The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 21

October 31, 2003

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




Topic In Depth


Census of Marine Life [pdf, QuickTime]

Three years into the most extensive biological inventory ever attempted, scientists working on the Census of Marine Life (CoML) have already found over 200,000 marine species -- just a fraction of what they expect to find at the end of this 10-year project. The CoML Web site "is designed to provide quick and easy access the all elements of the CoML and basic information about each element;" including field project overviews and reports, timely news articles, and other resources. Readers will also find the recently released "Baseline Report of the Census of Marine Life 2003" and a draft plan outlining the next 7 years. The site also includes fantastic photos of newly described species, QuickTime movies from the field, and other cool features. [RS]

GM Crops: Time to Choose [pdf]

As this Nature Web focus explains, "just four countries account for 99% of the world's commercially grown transgenic crops," and other countries "have been stalling over whether to embrace transgenic agriculture, but won't be able to put off the decision for much longer." Readers can get an in-depth look at this issue with free features from Nature, including recent news articles, an interactive map of the world, and a link to Nature Reviews Genetics (also free of charge). [RS]

PLANTS: Plant Materials Publications [pdf]

Plants Materials Publications (PM Pubs) allows bibliographic searches of journal articles, brochures, fact sheets, technical reports, and other documents produced by the Plant Materials Program of USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). As part of NRCS's online PLANTS Database, PM Pubs "deals with the selection, establishment, growth, management, and uses of the hundreds of plants -- especially NRCS Improved Conservation Releases -- that NRCS uses for land conservation activities." Users may quickly and easily search the database by publication type, geographical area, and the usual bibliographic search options. [RS]

ChemBank: Small Molecules Bioactives Database

ChemBank is a work in progress from the informatics group at the Institute for Chemistry and Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School. ChemBank is intended "to assist biologists who wish to identify small molecules that can be used to perturb a particular biological system and chemists designing novel compounds or libraries, and serve as a source of data for cheminformatic analyses." ChemBank's Small Molecules Bioactives Database is up and running, providing chemical structures and biological activity data for over 2,000 compounds, and more useful resources are in the works. [RS]

Vivsimo Demo: PubMed

The Pittsburgh-based company Vivsimo offers a few free demos to showcase its document clustering software that "automatically categorizes textual information into crisp, meaningful, hierarchically sorted category folders." Happily, one of the demos gives a crisp, meaningful hierarchy to PubMed publications, automatically grouping search results by topic-specific nested folders, and thus cutting down on the amount of time spent searching for articles of interest. [RS]

NCBI: Education [pdf]

This Web site from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) offers a set of detailed tutorials to help users make full use of NCBI's bioinformatics tools. The tutorials, which target both new and veteran users, cover NCBI's BLAST and PSI-BLAST, Entrez data retrieval system, Cn3D molecular structure software, and more. Additionally, the Science Primer tutorial offers a "basic introduction to the science underlying NCBI resources" geared more toward the general reader. [RS]

Sea Slugs of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

This Web site from INBio -- Costa Rica's Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad -- documents the first inventory of opisthobranch mollusks of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Started in 1995, the project represents "the first grand-scale inventory in Costa Rica," and is one of the most comprehensive inventories in all of Latin America. Readers will find a detailed introduction to opisthobranch natural history, a project overview, maps of the collection areas, and a species list organized taxonomically. Photographs are available for most of the species listed; this de facto image gallery of bizarrely beautiful sea slugs is certainly worth a look. The site also provides references, Web links, and information about project participants. [RS]


Cell Biology Animation [Macromedia Flash Player]

If you can tear your eyes away from the mesmerizing graphics on the main page, you'll find a very detailed and comprehensive cell biology tutorial created by graphic artist/biologist John Kyrk. Kyrk's animations demonstrate all major aspects of cell biology: amino acid structure, DNA replication, transcription and translation, cellular cycles (Krebs, glycolysis, mitosis), photosynthesis, and so on. The tutorial's beautiful graphics and cool animations should make studying cell biology relatively painless for any student. [RS]

The Changing Face of Medicine [pdf, Macromedia Flash Player]

The Changing Face of Medicine is a new exhibit at the National Library of Medicine that explores "the many ways that women have influenced and enhanced the practice of medicine." The online version of the exhibit is quite extensive, and includes a resources section with downloadable lesson plans, a lengthy list of suggested reading, and a students' guide to a career in medicine. There are four groups of lesson plans for various grades (K-2, 3-4, 5-8, and 9-12). Topics covered include human senses, the circulatory system, adolescent health, and medical careers. The site also offers four online interactivities -- fun, multimedia features "that use games and learning modules to bring issues of science and medicine to life." [RS]

