The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 7

April 4, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Rapid Biological Inventories [.pdf]
The Environmental and Conservation Programs (ECP) division of the Field Museum has produced ten rapid biological and social inventories designed to "catalyze effective action for conservation in threatened regions of high biological diversity and uniqueness." Detailed reports and fantastic photo galleries for five inventories are available online, including recently added studies from China and Bolivia. Project overviews (including results-based recommendations for biodiversity protection and management) and complete downloadable versions of each report may be found under Results from the Field. All online materials are available in Spanish or Chinese, depending on study site. Anyone active in the conservation field, from researchers to program administrators, should find this collection of detailed and well-presented inventories of interest. [RS]
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Estuarine Health Project [.pdf]
The Web site offers a comprehensive assessment of estuarine health in southeastern Australia -- a joint project of Museum Victoria and the Australian Museum. The project aimed to 1) evaluate whether predictive computer models currently used to monitor river health can be developed for Australian estuaries; 2) evaluate the abundance-biomass comparison method; 3) collect new data to support the estuarine health assessment model; and 4) develop a standard protocol for estuarine health assessment using benthic macrofauna. Project methods and results, as well as a detailed general overview of the estuarine ecosystem and benthic macrofauna, are available to any reader and may of particular interest to those in environmental monitoring as potential research models. [RS]
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Desert Fishes Council [.mpg]
Desert fish biologists have a one-stop information resource in this comprehensive Web site from the Desert Fishes Council (DFC), an organization established to "preserve the biological integrity of desert aquatic ecosystems and their associated life forms, to hold symposia to report related research and management endeavors, and to effect rapid dissemination of information concerning activities of the Council and its members." Any interested user may freely access field-related news and conference proceedings; ten desert fish videos; the Desert Fishes Council Listserv; and a number of databases offering taxonomic information, distribution maps, photos, and more. [RS]
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Floralp: Information Platform of Plant Ecology in the European Mountain System
The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow, and Landscape Research offers Floralp, "an information platform of research activities and result on plant diversity of European mountain systems." With dozens of external Web links organized by information source, ecological topic, or geographical location, Floralp offers plant ecologists a convenient way to quickly find information on European plant diversity and related research activities. Users may also add a relevant Web site to the Floralp database using the provided Web form. Detailed annotations accompany each Web site included in Floralp, which also indicate language and country of origin (majority of sites available in English). [RS]
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APIRS Bibliographic Database
The Aquatic, Wetland, and Invasive Plant Information Retrieval System (APIRS) from the University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants has recently improved its free bibliographic database, an invaluable resource that has already "been used many thousands of times by researchers, government agencies, companies, teachers, students and private groups and individuals." The database includes annotated citations for over 58,000 related articles, reports, and books dating from the 18th century to the present (and representing a number of languages). Useful search tips and examples make navigating the database headache-free, although APIRS staff members will also perform searches for any user on request. [RS]
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The fMRI Data Center
Maintained by Dartmouth College, the fMRI Data Center serves as a repository for the functional magnetic resonance imaging data for peer-reviewed, published studies. Intended to help the fMRI research community "speed the progress and the understanding of cognitive processes and the neural substrates that underlie them," the fMRI Data Center is in the process of making all datasets and associated material completely Web-accessible. Currently, the datasets (36 total, with more added every year) are available as free CDs, which the fMRI Data Center will ship directly to interested users. The fMRI Data Center enthusiastically urges researchers to submit peer-reviewed articles and underlying datasets, and may eventually accept any pertinent data. [RS]
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Ecological Flora of the British Isles at the University of York
This botanical database, offered through the University of York with support from the British Ecological Society and the Natural Environment Research Council, contains data for over 1700 species found in the British Isles. Users have a number of search options with this database, including searches by plant taxonomy (both scientific and common name searches possible), ecological and morphological characteristic, and plant diseases and pests. All search options -- excluding common name -- use plant/ disease/ insect scientific name only. Some datasets are as yet incomplete, but users are encouraged to submit missing data. [RS]
