The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 18

September 5, 2003

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

The Florence R. Sabin Papers GOBASE: The Organelle Genome Database The Society for General Microbiology EPConDB ASO: The Association for the Study of Obesity coli BASE MediLexicon NCBI Reference Sequences
Cities under the Sea: Coral Reefs The Geee! in Genome My First Garden WISE: The Web-based Inquiry Science Environment Daily Lesson Plan: Lifestyles of the Extreme and Adapted Animal Classification APSnet: Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) or Scab Science NetLinks: Science Update: Clumsy Kid
Nature: Extraordinary Birds Genes and History Queensland Museum Explorer California Academy of Sciences: Seafood Guide Steve Jacksons Badger Pages Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: Go Wild Natural Resource Year in Review -- 2002 Taming Stress
Life on Mars

The US National Library of Medicine has recently added Florence Rena Sabin to its Profiles in Science series. Users will find digitized versions of documents, monographs, photographs, and other records of Sabin's "excellent and innovative work on the origins of the lymphatic system, blood cells, and immune system cells, and on the pathology of tuberculosis." The Sabin collection is offered free of charge to any user. [RS]
GOBASE is "a taxonomically broad organelle genome database that organizes and integrates diverse data related to organelles." Provided by the University of Montreal, GOBASE focuses on mitochondria and chloroplasts, although future versions will cover the bacterial ancestors of these organelles as well. The GOBASE Web site contains separate easy-to-use search engines for mitochondrial and chloroplast data, as well as a helpful user's guide. [RS]
The homepage of the Society for General Microbiology (SGM) is worth a visit just for its great design, as one might expect from an organization created "to advance the art and science of microbiology." Readers will also find loads of information about SGM, Europe's largest microbiological society, including its history and current scope. The site also provides the latest microbiology-related news, tons of Web links, and in-depth coverage of such microbiology hot topics as SARS and biological weapons. [RS]
EPConDB (version 3.1 released 7/31/2003) offers researchers a quick and easy way to find information about pancreatic genes. Provided by the Computational Biology and Informatics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, EPConDB pulls together data from a number of sources, including the mouse and human gene libraries created by the Endocrine Pancreas Consortium. First time users should be happy to note that the Web site includes a set of detailed tutorials for help in querying the database. [RS]
This Web site is the homepage of the UK-based Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO), which "promotes research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity" and works toward reducing the frequency of obesity in the general population. The site offers ASO-related news, as well as conference announcements and abstract of papers from past meetings. A page of links conveniently compiles obesity-related Web resources, such as links to other organizations, and recent reports. [RS]
The University of Birmingham (UK) presents coli BASE, an online resource for comparing the genomes of E. coli (5 strains), Salmonella (3 strains), and Shigella (1 strain), plus several plasmid sequences. The current version of coli BASE draws from Swissprot and GenBank, but future versions will incorporate data from novel analyses. Using coli BASE is quite straightforward -- type in a gene name, coli BASE number, or key word and the search engine will return a list of genes matching the query. [RS]
UK-based MediLexicon "has the world's online database of pharmaceutical and medical abbreviations -- over 70,000 and growing." Visitors are welcome to this free resource to quickly and easily find definitions for acronyms and abbreviations in the fields of medicine, pharmacy, biotechnology, and more. The Web site also offers the latest medical news (updated daily), which readers may choose to receive as an email newsletter every two weeks. Users are encouraged to send in any corrections or missed acronyms and abbreviations. [RS]
The National Center for Biotechnology Information presents the first full release of all NCBI Reference Sequence (RefSeq) records. RefSeq "aims to provide a comprehensive, integrated, non-redundant set of sequences, including genomic DNA, transcript (RNA), and protein products for major research organisms." The database currently includes over 785,000 proteins from numerous organisms, and additional records will be added as they become publicly available. [RS]
This Web site from Jean-Michel Cousteaus Ocean Futures Society offers a great way to learn more about the biology and ecology behind Disneys Finding Nemo. Visitors are invited to "go on an interactive adventure and visit Nemos home -- the coral reef, a busy city under the sea." The site contains six labs (narrated slide shows) coverings energy, cycles, living communities, biodiversity, adaptations, and connections in coral reefs. [RS]