Oxford University Press: Textbooks in the Biological Sciences [pdf, gif, zip, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word]

In a word: score! This Oxford University Press Web site offers online companions to the following textbooks: Modern Statistics for the Life Sciences,Molecular Principles of Animal Development,Principles of Development,The Evolution of Plants,Plants,Bioinformatics, and Experimental Design for the Life Sciences (with more titles on the way). The companion Web sites are packed with great features for teachers and students, such as PowerPoint-ready illustrations and figures (perfect for lectures), chapter revision questions, downloadable datasets and programs, Web linksyou name it. These Web features should prove tremendously useful, even without the textbooks for which they were designed. [RS]

North American Mycological Association: Manual for Teachers and Naturalists Teaching About Fungi [pdf]

The North American Mycological Association's online teaching manual is a collection of fungi-related activities for grades K-12. Nearly two-dozen lesson plans, labs, worksheets, and other resources are available to help students explore fungi in the classroom and the field. Resources range from basic information about fungi to hands-on activities like making bread, and some worksheets come with downloadable answer keys. [RS]

Biochemistry [pdf, Chime, Macromedia Flash Player, QuickTime]

This Web site is the online companion to the fifth edition of Biochemistry, (W. H. Freeman & Co publisher). The site "is designed to help students review key concepts from the textbook through interactive exercises, animated 3D tutorials and learning tools." Most of these amazing resources, including animated flashcards and experimental techniques, are immediately available by clicking on chapter or resource headings. Additional resources, such as the online quizzing feature, require a free online registration (teachers must verify their instructor status). [RS] [Macromedia Flash Player]

When the Scout Report covered in February 2002, this amazing virtual frog dissection was available for free. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case. However, has added more of these extraordinary simulations, and free demos are available the frog, squid, and owl pellet. The squid demo covers external structures only, and follows a self-quizzing format. The frog dissection demo goes a bit further, but the owl pellet demo is little more than a puzzle game (although the reconstructed mouse does do a freakish, vibrating dance at the end). Demos are in development for the remaining dissections: fetal pig, rat, cow eye, starfish, earthworm, perch, and crayfish. [RS]

Atlas of Plant Anatomy [jpeg]

The Atlas of Plant Anatomy comes courtesy of Paul J. Schulte, plant physiologist at the University of Nevada, who created the Web site for his plant anatomy course. The Atlas contains microscope photos of different plant structures in cross section, including cell tissues, reproductive structures, roots, stems, apical meristems, and leaves. Each image comes with an informative description, and smaller structures are helpfully labeled. Some of the photos -- like the one of a pine bud in longitudinal section -- are quite eye-catching. [RS]

Daily Lesson Plan: Diagnosing Delusions

This New York Times Learning Network Daily Lesson Plan explores the dangers of widespread medical myths. Designed for grades 6-8 and 9-12, the lesson focuses on a NYT article about "a particular medical myth and how it has prevented some lung cancer patients from receiving treatment." Story link and discussion questions are provided. Students then conduct research and develop educational pamphlets on the topic for a neat interdisciplinary way to demonstrate their understanding of the issue. Extension activities, vocabulary words, and Web links are all included. [RS]


DNA Applications [Macromedia Flash Player]

DNA Applications is a fantastic new release from DNA Interactive -- the series of Web-based educational features from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Users are invited to "investigate techniques of forensic analysis and use them to solve a historical puzzle. Find out how DNA science may be applied to healthcare, and delve into the mysteries of our species' past." The Web site contains four modules: Human Identification, Recovering the Romanovs, Genes and Medicine, and Human Origins. Recovering the Romanovs is particularly engaging, starting with a history of the Romanov family and ending with an artfully paced tutorial on how DNA science helped solve a historical mystery. Altogether, DNA Applications deserves a careful perusal -- a good site to bookmark and revisit. [RS]

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2003

This Web site from London's Natural History Museum presents the winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition 2003, a competition that "aims to be the world's most respected forum for wildlife photographic art, showcasing the very best images of nature and inspiring new generations of photographers to produce visionary and expressive interpretations of nature." All winning photos in both the adult and junior divisions are available, each with a short essay and technical information provided by the photographer. [RS]

Cuba, Naturally [Macromedia Flash Player, Real One Player, Windows Media Player]

