The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 24

December 12, 2003

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

A Note to our Readers




Topic In Depth

A Note to our Readers

Farewell to an Old Friend and Hello to a New One

For the past two years, the NSDL Scout Report for the Life Sciences has benefited from the knowledge and creativity of Rachel Sohmer [RS]. Rachel is completing a graduate degree from the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and aspires to continue work in science journalism. We at the Scout Project sincerely thank Rachel for her dedication and great work and wish her the very best as she scouts out her own path.

In a bittersweet moment, the leaving of one staff member means the arrival of another. Thus, the Scout Project would like to introduce Nathan Larson [NL] as the new NSDL Life Sciences Editor. A dedicated naturalist and environmental educator, Nathan is pursuing a graduate degree in Geography and is interested in how we interact with natural areas in our communities. We are sincerely excited to have Nathan on our team.

Also, please note that due to our annual two-week publication hiatus for the holidays, Volume 3, Number 1 of the NSDL Scout Report for the Life Sciences will not be published until January 9, 2004. Best wishes and happy New Year. [JPM]


Catalogue of New World Grasses

This website was developed by agrostologists from several institutions to present the Catalogue of New World Grasses (CNWG). CNWG is "an on-going project to database ...and link all nomenclature, types, synonymy, current taxonomy, and distribution for grasses occurring from Alaska and Greenland to Tierra del Fuego." CNWG uses TROPICOS and provides a search mechanism whereby one can enter scientific names and receive current information on his or her entries. CNWG also offers three indices-Accepted taxa, All treated taxa, and Suprageneric, Generic, and Subgeneric-through which names and corresponding information can be located. This site provides an extensive list of links to other agrostological sites categorized by areas such as genetics, mapping tools, and literature. [NL]

Forest History Society

Affiliated with Duke University, the Forest History Society (FHS) "links the past to the future by identifying, collecting, preserving, interpreting, and disseminating information on the history of interactions between people, forests, and their related resources..." Founded in 1946, FHS offers extensive resources for anyone interested in the history of forests. This website contains links to FHS archives, research and publications, U.S. Forest Service history, searchable databases, and more. The searchable databases include a sizeable bibliography "containing annotated descriptions of over 34,000 books, articles, and dissertations on topics in the fields of forest, conservation, and environmental history." [NL]

International HapMap Project

An international coalition -- with scientists from Canada, China, Japan, Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S. -- the HapMap project seeks to "develop a haplotype map of the human genome, the HapMap, which will describe the common patterns of human DNA sequence variation." At the site, visitors can take advantage of the bulk downloads of data available here, including several datasets of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genotype and frequency data, SNP assays, and more. Some of the data requires a brief registration while most of it is freely available. Although recently established in 2002, the HapMap website is full of useful information and includes helpful links to all of the participating groups as well as to press releases at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). This site will be of great interest to researchers and students working on related genome projects, or teachers with a desire to reference sequencing data in their instruction. [JPM]

The CBD for Botanists [pdf]

One of the two conventions signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) seeks to "conserve biological diversity, use biological resources sustainably -- to ensure that we do not use up our resources faster than they can recover, and share the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources fairly and equitably." This site, a link off of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew main site, provides the complete CBD for Botanists. Offered in several pdf documents that are downloadable in English, French, and Spanish, the CBD for Botanists is actually a series of slides and notes -- essentially a presentation. The site notes that the presentation "is designed to be a flexible training tool, adaptable to different audiences, but can also be read for practical guidance on implementation." Included are suggestions for where to find more information, links, and further reading on the subject. [JPM]

Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe (ABE) [pdf]

While it is not unusual to find websites offered from public research institutions and universities, consortia of private research entities and businesses are rare. Thus, this interesting site, created by ABE -- whose members include BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta -- offers a look into the research and development related to agricultural biotechnology. From the main page, visitors can access other websites of member countries, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. Also, available off the main page are links to Issue Papers (in the pdf format) that include titles such as Crop Biotechnology: An Overview, The Environmental Impact of Agricultural Biotechnology, European Views on Agricultural Biotechnology: An Overview of Public Opinion, and several more. There is also a section on related links. [JPM]

The Methuselah Mouse Prize

While the average human lifespan has increased markedly over the past one hundred years, the ceiling has hardly been reached. An interesting contest, The Methuselah Mouse Prize -- presumably named after the biblical character who was said to have lived 969 years -- seeks to "promote public interest and involvement in research on mammalian life extension and encourage more such research on mice and other higher animals." Basically, research teams compete to prolong the life of a mouse, Mus musculus. The prize money, which comes from donations, currently sits at over $30,000. The contest is actually broken into two sub-prizes. The Postponement Prize honors the oldest-ever mouse, and the Reversal Prize honors the best "late-onset" intervention. The site has links which list the donors for the prize as well as the press that has been given to it. [JPM]


