for students of any learning style. [RS]
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Structures for Molecular Biology [Chemscape Chime]
Developed by Dr. William McClure from the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, this Web site provides interactive images of molecules and complexes to supplement coursework in molecular biology. For each of the eleven structures provided, users may view the protein, the DNA, or the whole complex. Also, each image may be rotated for a 3D effect. The site supplies a detailed description and a reference for each structure (links for references are given, but may lead to subscription journal Web sites). [RS]
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Giant Pandas [.pdf]
The Smithsonian Institution National Zoological Park presents this extensive curriculum guide focused on the giant panda, one of the zoo's most famous denizens. Three sets of multidisciplinary lesson plans -- for grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 -- "contain all necessary background information and explore giant panda biology, habitat, zoo science, and conservation efforts." For example, the curriculum guide for grades 9-12 includes lesson plans addressing animal behavior and interdependence, the biomes of China, land-use planning, creative writing, and more. Students may also take advantage of the zoo's many other panda-related resources available online. [RS]
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MIKIDS!: Mammals
This Web site is just one of many from MIKIDS!, "an award-winning K-8 educational site" created by educational Web designer Carolyn Gundrum. This site introduces placental, marsupial, and monotreme mammals via an informative, kid-friendly collection of Web links. No lesson plans are provided, but with its diverse selection of charismatic animals and links to reliable sites such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Oakland Zoo, this site should serve as a useful learning resource for younger kids. The larger MIKIDS! Web site includes numerous educational activities and lesson plans in a variety of subjects. [RS]
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Endeavour Botanical Illustrations
Visitors to this Web site from the Natural History Museum in London can retrace the scientific voyage of the HMS Endeavor (1786-1771) through the work of artist Sydney Parkinson and others working from Parkinson's original sketches. Parkinson's beautiful botanical illustrations from the voyage are nearly all represented in this online collection, which also provides a detailed history of the collection, the expedition, and the people involved. Visitors may browse the collection by country using an interactive map of the Endeavor voyage or a dropdown menu, or search the collection by botanical name. [RS]
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MEDLINEplus: Medical Dictionary
MEDLINEplus, the consumer health Web site from the National Library of Medicine, had recently added an online version of Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary. Added in response to feedback from MEDLINEplus users, the medical dictionary provides definitions, correct spelling, and pronunciation help for 60,000 words and phrases used by healthcare professionals. The dictionary also offers "biographies of individuals who have given their names to the language of medicine." With the addition of this medical dictionary, MEDLINEplus becomes an even more valuable resource for staying informed about one's health. [RS]
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Flesh and Bone: A New Generation of Scientists Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life [RealPlayer, WinMedia]
The online version of the March 2003 issue of National Geographic Magazine (NGM) includes this interesting multimedia feature about "a new generation of scientists [that] is using computer modeling and a better understanding of living animals to bring dinosaurs back to life -- virtually." In addition to the feature article, the Web site includes an online-exclusive image gallery, "On Assignment" notes from National Geographic writers and photographers, related Web links and other resources, and a short video presenting "an insider's look at how the photographer put the bite into the NGM cover shot of a model T. rex skull." This is a great Web site for any visitor, but should especially appeal to dinosaur lovers, computer and engineering types, and photographers. [RS]
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Molecular Expressions Photo Gallery: Burgers and Fries
The Optical Microscopy Division of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory -- a joint venture of Florida State University, the University of Florida, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory -- presents this uncommon look at a familiar favorite. Burgers and Fries, just one of many fantastic image galleries from the Molecular Expressions Web site, shows how "this delightful classic is just as beautiful as it is tasty." Visitors will find a microscopic examination of cooked meat; wheat; onion, lettuce, and potato tissue; and crystallized cheese proteins. These fascinating photos are accompanied by an entertaining historical account of the burger and fries combo. [RS]
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Biodiversity Explorer