It's too late to catch the Geee! in Genome exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Nature, but virtual visitors can still check out the exhibit's excellent Web companion. The Web site, which is also available in French, is loaded with cool, interactive features on the everyday side of genomics. The Geee! in Genome Web site also contains a set of downloadable lesson plans and activities for grades 5 through 12. Together with the online features, these lesson plans offer a fun and engaging way to learn about genomics in the classroom. [RS]
The Urban Programs Resource Network from University of Illinois Extension presents My First Garden: A Guide to the World of Fun and Clever Gardening. This colorful Web site was created to teach 4th graders about "the beauty of gardens, and the care involved in planning, nurturing and enjoying the benefits of gardening in a variety of spaces and places." An educator's guide provides an overview of the Web site and tips for making use of it in the classroom. My First Garden is also available in Spanish. [RS]
The Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) is "a simple yet powerful learning environment where students examine real-world evidence and analyze current scientific controversies." With WISE, students in grades 5-12 work on "exciting inquiry projects" covering a wide range of life sciences topics, such as genetically modified foods and plants grown in space. Everything you need is right there in the Web site, complete with notes and hints to help students make sense of the data. WISE is an NSF-funded project from the University of California - Berkeley, and is available in a number of languages. [RS]
The New York Times Learning Network offers an interdisciplinary lesson plan about microbes and other organisms found in extreme habitats. Designed for grades 6-12, the lesson plan focuses on new theories about the evolution and distribution of bacteria, which students can read about in a recent New York Times article (link provided -- no registration required). The lesson plan includes both classroom brainstorming and small group research. Extension activities, homework ideas, and useful Web links are also provided. [RS]
This lesson plan from is designed for grades 3-5 and uses a variety of exercises to teach students about scientific classification. Users will find detailed procedures, as well as discussion questions, extension activities, Web links, and more. A short vocabulary list comes with audio clips for pronunciation help. The lesson, which takes one class period to complete, should leave students with a better understanding of the use and purpose of classification in general, and why we group plants and animals the way we do. [RS]
The American Phytopathological Society Web site offers a new lesson on Fusarium head blight in wheat, based on research recently published in The Plant Health Instructor. No formal lesson plans are provided, but the Web site contains a detailed overview of the disease and the pathogen species that cause it, as well as its economic impacts and other issues. While the focus of the lesson is very specific, it could serve well in courses in agronomy and related subjects. [RS]
This Science NetLinks activity offers a brief but engaging look at the biology of teenage klutziness. After listening to or reading the Science Update radio segment, students then read more about the science behind the story in the Web site. A handful of discussion questions helps students review and think further about the material. The site also provides links to more information -- PBS Frontline's Inside the Teenage Brain is a site worth exploring, too. [RS]
This Web site is the online companion to Extraordinary Birds, a recent documentary from PBS's Nature. "From Kundha Kulam's vibrant monsoon marshes to the rugged American Rockies," Extraordinary Birds explores the "intimate links that people have forged with birds." This is a great site to visit whether you've seen the program or not. Users will find video clips, an interview with the editor of American Falconry magazine, a short quiz, and other engaging features. The Web site also provides links and other resources for further exploring this fascinating subject. [RS]
This site comes from the BBCs "Gene Stories...The Basics of Being," a Web feature that explores in great depth the field of genetics and how it relates to our everyday lives. In Genes and History, visitors can "find out how science can help solve historical riddles that have long perplexed historians, and how history can offer cautionary tales about the promise of science." The site also includes some interactive features like How Viking Are You?, a fun way to find out if Viking blood runs through your veins. [RS]