The November 2003 issue of National Geographic Magazine features the wildlife of Cuba: "an island nation so rich with endemic species that biologists can hardly keep count." Visitors to this Web site will find special Web-only extras for this piece, including additional photos, video footage from the field, field notes from author/photographer Steve Winter, and a great 7-minute multimedia presentation titled Sights & Sounds. The Web site also includes an online forum for discussing what will happen to Cuba's wildlife once the U.S. embargo is lifted and tourism increases. [RS]

Global Warming: Undo It [Macromedia Flash Player, Real One Player]

Global Warming: Undo It is a national campaign developed by Environmental Defense "to ramp up the fight against global warming, the most critical environmental issue we face." The Web site contains a multimedia tutorial of sorts, where users can learn more about global warming and lifestyle changes they can make cut down on their carbon dioxide production. The site also includes a multimedia gallery, with video clips of the campaign's television commercials, an interview with Environmental Defense president Fred Drupp and another with Senator John McCain, and more. Users may also choose to sign an e-petition to help get the McCain-Lieberman bipartisan Climate Stewardship Act passed in Congress. [RS]

The Romance of Orchid Discovery: The John Day Scrapbooks

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew recently opened an exhibit featuring the work of artist John Day, who "painted hundreds of exquisite watercolours of the newly discovered orchids that were entrancing Victorian society." Visitors to the virtual exhibit available in this Web site can view dozens of these watercolors in four online galleries: Tropical America, Tropical Asia, Europe and Afro-Madagascar, and John Day's Orchids. Informative descriptions accompany each image, which touch on natural history, Victorian history, and John Day himself. The Web site also offers a series of short essays on orchid collecting history and conservation. [RS]

Water & Life on Mars? [Macromedia Flash Player, QuickTime]

According to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) "we Earthlings have always been fascinated with the Red Planet, and we've wondered -- in science fiction, in classrooms, in living rooms, and in laboratories -- if anything lives there." We can also wonder about it online with this interesting DMNS Web site. Informative essays and for fun, multimedia features, explore the water-life connection as well as the search for evidence of water and life on the Mars. There's also a section on Mars basics, including a QuickTime movie of Mars created from the Hubble Space Telescope photographs. Related links and other resources are also provided. [RS]

The Missouri Flora Website

This straightforward guide to the flora of Missouri comes courtesy of Missourian Dan Tenaglia. The site offers photos and descriptions of the flowering and non-flowering plants of the region. Tenaglia's easy-to-use key requires users to identify flower color and leaf characteristics only (for the most part); results are thumbnail photos that lead to summary information and additional images. The site also includes some nice photos of insects and other arthropods interacting with plants -- these images may be downloaded as desktop wallpaper. Not from Missouri? Many of the 700+ species in this Web site are common in other parts of the U.S. as well. [RS]

NOAA: Turtles

This is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's turtle site -- a detailed information resource on sea turtles and related NOAA projects. Readers will find information on turtle protection and conservation efforts, tracking research, sea turtle viewing guidelines and, of course, basic information about sea turtle species. The site also provides a couple of related news articles, as well as links to photo galleries from NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuaries. [RS]

Topic In Depth


1. Witch Doctoring
2. Ergot
3. The Spider Myth Site
4. Extra-Plump Pumpkins,,HGTV_3546_1371976,00.html
5. Apples & More
6. How to Make a DNA Model Using Candy
7. Red Gold: The Epic Story of Blood [Real One Player]
8. Halloween Science: Folk Remedies, Old Wives' Tales, and Frankenstein's Monster [Real One Player]

Halloween. A time for telling ghost stories, extorting candy from your neighbors, and yes, contemplating the many science lessons wrapped up in this popular holiday. Start with a look at the science behind the myths of zombies, vampires, and witches in the first Web site from studentBMJ, a monthly medical journal for students with an interest in medicine (1). The next Web site from Washington State University offers a closer look at ergot, the wheat fungus that may have sparked the Salem witch trials (2). Next, spiders and pumpkins. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture clears up misconceptions about the much-maligned spider (3), and the Home and Garden Television network provides tips on growing your very own enormous pumpkin. And why make a mess bobbing for apples when you can instead learn all about them in a great Web site from the University of Illinois Extension (5)? And has answered the age-old question of what to do with your Halloween candy score -- use it to model DNA (6). Why not? The following site is the online companion to Red Gold: The Epic Story of Blood, an excellent PBS series that premiered in June of 2002 (7). Last, National Public Radio's Science Friday produced a Halloween show in 1997 -- an interesting look at Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, leeches and maggots, and other things properly Halloween-ish. [RS]

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

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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.

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