The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 9

May 2, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Northern California [.zip]
The US Environmental Protection Agency presents this comprehensive dataset for northern California as part of a pilot study for its Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP). EMAP offers easy-to-use, GIS-based land use and environmental data designed to help resource managers better "understand and assess the status and trends in the condition of our ecological resources and the stressors affecting these systems." The northern California dataset includes detailed maps and information on hydrography, land cover, roads, vegetation, soils, land ownership, and so on -- all of which may be downloaded. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

The New York Botanical Garden: The Americas Base Map [.doc]
Researchers at City University of New York and the New York Botanical Garden have developed a digital base map for the Neotropical flora -- a "multifaceted approach to mapping species distributions [that] will facilitate the work of systematists and floristicians." The map -- which represents the first time "a disparate set of high-quality, botanically relevant environmental and geographic data" has been integrated as a single, easy-to-use digital resource for the Neotropical flora -- is freely available for research purposes to anyone affiliated with a biology-related nonprofit organization. The Web site also provides a full-text article on the Americas Base Map and contact information for ordering the map. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Lemurs of Madagascar [.pdf, QuickTime]
This Web site complements a CD-ROM on the lemurs of Madagascar produced by the Expert Center for Taxonomic Investigation, a UNESCO-sponsored NGO working to "improve the general access to and promote the broad use of taxonomic and biodiversity knowledge worldwide" through computer-aided information systems. Not all features from the CD-ROM are available on this Web site, but visitors will certainly find a substantial amount of online information on Malagasy lemurs, including an overview of 63 lemur species and subspecies, citation information for thousands of related references, beautiful Audubon-style plates, and more. Because the sidebar menu and the format of the Web pages can sometimes be confusing, the site is easiest to explore from the Welcome page. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Developmental Physiology
This Web portal offered through the University of North Texas aims to "promote a sense of identity and connectivity among interested scientists and students active in the burgeoning field of developmental physiology." Users will find a wide array of useful features and services, including developmental physiology news, career and funding information, regularly updated links to related publications, a searchable database of developmental physiology researchers worldwide, op-ed pieces, hundreds of related links, and more. An helpful intra-site search engine has been recently added. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Plant Diversity in Paraguay
This Web site contains a database of Paraguayan plant specimens from the Natural History Museum herbarium in London, as well as all records of collections made during a biological inventory of the Mbaracay Forest Nature Reserve (a project funded by the UK government's Darwin Initiative). In addition to the database, which is searchable by taxonomy or geography via convenient dropdown menus, visitors will find detailed background information on the Darwin Initiative, the vegetation of Paraguay, and the Mbaracay Forest Nature Reserve. The site's attractive and well-designed interface is an added bonus. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Vulpia: Contributions from the North Carolina State Herbarium [.pdf]
Vulpia, named in honor of the late Dr. W.B. Fox (fox: latin vulpes), is an online botanical publication produced by the herbarium at North Carolina State University. The database currently includes six papers published in 2002. Although other botanical topics and wider geographic coverage are also considered, Vulpia primarily covers issues of taxonomy, floristics, ecology, nomenclature, ornamental plants, and biogeography as related to North Carolina and the southeastern US. Professional botanists and amateur plant enthusiasts alike are encouraged to take advantage of this peer-reviewed publication. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

ReefBase: A Global Information System on Coral Reefs
ReefBase, a comprehensive Web portal for information on coral reefs, is presented by the World Fish Center based in Malaysia. Intended for use by reef managers, scientists, and the general public, ReefBase aims to "facilitate better understanding of the interdependence between humans and coral reefs, in order to benefit management and conservation efforts of these important resources." ReefBase provides information on coastal and marine resources, coral reef threats, resource management practices, maps and photos, references, and more. Users can quickly search for information organized by country or territory using a convenient dropdown menu. ReefBase is frequently updated; one recent addition is a status report for coral reefs of the southwestern Indian Ocean. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Database of Human Disease Causing Gene Homologues in Dictyostelium discoideum
This recently updated Web site from the San Diego Supercomputer Center offers "a collection of Dictyostelium genes homologous to human disease associated genes in this favorite eukaryotic model organism for biomedical research." Data in the Human Disease Causing Gene Homologues (HDGDD) catalog may be easily found with a number of search features, and numerous links to related projects and bioinformatics tools are also provided. [RS]
[Back to Contents]