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This separation science and chromatography Web portal from publisher John Wiley and Sons expects "to become the definitive separation science resource on the Internet, offering a wealth of valuable information, resources, and services." separationsNOW addresses electrophoresis, chromatography, and other separation techniques with frequently-updated news, Web links, conference announcements, technique-specific discussion forums, educational features, and much more. Free registration is required to access advanced features, such as a selection of free full-text articles in the online library. [RS]
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Marine Invertebrate Larvae: A Study in Morphological Diversity
In this Web site, courtesy of Dr. Thurston Lacalli of the University of Saskatchewan, visitors will find an excellent collection of marine invertebrate larvae images. Consisting mainly of transmission electron micrographs, the image gallery may be accessed through a graphical or text-only menu. The phylogenetic tree layout of the graphical menu helps familiarize visitors with invertebrate classification. Lacalli also provides a brief tutorial intended for students new to the topic, which addresses basic features of marine invertebrate larvae and their phylogenetic significance. The sections on protostomes and deuterstomes include loads of helpful diagrams. Altogether, this visually appealing site would be a welcome addition to college-level courses in zoology or related subjects. [RS]
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Global Climate Change Student Information Guide [.pdf]
The Global Climate Change Student Information Guide, available through Manchester Metropolitan University, presents "a comprehensive work for geology, geography, and environmental science students studying climate change." This online text offers detailed chapters covering the causes of climate change, the empirical study of climate, climate modeling, paleoclimatic change, and contemporary climate change. While topics covered lean necessarily toward the earth sciences rather than life sciences, this Web site should prove a valuable resource for students of the highly interdisciplinary environmental sciences. One drawback: the site does not include any images or diagrams. [RS]
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Dinosaurs [.pdf]
The ever-popular dinosaur is the subject of this educational Web site from the Royal British Columbia Museum. The detailed yet kid-friendly introductory pages familiarize students with dinosaur anatomy and classification, geologic time, and the myths and legends that have sprung up as we've tried to make sense of these remarkable creatures. Seven lesson plans (ranging from grades K through 5) are available, covering topics such as dinosaur eggs, coprolites, scientific nomenclature, and more. The Museum also provides brief fact sheets for 16 different dinosaurs, offering pronunciation help, scientific name translation, and a general overview of each. [RS]
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Scientific American Frontiers: Calls of the Wild [.pdf, RealPlayer, WinMedia]
As always, PBS offers a fantastic companion Web site to its popular series Scientific American Frontiers, this time for the episode "Calls of the Wild" (aired April 1, 2003). Viewers join researchers as they "listen in on animal communication as birds, bees, bugs, bats and elephants flirt, eavesdrop, and even give directions." Three lesson plans are available, as well as an answer key and a quiz based on the program, each for grades 5-8. The site also includes a number of Web-exclusive features, such as an in-depth interview with a spider biologist (cool audio clip of spider songs provided), a chance to email the scientists featured in the program (before April 8, 2003), and an interactive quiz about pair-bonding rituals (complete with detailed answers and related links for each question). As usual, visitors may view the entire episode online, and this is one that shouldn't be missed! [RS]
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Daily Lesson Plan: Fighting the War in Your Head
This Daily Lesson Plan from The New York Times Learning Network offers a fascinating exploration of the work of psychiatrist Dr. Jonathon Shay, whose approach to treating soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder is "part neuroscience, part evolutionary theory, part psychiatric empathy, and part Homer." The lesson plan -- for grades 6-8 and 9-12 -- centers on a recent New York Times article about Shay and his research (story link provided), and has students role play as psychiatrists treating a fictional soldier returning from war. The lesson includes thoughtful discussion questions, homework ideas, extension activities, assessment guideline, vocabulary, and more. Altogether, this timely and engaging lesson provides a genuinely interesting, interdisciplinary experience. [RS]
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Genetic Origins: Mitochondrial Control Region [Flash, QuickTime, RealPlayer]
The Dolan DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory presents this multi-faceted educational Web site as part of the online feature "Genetic Origins: The study of human evolution begins with your own DNA." The Mitochondrial Control Region Web pages provides a comprehensive introduction (including first-hand lab experience) to the same methods researchers use to retrace the common maternal lineage of modern humans and our relationship to Neandertal. The site includes detailed introductory material (complete with animations and a video interview with the director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute); procedures for DNA isolation, amplification, and analysis; in-depth lab exercises; and much more. College level or advanced high school biology classes with sufficient time and resources shouldn't hesitate to take full advantage of the challenging activities and opportunities offered through this Web site. [RS]