Finding Science in Ice Cream -- An Experiment for Secondary School Classrooms

Get the scoop on Ice Cream Science. Dr. Doug Goff, a professor of food science at University of Guelph, Ontario created this site to provide educators with supplemental information for a classroom experiment on ice cream making. This website provides information on many aspects of ice cream including the history, composition, manufacturing process, and structure. This site is designed for teachers from different disciplines and illustrates how ice cream making has applications to various scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics. Dr. Goff includes an ice cream making experiment description and provides links to other recipes and experiment descriptions. The site even describes an alternative experiment using liquid nitrogen instead of ice! [NL]

UW-Arboretum: Earth Partnership Program: Prairie Fire Survey

This website presents an educational Prairie Fire Survey that was developed by the Earth Partnership Program (EPP) of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, home to the oldest restored prairie in the world. The goal of the survey is "to help students understand the role and change fire plays in the prairie." To this end, the site provides background information on forces that have shaped prairies over time and reasons why fire benefits prairies. The website describes two activities, including necessary materials, instructions, and purpose for activity. EPP notes that the Prairie Fire Survey is a "research idea" that "has not been fully developed into an activity but has been tried in some workshops and classrooms." This site provides links to an elementary and middle school version of a related prairie fire study activity as well as links to other "research ideas." [NL]

Human Embryology Animations [Macromedia Flash Player, QuickTime]

One of the most impressive ways to learn about biology, particularly that which we seldom see, is through modeling. Dr. Valerie O'Loughlin and her colleagues at Indiana University have created this thoroughly impressive set of animations so that "students could better understand the complex processes that must occur in embryologic development." The site is arranged into five main areas, including: Cardiovascular Embryology, Development of the Head and Neck, Gastrointestinal Embryology, Development of the Limbs, and Urinary and Reproductive Embryology. However, the only two sections currently loaded with animations are the first two. Presumably, the rest are coming soon. Also, because these animations are part of a study of teaching efficacy, Dr. O'Loughlin asks that users participate in an optional survey. However, all animations can be accessed without taking part. As a great addition to the site, users are presented with a few questions regarding the anatomy which they are about to see, prior to viewing the animation. Undboutedly, this is related to the Indiana University course that these animations are a part of, but they serve as a great addition for visitors other than students, too. [JPM]

Brain Bands

Why do those holiday cookies and candies -- placed conveniently at child height at the cash register -- get you drooling and entice you to fill your cart with unintended purchases? It might be neuromarketing at work. In this thought-provoking activity, created by Georgia Scurletis and Briget Anderson and offered through the New York Times LearningNetwork, students (grades 6 - 12) are challenged to think about how branding and marketing may influence their taste more than their taste buds themselves. The lesson includes a reading of There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex, by Clive Thompson of the New York Times, and has complete instructions for a one-period lesson. [JPM]

Idaho Public Television, Diologue for Kids: Sleepy Bear Lesson

Each winter, bears hunker down, slow their metabolisms, and pretty much wait out the winter in the safety of some sort of den. This lesson plan, from Idaho Public Television, is a fun way to illustrate to children (probably elementary grades primarily) the process of hibernation. At this site, educators are given the complete lesson plan instructions as well as several links to all sorts of great resources, including links to information on: Bear Diet, Home Range, Reproduction, Bear Research, People and Bears, more Classroom Activities, and more. And, the great addition to the site is a link to a 30-minute video about bears. While the site is somewhat focused on Idaho-specific bear information, teachers should be able to easily integrate the lesson no matter where you are. [JPM]


The Humane Society of the United States: Urban Wildlife -- Our Wild Neighbors

Do you know your wild neighbors? This website was developed by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to introduce Wild Neighbors , a program that "promotes nonlethal means for resolving conflicts between wildlife and humans..." and "cultivates an understanding and appreciation for those wildlife species commonly found in cities and towns." HSUS also uses this site to introduce the Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program (UWSP). UWSP provides individuals and communities with support and information about creating quality wildlife habitats on their property. This website contains links to urban-relevant wildlife issues such as feeding winter birds, gardens and wildlife, negative impacts of litter, and animal tracking. [NL]

