The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 17

August 22, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


BioMedNet: ESA 2003
BioMedNet offers a taste of the 2003 meeting of the Ecological Society of America, recently held in Savannah, Georgia. The report covers a selection of presentations from the 4-day meeting, ranging from the spread of fire ants to using the sound of snapping shrimp as an indicator of water quality. All summaries make for great reading, even for those not immediately interested in ecology. The site also includes profiles of some conference presenters, as well as links to abstracts from related articles. [RS]
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NatureServe Explorer
NatureServe Explorer is "a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals, and ecological communities of the United States and Canada." NatureServe Explorer offers a quick and convenient way to get detailed information on the conservation status, geographic distribution, taxonomy, and natural history for species of interest. NatureServe Explorer, a combined project of the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Heritage Network, focuses on rare and endangered species but covers some common ones as well. The database may be quickly searched for information on specific plants and animals or on entire ecological communities. [RS]
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UCSF Chimera: An Extensible Molecular Modeling System [pdf]
Chimera is a multi-faceted, interactive molecular graphics program, which can be downloaded from the Web site of the Computer Graphics Laboratory (CGL) at the University of California--San Francisco. Any interested user is welcome to use this molecular modeling software at no charge for academic, government, non-profit, or personal use. An astonishingly wide array of applications are possible with Chimera -- too numerous to list here. Fortunately, the site contains an extensive user's guide that even includes helpful tutorials. Users will also find a gallery of images created with Chimera -- a cool feature even for visitors not remotely interested in molecular modeling. [RS]
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The Pew Center on global Climate Change: Beyond Kyoto [pdf]
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change "brings together business leaders, policy makers, scientists, and other experts to bring a new approach to a complex and often-controversial issue." Visitors to this Pew Center Web site will find six downloadable working papers from former Kyoto Protocol negotiators and other climate experts as part of a new initiative titled Beyond Kyoto: Advancing the International Effort Against Climate Change. For the rest of August, readers may review and offer feedback on these working papers, which are intended as "think pieces" to explore the challenges facing the international climate effort. The site includes a useful glossary of important terms. [RS]
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The WayStation: The Centre for Submission, Review and Publication of Genome Variations
The Waystation is a project of the Human Genome Variation Society and offers a "consistent, flexible interface through which researchers anywhere in the world can report novel variations (both disease-causing mutations and SNPs) in any gene." Researchers may submit their unpublished variation data directly to the WayStation, which then assigns submissions to the appropriate database, such as LSDB and HGBASE among others. Also, the WayStation now assigns PubMed and Human Mutation IDs for eligible submissions. Interested users must first register with the WayStation before submitting data. [RS]
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UC Davis Center for Equine Health: 2003-2004 Research Preview
This Web site contains an overview of 15 funded research projects at the University of California-Davis Center for Equine Health. These projects represent part of the Center's latest efforts "toward the continual advancement of equine medical science," and cover equine genetics, infectious disease, pharmacology, and more. Users will find a number of detailed project summaries within each category, including study objectives, experimental approach, and anticipated benefits to the equine industry. Users may also want to check out the Web site's various links to other features from the Center, such as The Horse Report --the latest issue reviews the safe feeding of starved horses. [RS]
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e.hormone: Your Gateway to the Environment and Hormones
e.hormone serves as a "a hub of scientific and media information about environmental signaling." Hosted by the Center for Biomedical Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities, e.hormone is an excellent resource for keeping up with environmental hormone news and research from estrogen-mimicking compounds to mercury contamination and more. e.hormone offers research summaries, links to related news stories, an events calendar, and even an introductory educational section about environmental hormones and the endocrine system in general. e.hormone has recently subsumed Environmental Estrogens and Other Hormones, its former sister site also from Tulane University. [RS]
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NOAA Ocean Explorer: Windows to the Deep [pdf]
This summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sent the submersible Alvin down to explore the biology, physics, and chemistry of seafloor methane seeps off the coast of the southeastern U.S. Now educators can bring the Windows to the Deep expedition to the classroom with a set of lesson plans available at this Web site. Designed for grades 5-12, these "hands-on, inquiry-based activities include focus questions, background information for teachers, links to interesting Internet sites, and extensions." Life science topics are well-represented, with lessons focused on methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp, biodiversity in cold seep communities, chemosynthesis compared with photosynthesis, and more. [RS]