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NOVA Online: Search for a Safe Cigarette [Flash]
The NOVA documentary "Search for a Safe Cigarette" recounts the tobacco industry's decades-long attempt to engineer a safer cigarette. This companion Web site offers a number of interesting and informative features, as well as a lesson plan for grades 5-8 and 9-12. The interactive feature titled Anatomy of a Cigarette offers a fascinating tour of the conventional cigarette and two "safer" versions. The Web site also includes: a review of the safer cigarette's "checkered pedigree;" an animated introduction to physiological effect of nicotine on the brain; and a virtual laboratory where visitors can explore the basics of combustion. The lesson plan, which may be used independently of the NOVA program, has students examine government action on tobacco issues and consider the role of government in public health. [RS]
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Insect Orders and Common Families
This straightforward Web site supplements lab sections of Principles of Entomology, a University of Florida insect survey course. Maintained by John Foltz of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, this recently updated site offers a collection of Web links for illustrations and descriptions of insect morphology. Organized by order and family, the links lead to University of Florida or other Web pages useful in identifying the orders and families of common insects. Some selections provide images only, while others offer detailed information. Foltz encourages users to contribute "more and better images illustrating the identifying characters, diversity, and beauty of insects." [RS]
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Earth Day Network [.pdf]
Every spring, get ready for Earth Day with a visit to the official Web site of the Earth Day Network Web site, "an alliance of 5,000 groups in 184 countries working to promote a healthy environment and a peaceful, just, sustainable world." The Web site contains a wealth of information and resources designed to increase public awareness of important environmental issues and provide opportunities for individuals and communities to get involved. Visitors may read about current Earth Day Network campaigns and programs, as well as review environmental issues and threats with a collection of fact sheets and other resources. In all, this comprehensive and well-organized site is definitely worth a visit for anyone who would like to learn more about environmental problems and environmental activism. [RS]
[Back to Contents] The Microbiology Information Portal
Microbiologist Al Chan has scoured cyberspace for reliable microbiology resources, and has come up with this extensive and frequently updated library of Web links -- a welcome alternative to tedious Internet searches. Visitors will find links to related news and feature articles, FAQs geared toward the non-microbiologist, and other resources organized by topic. A selection of interesting Web links are featured on the main page, which should keep the casual visitor entertained. Those seeking specific information may use Site Search to quickly find links of interest (a Google search is also possible from this Web site). [RS]
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Two On Water Resources
Nature: Global Water Crisis
International Year of Freshwater 2003 [.pdf]
As mentioned in the first Web site -- a free Web Focus from the journal Nature -- over one billion people in the world already lack access to clean water, a crisis that will only intensify as the global population swells and freshwater resource continue to dwindle. Nature offers an analysis of the situation with news stories, features and editorials, interactive graphics, and an archived article from the journal. The second Web site, from the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), provides readers with a mountain of information and resources on the topic, focused primarily on what individuals can do to help in both everyday life (water conservation tips) and community activism. This site is also available in French and Spanish. [RS]
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PBS: The Secret World of Sharks and Rays [RealPlayer]
The PBS television series Nature recently explored the "mystery shrouding fascinating -- and often fearsome -- creatures" in "The Secret World of Sharks and Rays." This companion Web site offers a number of online features, including feature articles on recreational shark diving, shark and ray diversity, and more. The site also provides a video preview of the program, featuring a segment on the characteristics of sharks and rays that set them apart from other fish. Interesting and informative (but not overly detailed), this Web site is worth a look for any audience. [RS]
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Centers for Disease Control: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
Visitors to this Web site from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will find a current and reliable source of information about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The FAQs section offers a general overview of the disease and recent outbreak -- a good starting point for finding the facts behind the headline news. The site also offers recent CDC guidelines and recommendations geared toward medical professionals, travel advisories and related concerns, and links to World Health Organization and other international resources (WHO is coordinating the international investigation of the SARS outbreak). [RS]
