The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 16

August 8, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


BioMedNet: Research Update
Research Update is a new BioMedNet feature offering "short, easy-to-read commentary on the latest hot papers across the life sciences." Each article is available free of charge for one week, after which an access fee is required. A convenient and customizable email alert service should make it easy stay on top of the latest updates before the free one-week window expires. The commentaries, updated daily, are written by research scientists and offer views on the significance and potential impact of featured work in 29 life science subject areas. [RS]
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Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology
The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology offers "news and information on agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified food from an independent and objective source for the public, media and policymakers." Readers should find it a timely and well-presented resource for keeping up with developments in biotechnology and the public debate it has generated. Content includes news reports, conference summaries, factsheets, and other materials intended to spur "discussion about this technology beyond conflict and toward a sustained process of constructive engagement about the regulation and use of this important tool." [RS]
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SERPIN: Southeastern Rare Plant Information Network
The Southeastern Rare Plant Information Network (SERPIN) is a joint project of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and Duke University Biological and Experimental Science Library. SERPIN "aims to make large and small museum and library collections more easily available to researchers, teachers, students, land managers, and the public in the Southeast and worldwide." The SERPIN database currently includes botanical data, literature, and many other resources for all state or federally listed plants found in Georgia, north and central Florida, and the Carolinas. [RS]
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Western Australian Museum: FaunaBase and WA FaunaList
Researchers interested in Australia's vertebrate populations can take advantage of these databases from the Western Australian Museum. FaunaBase contains vertebrate specimen records from Western Australian Museum collections as well as those from the Queensland Museum and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. FaunaBase is organized by vertebrate class and provides collapsible taxonomic trees, excellent image galleries, and a number of search options. All features are free except for Area Search, which generates species lists for a selected area. WA FaunaList "provides a comprehensive phylogenetically arranged checklist of the scientific names for each vertebrate group (amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles and fishes) recorded from Western Australia and the surrounding seas." Both databases are very nicely presented and quite easy to use. [RS]
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Biogeoinformatics of Hexacorallia
Hosted by the Kansas Geological Survey, this Web site contains a suite of databases and related tools for geospatial, taxonomic, and environmental data on hexacorals and related cnidarians. Created as part of the Census of Marine Life through the National Oceanographic Partnership Program, this incredibly comprehensive Web site is "a public information resource of data, interpretation, and methods related to the taxonomy, biogeography, and habitat characteristics or environmental correlates of the Hexacorallia and allied taxa." Available tools and databases are too numerous to list here, but each includes detailed information and instructions. Visitors to the site must register to use site features, but may also preview tools and databases as a guest. [RS]
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Human Plasma Membrane Receptome
Cell receptor researchers have an excellent online resource in the Human Plasma Membrane Receptome (HPMR) database from the Aaron Hsueh lab, part of the Division of Reproductive Biology at Stanford University Medical Center. The database contains information for over 1000 individual cell receptors and offers a number of search options. For instance, users can navigate a concept map diagram organized by receptor function or browse a phylogenetic tree with receptor families organized by evolutionary relationship. The database provides detailed information for each receptor, including PubMed citations. [RS]
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The Field Museum: 19th Century Museum Specimens Help Plan Reintroduction of Endangered Tiger Beetle [tiff]
This Web site offers a quick look at interesting work by Field Museum scientists regarding the reintroduction of a tiger beetle once commonly found along beaches from Massachusetts to the Chesapeake Bay. The researchers analyzed DNA sequences of tiger beetle museum specimens, with findings that have important implications for their reintroduction and management. The brief but engaging press release in this Web site includes a high-resolution downloadable image of tiger beetle specimens, although those with slower Internet connections may wish to pass on this rather hefty file. [RS]
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International Cancer Research Portfolio
This Web site contains a database of cancer research funded by US and U. research organizations, including the US National Cancer Institute. The International Cancer Research Portfolio (ICRP) promises to put "cancer research at your fingertips" with a convenient, centralized database of information on grants awarded by ICRP partner organizations. The database may be searched by cancer type, area of research, or funding organization. ICRP is designed for "cancer researchers, cancer funding organizations, health care policy makers, health care professionals, cancer survivors, and advocates, as well as anyone with an interest in the most current cancer research."