Seed Savers Exchange: Planting Guide

This website will be of interest to gardeners and plant enthusiasts alike. Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), an 8,000 members-strong leader in the "heirloom seed movement," has assembled a planting guide that includes planting instructions for a variety of herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Divided into those three categories, the plants are listed alphabetically by common name. In addition to planting instructions, the herb section includes plant history and uses, the flower section includes plant history, and the vegetable section includes seed saving instructions. This site has links to other components of the SSE operation such as Heritage Farm, an agricultural project that currently maintains 18,000 rare vegetable varieties! [NL]

A Thin Blue Line: The History of the Pregnancy Test

In today's world, the test for pregnancy is only a pharmacy, and minutes, away. This wasn't always the case, however. Until 1978 no definitive means existed for at-home pregnancy testing. This site, from the National Institutes of Health, traces the history of the test back to its earliest roots at NIH. The site includes historical information on the early Egyptian practice of women urinating on wheat and barley to the more modern research into human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the so-called pregnancy hormone sought out by pregnancy test kits. An interesting part of the site includes stories from people whose lives have been affected by the pregnancy test. At the Your Stories link, visitors can either add a story or read what's been submitted so far. [JPM]

Lamington National Park [RealOne Player, Windows Media Player]

To see the "dangerously venomous" Common Death Adder or hear the low growl of the Giant Barred River Frog, take a trip to the Lamington National Park website. Here you will find a treasure trove of great information about the wide variety of plants, animals, and insects found at the park. Laminton, a huge park (20,000 hectares) is located in Queensland and carries the distinction of a World Heritage Area. The website, offered by the Green Mountains Natural History Association and the University of Queensland, not only has descriptions of the various flora and fauna found in the park, it also has a link to the park's history and information for prospective visitors. [JPM]

NPR: Bushwhacking with a Big-Tree Hunter A Walk on the Wild Side with Bob Van Pelt [RealOne Player, Windows Media Player]

Some people hunt animals and others hunt for trees. In this National Public Radio story, one in a special series called Big Trees and the Lives They've Changed, Ketzel Levine accompanies the foremost big tree hunter into the forests of the northwest. While they do find some big trees, it's what they don't find -- the absence of big trees -- that's most illuminating. By big, we're talking trees that are in excess of forty feet in circumference and as tall as a football field is long; they are huge harbingers of life and whole ecosystems. The story is perfect for a lay audience, but would also be a great addition to any class studying related topics. [JPM]

Topic In Depth

Mercury Pollution

1 NPR: EPA's New Rules on Mercury Emissions
2 NPR: New Technology to Scrub Mercury from Coal
3 The American University Trade and Environment Database: Minamata Disaster
4 EPA: Mercury
5 Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Mercury
6 Environment Canada: Mercury and the Environment
7 NIH: Mad as a Hatter

One of the most troublesome toxins released into the environment is mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin capable of causing dementia and possible death in humans and other animals. Pregnant women and young children are at particular risk of eating fish from areas of significantly high mercury levels. As with any discussion of the environment, this one is wrought with differing viewpoints and conflicting opinions. This Topic in Depth examines the release of mercury into the environment, the history of mercury and humans, and current initiatives to deal with mercury.

The first link, (1) leads to a story from NPR that highlights the new rules put in place by the EPA to deal with mercury emissions. The second link (2), also from NPR, leads to a story that explains new methods for dealing with mercury from its source -- namely, smokestack scrubbing. Next, (3), this very informative piece from American University offers a historical look at the most famous mercury-related disaster yet: the widespread poisoning of the citizens of Minamata, Japan. The fourth link leads to a website maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency which is devoted to mercury (4). At the site, visitors will find information ranging from a general introduction to mercury to fish advisory information. A similar site is found next from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (5). Many northern, lake-filled states such as Minnesota are active in mercury-related research and regulation. Also similar is a site from Canada which highlights similar health-related issues, but also discusses the laws and regulations specific to Canada. (6). The final site is an interesting one from within the National Institutes of Health. While this site highlights a campaign to rid mercury within NIH itself, it also has a short description of the saying "mad as a hatter" and has several links to information on human health and mercury (7).

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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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Internet Scout Project Team
Rachel Sohmer Editor
John Morgan Managing Editor
Rachael Bower Co-Director
Edward Almasy Co-Director
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Debra Shapiro Contributor
Rachel Enright Contributor
David Sleasman Internet Cataloger
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Barry Wiegan Software Engineer
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Michael Grossheim Technical Specialist
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David Mayer Website Designer

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