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The Whyfiles Spring Break Edition: Bad News on Skin Cancer
You are unlikely to meet anyone these days who has never heard that UV radiation from the sun can cause skin cancer, but scientific inquiry into this unfortunate fact is far from over. This Whyfiles feature offers an in-depth explanation of the sun-skin cancer connection, beginning with a highly readable, explanatory introduction to UV radiation, forms of skin cancer, and the ozone layer. This background information sets the groundwork for the next section, an intriguing look at epidemiological skin cancer studies with results that are both frightening and counterintuitive -- that is, before the Whyfiles writers seamlessly step in and turn the story into a (surprisingly painless) explanation of meta-analysis, confounding variables, and experimental bias. Even dedicated math-haters should like it. [RS]
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Environmental Protection Agency: Radon [.pdf]
The Indoor Air Quality division of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presents this Web page dedicated to information about radon, the colorless and odorless radioactive known to cause lung cancer. In addition to general resources on radon (including a guide to reducing radon levels in the home), visitors will find information on how to obtain a free educational video (Breathing Easy: What Home Buyers and Sellers Should Know About Radon) recently released by the EPA. Geared primarily toward homebuyers and sellers (as well as real estate professionals), this video thoroughly reviews radon science, lung cancer risk, home inspection, how to build a new home radon-resistant, and more. [RS]
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Ecological Emergency!: Centuries of Overfishing Push Ecosystems to the Brink [QuickTime]
This Web site from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography presents an in-depth feature story about the havoc wreaked on marine ecosystems by overfishing. The article centers on the work of Scripps scientists Jeremy Jackson, whose research has appeared on the cover of the journal Science and includes an interesting section on the various sources of Jackson's data (paleoecological records from marine sediments, archaeological records from human coastal settlement, etc). Another section featuring the Center for Marine Biodiversity Conservation contains, in addition to a related article, two QuickTime movies: What is Marine Biodiversity? and How do you Study Marine Biodiversity? The articles in this Web site are a bit lengthy for casual browsing, but anyone interested in marine environmental issues should find the site engaging. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Bird Migration
1. Winged Migration [Flash]
2. Migratory Bird Center: Bird of the Month: Rusty Blackbird
3. Movements of Bird Populations
4. Migrating Birds Know No Boundaries
5. BBC Science Shack: How do Migrating Birds Know Where to Go?
6. NOVA: Night Creatures of the Kalahari: Migrating Birds [.aiff, .wav, RealPlayer]
7. Operation Migration
8. Hot Spots for Birders
The first Web site (1) from Sony Picture Classics presents the official home page for "Winged Migration," the new, Academy-award nominated documentary from director Jacques Perrin that follows the epic migrations of birds worldwide using innovative techniques to capture amazing migration footage. Visitors to this site will find a trailer for the film, bird watching Web links, production notes, information on related environmental issues, and a very cool interactive feature showing bird migration routes. Not surprisingly, the Migratory Bird Center at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park offers a mountain of information on bird migration, including a Bird of the Month page (2). BirdSource, a partnership of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, offers this online introduction to bird migration (3), including an interactive map and case studies representing the different categories of bird movement. The next Web site is the home page for the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration located in Israel, a country on the flight path of approximately 500 million migrating birds (4). The Center offers a number of real time information features, including data from satellite transmitters, nest cameras, and more. Be warned: the birdcalls that randomly emanate from your computer speakers with this Web site are kind of spooky. The BBC Science Shack, part of Open University, provides the following Web page (5), offering a brief explanation of how migrating birds know where to go. The next Web site is part of the Web companion to the PBS NOVA documentary "Night Creatures of the Kalahari." Visitors will find an interesting account of nighttime bird migration based on the research of Cornell ornithologist Bill Evans (6). The site also includes audio clips of eleven migrating bird species. Next comes the Web site for Operation Migration, the nonprofit organization famous for pioneering the use of ultra-light aircraft to teach whooping cranes a safe migration route (7). Visitors can track the progress of the latest group of cranes, who have recently left their winter habitat to make their way back to Wisconsin. And finally, visitors can find some of the best places to watch birds, migrating or otherwise, at this straightforward Web site from (8). [RS]
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