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Science News for Kids
Science News Online has recently launched a terrific new Web site geared toward kids ages 9-13. It offers "timely items of interest to kids, accompanied by suggestions for hands-on activities, books, articles, Web resources, and other useful materials." Nicely presented and full of engaging stories with high "gee-whiz" appeal, Science News for Kids would be a great site to bookmark and visit regularly both in the classroom and at home. Content currently emphasizes the life sciences, but the site as a whole spans all scientific fields. In addition to activities and resources mentioned above, each article in this Web site includes links to related stories from Science News Online. [RS]
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Reviled and Revered
Reviled and Revered is an excellent set of lesson plans on reptiles and amphibians, or herps, created by the Smithsonian Institution's Office of Education for grades 3-8. Reviled and Revered is just one example of the interdisciplinary, multicultural learning materials developed by the Smithsonian "to help teachers bring into their classrooms the educational power of museums and other community resources." The Web site includes five interesting lesson plans, most of which blend biology with an examination of our cultural attitudes toward herps. [RS]
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APSnet: Plants Get Sick Too [Macromedia Flash Player]
The American Phytopathological Society (APS) has recently launched an illustrated, narrated version of "Plant Pathology: Past to Present" -- a storybook written by plant pathologists to "help people and young students, in particular, to understand the importance of plant diseases." Visitors follow Heinrich Anton deBary, the "Father of Plant Pathology," on a virtual tour of plant diseases and their impact on human history. English and Spanish versions of the story cover everything from wheat rust fungus to tulip break and beyond. [RS]
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The Natural Inquirer [pdf]
The Natural Inquirer offers a fun way to learn about the research conducted by scientists with the USDA Forest Service. Online since 1998, The Natural Inquirer is written with middle school students in mind. Each issue may be downloaded or ordered free of charge and includes discussion questions and learning activities that help students and teachers make the most of the articles. The Web site also includes a section just for teachers filled with related Web resources and tips on how to use The Natural Inquirer in the classroom. The most recent issue of the journal covers wildland fire management and is available in English or Spanish. Visitors should note that some issues are available as downloads only (printed issues are out of stock). [RS]
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Daily Lesson Plan: Sizing Up Servings
With the growing concern over unhealthy eating habits in the US, this lesson plan from the New York Times Learning Network offers a timely and interesting look at the concept of serving size. The lesson helps students understand "the definition of a suggested serving size and re-define their daily food intake in terms of these recommended amounts." A recent New York Times article on the topic plus an extensive set of classroom activities form the basis of the lesson, which requires about one hour to complete. The site also offers homework ideas, links to Web resources, useful vocabulary words, extension activities, and more. [RS]
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Science NetLinks: Antibacterial Pollution [Real One Player]
Supermarket shelves groan under the weight of countless antibacterial products, but most of us have probably never stopped to consider what happens when these hand gels and dish soaps get washed down the drain. This Science Update from Science NetLinks presents an eye-opening look at the effect these products may have on fish and other wildlife. The site includes audio and a transcript of the recently aired Science Update radio spot, as well as a further explanation of the research behind the story and a set of discussion questions for use in the classroom. Links to related Web resources are also provided. [RS]
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Sci4Kids: Watermelon Just Got Better!
Sci4Kids offers a series of short, kid-friendly articles about the work done by scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This Web site contains a recent Sci4Kids feature introducing an ARS researcher and her work with watermelons. The article focuses on the phytonutrient lycopene, which may seem a bit heavy for a kid's Web site, but the author does a great job of explaining what lycopene is and why it's important. The site also includes a fun one-question quiz and a watermelon word game. [RS]
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SimForest [pdf, Microsoft Word]
This Web site contains a downloadable program and supporting educational materials designed to teach students the ecology of forest growth. Offered through Hampshire College, SimForest is available in two versions: A "black box" simulation and the more advanced "glass box" simulation, which allows inspections and modification of the underlying forest growth model. The site includes a number of lesson plans and other teaching resources for grades 7-12 and college level biology and ecology courses. The SimForest software and learning material is part of a larger NSF-funded research project -- the final report detailing project results (submitted in April 2003) can be downloaded from the section titled, About the Project. [RS]
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The Stanford Health Library [Real One Player]
The Stanford Health Library is a "free and open-to-the-public consumer health information library that provides scientifically-based medical information to help people make informed decisions about their health and health care." Users will find a mountain of health-related resources, including an extensive collection of links to informative Web pages from hospitals, research foundations, government agencies, and other reliable sources. The Health Library also includes dozens and dozens of online videos addressing common health topics, each about 30-60 minutes long. Likewise, users may create a free netLibrary account to access many of the Library's electronic books. [RS]
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National Geographic Magazine: Everybody Loves Atlantic Salmon. Here's the Catch [pdf, Macromedia Flash Player]