Marine Reserves: Where Do You Fit In? [.pdf, Flash]
Environmental conservation is seldom a straightforward endeavor. With this well-designed, interactive simulation from the JASON Foundation for Education, students get a taste of the complexity involved in designing a marine reserve using the case study of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary located off the California coast. In the simulation, students familiarize themselves with the background and concerns of various stakeholder groups, and then explore the issue from a particular viewpoint. The end goal is a marine reserve -- presented in map form -- that addresses the needs of all stakeholders while achieving the primary conservation aim. The site also provides an 11-page classroom activities guide, offering detailed lesson plans that make full use of the simulation and even have students design a management plan for area on school grounds or nearby. Suggested grade levels for the simulation and supplementary activities are not provided, but the activities are rated by level of complexity. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Exploring Caves [.pdf]
This Learning Web unit from the US Geological Survey offers an engaging, interdisciplinary exploration of caves for grades K-3. Although Exploring Caves is listed as a life science unit, it encompasses a wide range of fields: earth science, hydrology, mapping, biology, and anthropology. The unit is linked by an original read-aloud story about the adventures of two kids who get lost in a cave and are helped out by a talking bat (why not?). Each chapter comes with a set of lessons and activities "designed to stimulate thinking and new ways of looking at the world." [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Brookfield Zoo: In Search of Ways of Knowing [Flash]
In Search of Ways of Knowing is an online Adventure Trail from the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. The Adventure Trails each offer an "interactive journey to explore conservation efforts worldwide." Visitors to this Web site -- geared toward kids but fun for anyone -- will find a lively, virtual journey to the village of Epulu in central Africa's Ituri forest. With a choose-your-own-adventure-style educational game format, players hide from a rampaging elephant, snack on beetle grubs, and identify animal sounds in the dark of night. Players also learn about the people and wildlife of the area (with help from your Forest Factbook and the four local kids you meet on the way). Moral of the story: have respect for other ways of knowing. Great graphics and diverse story options make this fun Web site worth a repeat visit. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Two Human Development Lesson Plans from Science NetLinks
Growth Stages 1: Infancy and Early Childhood [.pdf]
Growth Stages 2: Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence [.pdf]
These lesson plans from Science NetLinks form a two-part series designed to introduce students (grades 3-5) to human growth and development from infancy through puberty. Each lesson contains detailed background information, discussion questions, and other resources that help students learn about the "key physical stages or milestones, which are research and science-supported indicators that help to track the progress of a child's physical development at different stages of life." Using these lesson plans in the classroom could prove a popular choice, as "research shows that children are fascinated by films and stories about early stages of human development and they are particularly intrigued by comparisons of themselves now and earlier." Each lesson plans comes with a comprehensive teaching guide. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Daily Lesson Plan: Gasping for Truth
This timely lesson plan from the New York Times (NYT) Learning Network has students explore current global responses to the SARS epidemic. Designed for grades 6-8 and 9-12, the lesson plan has students evaluate what they already know about infectious respiratory diseases, and then read and discuss a recent SARS-related NYT article to learn how international governments are responding to the crisis. The Web site provides in-depth discussion questions for class activities, homework ideas, links to Web resources, and evaluation guidelines for teachers. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Antigen-Antibody Testing: A Visual Simulation or Virtual Reality
Don't let the title of this Web site mislead you... this lesson plan contains a good, old-fashioned lab exercise, not an online simulation. Provided through the American Phytopathological Society, the exercise "demonstrates the biological phenomenon of the formation of a precipitate when an antigen reacts with an antibody," but uses inorganic salts in lieu of real (read expensive) viruses and antibodies. Detailed background information and lab procedures are provided, and the materials required are those commonly found in chemistry stockrooms. The Web site also includes study questions (answers provided) and a list of useful resources. A FAQ page may be forthcoming. A specific grade range is not mentioned, but this lesson plan could be a great addition to any life science course that covers the concepts of viruses, antigens, and antibodies. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