This Web site is the homepage of Queensland Museum in Australia. Besides the usual visitor information details, the Web site has an excellent Features section where virtual visitors can learn more about peregrine falcons, the snakes of Queensland, spiders, Queenslands frog species, and more. Each section contains pages of interesting information and cool features, such as a live cam for Frodo the peregrine falcon and a time-lapse movie of how skeleton specimens are prepared (with flesh-eating insects -- not for the squeamish). [RS]
This Web site from the California Academy of Sciences contains an updated version of the Seafood Guide -- an excellent resource for consumers who want to "be a part of the solution to the global fisheries crisis." The Web site also includes detailed information about mercury contamination in seafood, as well as links to important research on marine fisheries. The Seafood Guide may be downloaded and printed out as a handy wallet card. [RS]
With this individually-hosted Web site, badger buff Steve Jackson makes it easy "for people around the world to find out more about badgers, the threats they face, and how they can be protected." Jacksons comprehensive Web site is absolutely packed with information and photos. Fortunately, the site is also very well-organized, both by badger species and by specific issue (e.g. conservation, threats, managing badgers in urban settings, etc.). Jackson also provides detailed tips on how to watch and study badgers properly. [RS]
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew celebrates UK biodiversity with Go Wild, a summer festival that "turns the spotlight on the splendour of Britains wild species" and "shows the conservation message at the heart of Kews work." Visitors to the Go Wild Web site can take a virtual tour of the festival at Kew and at Wakehurst Place, including panoramic views of festival exhibits. The Web site is loaded with information and photos, and offers a good explanation of biodiversity at the genetic, species, habitat, and ecosystem level. [RS]
This Web site contains a recently published report by the National Park Service titled Natural Resource Year in Review -- 2002: A portrait of the year in natural resource stewardship and science in the Natural Park System. The report opens with Year at a Glance, summarizing NPS activities month-by-month in 2002. The following chapters offer detailed treatments of various park management topics, including biodiversity assessment, ecological restoration, and marine and coastal resource preservation. The entire report may be viewed online or downloaded in PDF format. [RS]
This Web site contains a feature article from the September 2003 issue of Scientific American, written by neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky. The article explores how "an emerging understanding of the brains stress pathways points toward treatments for anxiety and depression beyond Valium and Prozac." The entire 8-page story is available free of charge to any reader. [RS]
1. Destination: Mars
2. NASA News: Meteorite Yields Evidence of Primitive Life on Early Mars
3. Skeptics Prepare to Challenge Mars Revelation
4. Mars Research Inconclusive
5. NASA: Alien Life More Likely to Be Found Outside Solar System
6. NASAs Mars Exploration Program: Goal 1: Determine if Life Ever Arose on Mars
7. SETI Institute
8. Malin Space Science Systems: August 2003 MGS MOC Image Releases
This Topic in Depth celebrates the tail end of the Mars opposition with a life sciences twist. As the first Web site (1) from the UK's Earth and Space Foundation explains: "Of all the planets in our solar system, Mars has perhaps loomed the largest in the popular imagination." Small wonder, then, that the Red Planet lit up the headlines when scientists at the Johnson Space Center and Stanford University claimed to have found fossil evidence of primitive life in an ancient Martian meteorite. A NASA press release (2) describes this 1996 study, which appeared in the journal Science. Amid the hullabaloo, however, skeptics warned that the evidence was weak. An archived article from gives a sense of the opposition that formed around discovery right from the start (3). By the time the Washington Post article in the next Web site came out in 1999, the scientific community had largely rejected the original hypothesis (4). A February 2002 Web feature from NASA's Ames Research Center explains "There is a greater chance of discovering life outside our solar system than in it." The article includes hypertext links to related pages from NASA and other sources, and altogether provides a comprehensive overview of astrobiology (5). The Web site for NASAs Mars Exploration Program outlines past, present, and future missions to explore whether life ever arose on our nearest planetary neighbor (6). And what discussion of extraterrestrial life would be complete without mentioning the SETI Institute (7)? Finally, Malin Space Science Systems offers the latest images of Mars from the Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera (8).

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