The July 2003 online issue of National Geographic Magazine presents an engaging overview of the state of Atlantic salmon fisheries. In addition to a short excerpt from the magazine piece, visitors will find a number of excellent Web-only features including as a six-minute multimedia special and field notes from the article's author and photographer. The site also includes a handful of online-only photos with technical notes and an interesting side story about determining the age of fish. [RS]
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BBC Science Programmes: Human Senses [Macromedia Flash Player]
This BBC Web site is absolutely packed with interactive features and cool facts about human senses. Created as the online companion to a recently-aired BBC science documentary series, this Web site offers a fun way to explore the five senses and the human brain. A set of quirky tests help visitors determine whether they are supertasters, learn about their personalities via the foods they crave, or explore the relationship between age and the smells that recall childhood. The site also includes an interactive tour of the brain and an excellent quiz-like tutorial on the major systems of the human body. Each episode in the series has a summary page and an informative factsheet. [RS]
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MedlinePLUS: Interactive Health Tutorials [Macromedia Flash Player]
This Web site from the National Library of Medicine's MedlinePLUS contains interactive health tutorials developed by the Patient Education Institute. The tutorials use easy-to-follow animations and narration to explain medical procedures and health conditions. Dozens and dozens of tutorials are available. Recent additions include tutorials on smallpox, hearing loss, bone densitometry, dust mite allergies, and many more. Users control the pace of the tutorial, and can test their understanding of the material at various points with short, interactive quizzes. [RS]
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AntCast: Web-Window on the Life of Ants
The leafcutter ant colony at London's Natural History Museum is now live on the Web, "using an infrared camera to give a secret view into the lives of these fascinating creatures. Visitors can view live video or static images of the colony as they tend to their fungus farm. Only ten users at a time can view the live video, but the static images are updated every ten seconds, so no need feel too deprived. The images are accompanied by interesting ant facts, but for more detailed information visitors will have to look elsewhere. [RS]
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Online NewsHour: Preserving Wilderness [Real One Player]
With this PBS Online NewsHour feature, visitors can explore the contentious issue of federal wilderness designations in Utah. A battle over these designations "ended when the state convinced the federal government to drop certain land restrictions, an agreement environmentalists say will endanger pristine areas." The entire segment of this NewsHour episode may be viewed online. Visitors with slower Internet connections may wish to use the audio-only feature. The site also includes a transcript and a number of links to related NewsHour stories, including a recent one that examines President Bush's environmental record during former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman's period in office.
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Bird Guide
Taking your pet bird on an airplane? Thinking of switching your psittacine bird from a seed-based to a pelleted diet? Readers will find answers to these and many other bird-related questions in a new online bird care guide from Discovery's Animal Planet. Handy drop down menus bring up detailed information on basic care, behavior and training, nutrition, first aid, and diseases. The information and advice comes from the Veterinary Services Department of Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc., and each Web page may be easily emailed or printed out for future reference. With its easy-to-use interface and wide range of topics and concerns, this bird guide should prove a useful resource for bird owners and those thinking about getting a pet bird. [RS]
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No Hiding Most Trans Fats
This recently featured article from Science News Online's Food for Thought series offers an excellent overview of bad-for-you trans fats and the recent announcement by the Food and Drug Administration that by 2006 all nutrition labels must clearly identify quantities of trans fats. In addition to the article, readers will find a detailed reference section, including links to related Science News articles (most are available free of charge). [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Culinary Microbes
1. Bottle Biology: Kimchee
2. The Origins and Ancient History of Wine
3. The Biology of Cheese Ripe for Controversy
4. Saccharomyces bayanus
5. Yogurt Bacterial Culture
6. The Science of Cooking: Bread
7. The Microbiology of Chocolate
8. Glycolysis, Cellular Respiration and Fermentation Tutorial,CellResp,Fermen.html
While the more notorious food microbes like E. coli and Salmonella may hog the spotlight, we shouldn't neglect all the lovely microorganisms that bring us such life-affirming foods as wine, cheese, and even chocolate. The following collection of Web sites presents a small sample of what these beneficial bugs do for us. In the first site, offered through the University of Wisconsin-Madison, readers will find an excellent introduction to the process of fermentation, with kimchee as a prime example (1). The next site, from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, offers a concise overview of winemaking and its long history (2). It focuses less on the microbial processes involved, but is still a worthwhile stop on our tour of the culinary microbe world. The following site contains an interesting article from Discover magazine on the biology of cheese (3), focusing particularly on the difference between cheese made with pasteurized milk and those that are not (the only cheese worth eating, some would argue). The next two Web sites come courtesy of Miloslav Kalb of Lund University in Sweden. They offer some very cool scanning electron micrographs of Saccharomyces bayanus (4), the type of yeast used in winemaking, and the beneficial bacteria found in live yogurt (5). The next site offers a look at the biology and chemistry of bread as part of an online feature on the science of cooking from San Francisco's Exploratorium (6). Microbes also play an essential role in the processing of cacao seeds for chocolate. The next site from biology professor C. Case at Skyline College offers a detailed explanation of this and other processes involved in making chocolate (7). And for those not satisfied with surface details, the next site from Louisiana State University provides an illustrated tutorial of fermentation and other cellular processes (8). [RS]
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