[Back to Contents] offers "free, professional online cancer care courses that aim to enhance the knowledge and skills of health professionals and anyone concerned with the care of cancer patients." The first (and so far, only) course available on covers esophageal cancer, including diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, and more. Users complete the course online at their own pace, using a range of tests to check their understanding of the material. Users may also email health experts about course content, or follow Web links for more information. The site also provides the latest cancer-related news. [RS]
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The Internet for Nature
This Web site contains a free tutorial on how to effectively mine the Internet for natural sciences info. This interactive tutorial is one of many created by the University of Bristol's Resource Discover Network (RDN). The tutorial starts with a tour of the types of Internet resources available for researching the natural world, followed by a lesson on tools used to locate these resources (like search engines and Web portals). The tutorial also includes a helpful section on how to critically evaluate Web content. Users can follow a link to access a number of other science-related tutorials --part of the RDN Virtual Training Suite. [RS]
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ImageBank [Macromedia Flash Player]
ImageBank comes from the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN), "a national network set up to promote and support high quality learning and teaching in all subject disciplines in UK higher education." ImageBank contains life sciences images available free of charge for educational purposes. Users may browse or search the collection, and download selected images complete with informative text. Teachers and students alike should find ImageBank quite useful in preparing lectures and presentations. Users are encouraged to submit their own images to the collection. [RS]
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Smithsonian Education: Under the Spell of...Spiders
In this Web site, Smithsonian Institution presents a set of lesson plans focused on spiders, which are "an endlessly fascinating and a great school subject because they offer plenty of teachable topics that span the curriculum." The lesson plans, designed for grades 3-8, focus on allaying fears and misconceptions about spiders while having students explore spider biology and natural history. The Web site includes worksheets and answer keys for each of the three lesson plans, and also provides a useful set of external links in the Resources section. [RS]
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Online Stuff for Kids [Macromedia Flash Player]
London's Natural History Museum offers this colorful Web portal to the Musuem's online, interactive features designed for kids (but fun for anyone). The Web site currently features five activities, including Sounds Like Nature, which "lets you mix animal and environmental sounds from across the world to make a piece of rhythmic music." Users can visit Quest to try to identify museum specimens through online observation and measurement. AntCast offers a virtual window into the Museum's colony of leafcutter ants, and Dino Directory is a very cool guide to 120 of the best known dinosaur species. Walking with Woodlice centers on a past survey of woodlice in the UK. There's a lot of interesting information to be had from this site; all features are very well-designed with excellent graphics and animation. [RS]
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AskERIC: Everybody Needs a Clean Environment [pdf]
This AskERIC lesson plan submitted by retired teacher Jeanne Guthrie blends science with language arts to make an interdisciplinary lesson on the environment for grades 4-8. The lesson plan has students explore ways to "reduce, reuse, and recycle" by creating a book titled "Everybody Needs a Clean Environment," modeled after Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. The lesson plan requires eight or more class periods to complete, and includes downloadable worksheets needed for each step. The Web site also lists a number of useful Internet resources that students should find handy when researching for their book. [RS]
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Bugs! [jpeg, pdf, Macromedia Flash Player, QuickTime]
Lovers of nature documentaries have reason to celebrate with Bugs!, a new "live-action nature drama filmed in awe inspiring, totally immersive 3D," now showing at IMAX theaters all over. The Web site offers loads of cool features, including a fun trailer for the movie, and extensive image gallery, and a detailed look at the making of the movie. The Web site and the movie trailer are available in different versions to accommodate visitors with slower connections. The site also includes a downloadable Teacher's Guide. [RS]
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Household Products Database
Users will find important and possibly life-saving information on over 4,000 household products in this online database from the National Library of Medicine's Specialized Information Services. The database allows users to find out what a product contains, potential health effects, and safety and handling information. Users can quickly and easily search the database by product name, ingredients, or symptom. The products search seems to be the most user-friendly, as it is organized alphabetically and by general category, e.g. home maintenance, personal care/use, auto products, and so on. [RS]
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T. Rex: The Killer Question [Macromedia Flash Player]
This is the companion Web site to a new Tyrannosaurus rex exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London. The exhibit explores evidence that this famous dinosaur may have actually been a scavenger, not the ferocious predator we all know and love. Virtual visitors can weigh some of the evidence for themselves with Predator or Scavenger? -- a multimedia feature located in the Activities section. Likewise, T. rex Trumps lets players have a "battle of the facts" with an online card game. The cards may also be printed out, and new cards will be made available over the coming weeks. The Web site also provides an interesting image gallery that lets visitors also explore how our ideas about T. rex have changed over the past century. [RS]