AskERIC: Germs, Germs, Everywhere! [.pdf]
Created for students in kindergarten through second grade, this AskERIC lesson plan submitted by R. Hoffman of the University of Pittsburgh teaches students how to properly wash their hands and how germs affect the human body. The exercise starts with a round of the ABC song, which lasts about as long as a proper hand washing should, and continues with hand-washing practice using lotion that glows under black light to check for missed spots (who could resist that?). Discussion questions help students further explore the concept of germ prevention. The Web site also includes extension activities, useful links, and a downloadable tip sheet for teachers. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Adelaide Zoo Education Service [.pdf, Flash]
This colorful, animated Web site comes from the Adelaide Zoo Education Service -- a partnership between the Zoo and Australia's Department for Education, Training, and Employment. While much of the site's content is designed to complement a field trip to the Adelaide Zoo, the Species List offers photos and descriptions of animals found in deserts, grasslands/ woodlands, rainforests, and aquatic environments around the world. The Species List may be accessed from the menus for students, teachers, or the public (which are all fun to visit for the graphics alone). Visitors may also download a 4-page introduction to zoo careers. Beware of the rude hippo guarding the public menu. [RS]
[Back to Contents]


A Look at Pain [Flash]
Once you get beyond the creepy Twin Peaks-ish background music and the disembodied voices, you'll find a very well-presented and comprehensive (if not particularly in-depth) introduction to the complex and poorly understood world of chronic pain. This Canadian Broadcasting Company Web site is the online companion to "A Disease Called Pain" -- an episode from the documentary series The Nature of Things. In addition to an overview of program content, the site offers general information about pain: why we feel it, how we treat it, the difference between chronic and acute pain, and so on. Visitors may also listen to a series of short interviews about living with chronic pain from a former teacher suffering from fibromyalgia. The site provides an extensive set of Web links to reliable resources on the topic. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

New Zealand Penguins
Created and maintained by Dave Houston -- a Department of Conservation ranger in Oamaru, New Zealand -- this appealing Web site introduces the penguins of New Zealand (and elsewhere, to a lesser extent). Why are penguins black and white? What do you call a group of penguins? How do penguins sleep? The FAQ section (one of the better ones the Internet has to offer) answers these questions and many more, while including a related photo for each. The site also provides natural history information for seven penguin species; lists locations for viewing both wild and captive penguins around the world (relevant Web links provided); details penguin threats and conservation; and more. Two Webcams broadcast images from the Oamaru blue penguin colony. Visitors will also find a detailed overview of penguin-related research that Houston has participated in. Quite comprehensive and fun to browse -- a great Web site for a charismatic critter. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections: Salmon Collection
The University of Washington presents the Salmon Collection, an online digital collection of "documents, photographs, and other original material describing the roots of the salmon crisis in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries." Users may search for items by keyword or browse the entire collection, organized into the following categories: Native Americans, Traps and Fishwheels, Salmon Industry in Washington, Salmon on the Columbia River, Fish Drying, Salmon Industry in Alaska, Salmon Canneries, and Salmon Hatcheries. For a brief overview of the salmon crisis in the Pacific Northwest, click on About this Site (also provides technical information about the collection and its content). The photographs are particularly compelling. The entire collection should appeal to ecologists and history buffs alike. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

The Lupus Site
This Web site, run independently by Joanne Forshaw of Wigan, England, offers an extensive, online information resource on the autoimmune disease lupus. Readers will find over 150 pages of clear and current information about lupus, covering symptoms, treatment, diagnosis and tests, complementary therapies, related news, and much more. The FAQ page is a good starting point for exploring the site. Users will have to put up with a steady stream of popup ads, but interested users should find the Lupus Site is worth this small inconvenience. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Save the Rhino
This Web site is the homepage for Save the Rhino International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to (you guessed it) protecting rhino populations in the wild. The organization provides support for community conservation projects in Asia and Africa, and raises funds by entering a Save the Rhino team in major marathons and other competitions -- with a team member dressed in a 7-foot high rhino costume. Visitors to this Web site will find a ton of information on Save the Rhino projects, as well as general information on the five species of rhino -- all of which are critically endangered or conservation dependent. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