Part of Museums Online: South Africa, Biodiversity Explorer "is devoted to showing and explaining the diversity, biology, and interactions of life on earth, particularly the life we have here in southern Africa." Biodiversity Explorer provides an astounding number of information-rich Web pages covering regional plants, scorpions and spiders, insects, vertebrates, and marine life. Visitors will find detailed information (with references) and lots of photos within these pages, each with numerous hypertext links for exploring related topics. Visitors may browse the Web site by category or use the taxon index to locate species of interest. Don't know where to start? The Spotlight feature offers a few interesting examples, such as water bears that can remain dormant for over 100 years and how the San hunters use poisonous beetles for the tips of their arrows. [RS]
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BBC Nature: Green Living [Flash]
This BBC Web site offers readers an online guide to environmentally-sound lifestyle choices. While created for UK residents, anyone interested in learning more about "green living" can take advantage of this comprehensive, well-designed Web site. The site includes a number of informative Green Guides (Energy, Food, Gardening, Holidays, Recycling, Transport, and Christmas), each packed with facts, consumer tips, relevant Web links, and more. The Web site even includes an interactive game -- a fun way to get kids involved in everyday conservation. [RS]
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The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University: Plants
The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University provides this in-depth Web site featuring plants found at the Arboretum and related information. Visitors to this site will find sections featuring selected plants at the Arboretum, collections management, on-site projects, a plant-information hotline, and a detailed table listing bloom times for dozens of plants; guidelines for adjusting dates for localities beyond New England are provided. The Featured Plants section, for example, includes a look at 18 of the Arboretum's 600+ trees and shrubs over 100 years old and a detailed introduction to the art of bonsai. Plant lovers anywhere should enjoy this interesting and nicely presented Web site. [RS]
[Back to Contents] Restoring Aging Bones
This in-depth article from the March 2003 online issue of Scientific American takes a close look at osteoporosis and current related research. The 5-page article carefully explains the physiology of osteoporosis and details research regarding novel prevention and treatment options. The article, which may be emailed or downloaded in a printer-friendly version, also includes references for further exploring the subject. This Web site may not offer many bells and whistles, but does provide an authoritative source of up-to-date information on a common and potentially devastating medical condition. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Snake Venom
1. Poisonous Animals: What is Snake Venom?
2. World's 10 Most Deadliest Snakes
3. Types of Snakes and Venom Properties
4. Nature: The Serpent's Tooth
5. Venom: A Poisonous Soup [RealPlayer, WinMedia]
6. Is Rattlesnake Venom Evolving?
7. BBC News: Snake Venom for Heart Attacks
8. Howard Hughes Medical Institute: Relative of Snake Venom May Aid in Understanding of Nicotine Addiction
The following collection of Web sites explores the properties and novel medical uses of snake venom. The first Web site (1), a ThinkQuest prizewinner, is one part of a well-crafted and informative guide to the earth's poisonous plants and animals. This particular Web page offers a good introduction to snake venom, including a table detailing the effect and concentration of the different proteins found in venom that can kill or paralyze prey. The next Web site comes from The Reptile House, a commercial breeder and supplier of reptiles and amphibians, and presents photos and facts about the ten deadliest snakes on the planet (2). A straightforward description of the three types of venomous snakes (opisthoglyphs, proteroglyphs, and solenoglyphs) and a short overview of the properties of venom is available from, a privately hosted Web site (3). The next Web site comes from the online companion to the PBS Nature documentary: The Serpent's Tooth (4). The site contains an engaging article about the intrepid Bill Haast, director of the Miami Serpentarium, who "has been bitten by venomous snakes more than 160 times -- and lived to tell the tale." Howard Reinert, another snake biologist and (surprise!) snakebite victim, relates his experiences with a "dry" bite and the real thing in the next Web site from (5). The site also includes audio segments of experts discussing the physiological effects of snake venom and what to do if bitten by a rattlesnake. Is rattlesnake venom evolving? Research suggests that North American rattlesnake venom has become increasingly potent -- the focus of an interesting article from the American Museum of Natural History (6). The article also provides a detailed introduction to rattlesnakes and their deadly venom. Scientists around the world have been exploring the possible medicinal uses of venom, and not just for antivenin. The last two Web sites relate just some of the work being done in this area. The BBC news article recounts efforts to determine whether certain snake venoms contain chemicals that could prevent heart attacks and strokes (7). Likewise, scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Center (8) have found a protein in snake venom that could offer a way to explore how nicotine and other drugs turn on the "pleasure centers" of the brain. [RS]
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