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Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust: The Wollemi Pine
The Web site of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia offers a detailed overview of the highly endangered Wollemi Pine, a "living fossil" that's been called "one of the greatest botanical discoveries of our time." The Web site offers detailed information about this unusual plant, including evolutionary history, horticultural propagation, conservation efforts, and more. The site also has a section that describes the many research projects in progress on the Wollemi Pine to better ensure its survival. Loads of photographs and an extensive set of related links and other references are also provided. [RS]
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Wakuzulu: Friends of the Colobus Trust
Wakuzulu: Friends of the Colobus Trust is a not-for-profit organization based in Kenya dedicated to the "conservation, preservation, and protection of primates, in particular the Angolan Black and White Colobus monkey." Wakuzulu's extensive homepage features the latest updates on the Colobus population in the Diani area, as well as detailed information about the organization's projects and initiatives. First time visitors may wish to check out the section titled Diani's Primates, which offers an excellent introduction to Colobus monkeys and other species in the area. [RS]
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Darwin Centre: Specimen of the Month
When Phase Two of the Darwin Centre at London's Natural History Museum is complete in 2007, visitors will have access to nearly 80% of the Museum's collections (as opposed to the 1% currently on display). Until then, virtual visitors can get a sneak peek at these hidden treasures here in this Web site. Every month, the Darwin Centre features a different specimen destined for Phase Two. The site includes a photo and a brief note, as well as an archive for past specimens. The site currently features the Vegetable Substances collection assembled by Sir Hans Sloane, which contains a rather odd assortment of pharmaceutical materials "including various bark samples, Spanish fly, and a mummified finger." [RS]
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Martin Rodbell: Discovering How Cells Respond to Signals
This Web site contains an online exhibit from the DeWitt Stetten, Jr., Museum of Medical Research at the National Institutes of Health. The virtual exhibit features Martin Rodbell, who received the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on hormones. The exhibit traces the history of work in this field, emphasizing not just the discoveries but the people behind the discoveries as well. Rodbell's seminal work is presented in detail from inspiration to the awarding of the 1994 Nobel Prize, complete with useful diagrams and explanations written in a straightforward and engaging manner. While the exhibit may be a bit too much for the casual browser, it is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the topic. [RS]
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Botanical Society of America: 2003 Cover Stories
This Web site from the Botanical Society of America contains a collection of photographs that appeared on the cover of the American Journal of Botany in 2003. Each image comes with a detailed description, including natural history information. Viewers will find fantastic photos of the snap trap of a Venus flytrap, pollen germination and tube growth in the snow buttercup, a silversword in Haleakala National Park, and more. The site also provides an Images & Cover Stories archive dating back to 1998. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

Edward O. Wilson
1. Alabama Communication Hall of Fame: Edward O. Wilson
2. Department of Entomology: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
3. Harvard@Home: Professor Edward O. Wilson [QuickTime, Real One Player, Windows Media Player]
4. The Connection: E. O. Wilson and the Future of Life [QuickTime, Real One Player, Windows Media Player]
5. The Connection: E. O. Wilson's Ode to Ants [QuickTime, Real One Player, Windows Media Player]
6. The Paula Gordon Show: The Science of Survival [Real One Player]
7. National Academies Press: Biodiversity [pdf]
8. Scientific American: The Bottleneck
Edward O. Wilson is a name synonymous with ants, sociobiology, and biodiversity. And it's a name that more often than not appears with a mile-long list of accolades trailing it. The University of Alabama offers a more personable introduction to this celebrated scientist, one of the University's most distinguished alums (1). The next site is the homepage of the Department of Entomology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, home to one of the "richest and most historically significant" insect collections in North America (as well as the office of Harvard Professor Emeritus Wilson). The following site from Harvard@Home features a December 2002 lecture and slide presentation given by Wilson titled "On the Relation of Science and the Humanities." The entire lecture (over an hour in length), may be viewed online (3). Likewise, the next two Web sites contain archived broadcasts of The Connection from WBUR Boston and National Public Radio, each featuring Wilson as a guest. The first is a December 2002 broadcast in which Wilson discusses issues relating to his book The Future of Life (4). The next is a more recent show (July 2003) featuring Pheidole in the New World, a new book co-authored by Dr. Wilson (5). Listeners can get even more of E. O. Wilson in an archived broadcast of The Paula Gordon show from Atlanta, Georgia (6). Wilson's 1988 book Biodiversity may be read online or printed out entirely for free from the National Academies Press (7). And Scientific American offers a lengthy excerpt from his 2002 book The Future of Life, mentioned above. [RS]
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