World Health Organization: Health Situation in Iraq [.pdf]
This World Health Organization (WHO) Web site provides this authoritative source of information on the current state of public health in Iraq. The site features daily press briefings and press releases from WHO, as well as six reports on the following topics: the potential impact of the Iraqi conflict on health, emergency and humanitarian action, guidelines and standards for the control of communicable diseases during the Iraq crisis, mental health in emergencies, optimal feeding of infants and young children during emergencies, and Iraq-specific health statistics and contact information. While content is geared toward those involved in Iraqi public health issues, this Web site is also a valuable resource for the general reader wanting timely information about on-the-ground realities in Iraq. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film
This Web site is the online companion to the PBS American Experience program "Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film." The film and the Web site offer an intriguing exploration of US environmental history in the context of Adams's life and work, including the closing of the American wilderness and conflicts between economic growth and conservation. Visitors will find a variety of informative features on this site, including an in-depth look at the documentary, loads of related references, and Web-only special features such as an interview with the chief park interpreter for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. And of course, visitors may enjoy a gallery of photos by Ansel Adams -- a name synonymous with nature photography. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Bye Bye Birdie: Vilifying a Virus [QuickTime]
SARS may currently dominate the headlines, but the Whyfiles takes another look at another fast-spreading viral disease: West Nile. West Nile has spread to 44 US states and beyond, and while it can be fatal to humans, it remains primarily a bird disease. The Whyfiles offers an in-depth exploration of West Nile in North American birds, tackling the questions "How far? How fast? What's next? Who's next?" The report also explains how researchers conduct bird studies, such as lab and field studies, anecdotal observations, and so on. Visitors may also view a QuickTime interview with Paul Slota of National Wildlife Health Center. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Topic In Depth

Biological Warfare
1. Mayo Clinic: Biological, Chemical Weapons
2. NewScientist: Bioterrorism and Bioweapons Special Report
3. The Anthrax Genome Spills its Deadly Secrets
4. Got Duct Tape? The Truths and Tales of Biological Warfare
5. Dark Winter: A Bioterrorism Exercise [.pdf]
6. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism
7. MEDLINEplus: Biodefense and Bioterrorism
8. MEDLINEplus: Chemical Weapons [.pdf]
The following Web sites offer reliable information resources addressing biological warfare and related issues. The first Web site, from the Mayo Clinic, provides a brief overview of the agents commonly used in biological and chemical warfare -- such as anthrax, tularemia, and ricin (1). Links to related Mayo or CDC Web pages are also provided for further information. The next site contains a collection of articles on bioterrorism and bioweapons from the science news magazine NewScientist, spanning a range of about 4 years (2). Geneticists have determined which genes code for virulence in anthrax bacteria; the online version of Scientific American offers a recent article on this discovery (3). The Genetics Learning Center at the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics (University of Utah) takes a look a common misconceptions about biological warfare and provides and interesting overview of biological warfare programs in the US and beyond (4). The site also introduces Dark Winter, a fictional smallpox attack scenario staged by a collaboration of research organizations in June of 2001. Readers can find out more about Dark Winter in the following Web site from the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at John Hopkins University, one of the participating organizations (5). Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, a recently launched quarterly peer-reviewed journal, may be accessed online for free (6). The journal offers "multidisciplinary analyses and a vigorous exchange of perspectives that are essential to the formulation and implementation of successful strategies to diminish the threat of bioweapons." The last two sites are from MEDLINEplus, offering detailed information and numerous links of biological (7) and chemical (8) warfare. [RS]
[Back to Contents]

Below are the copyright statements to be included when reproducing annotations from The NSDL Scout Report for the Life Sciences.

The single phrase below is the copyright notice to be used when reproducing any portion of this report, in any format:

From The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2003.

The paragraph below is the copyright notice to be used when reproducing the entire report, in any format:

Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2003. The Internet Scout Project (, located in the Computer Sciences Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides information about the Internet to the U.S. research and education community under a grant from the National Science Foundation, number NCR-9712163. The Government has certain rights in this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the entire Scout Report provided this paragraph, including the copyright notice, are preserved on all copies.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or the National Science Foundation.

Rachel Sohmer -- Editor
Ted Schroeder -- Managing Editor
Rachael Bower -- Director
Edward Almasy -- Technical Director
Max Grinnell -- Contributor
Joel Brieske -- Contributor
Cavin Leske -- Contributor
Meagan Lauing -- Contributor
Laura Boyle -- Contributor
Yasuhiro Sasahira -- Contributor
Debra Shapiro -- Contributor
David Sleasman -- Internet Cataloger
Colin Holden -- Assistant Internet Cataloger
Barry Wiegan -- Software Engineer
Pat Coulthard -- Technical Specialist
Noah Diewald -- Technical Specialist
Michael Grossheim -- Technical Specialist
Andy Yaco-Mink -- Website Designer
David Mayer -- Website Designer

For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout Project staff page.