The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 3, Number 1

January 9, 2004

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




Topic In Depth


University of Essex: Reducing Food Poverty with Sustainable Agriculture

This Executive Summary produced by Jules Pretty and Rachel Hine of the University of Essex in February 2001 provides a summary of evidence from the SAFE-World Research Project. This extensive report includes background reasons for the study such as global food security challenges, information about sustainable agriculture, project methodology, summary of projects and evidence, and conclusions. A sustainable agriculture database, developed through the project, "contained information on 208 cases from 52 countries" as of October 1, 2000 which made it the "largest known survey of worldwide sustainable agriculture." [NL]

USFWS: The Status of Ross's Geese [pdf]

This U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report is "a special publication of the Arctic Goose Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan" and is edited by Timothy J. Moser of the USFWS. Increasing "numbers of light geese have been implicated in serious ecological and economic damage" prompting two previous reports on continental light geese which focused on lesser snow geese and greater snow geese. This website presents a report that "compiles information on the Ross's goose, the third and least conspicuous taxon of North American light goose." The Report includes chapters on Species Descriptions and Biology, Distribution and Abundance, Interaction with Arctic and Subarctic Habitats, Disease Mortality Events, Harvest, and Population Dynamics of Ross's Geese. [NL]

Feeling the Heat: Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss

Global warming is a sometimes heated debate between scientists as they seek to pinpoint causes and effects. This January 2004 article from Nature seems to help clarify what the future may bring. Essentially, Chris Thomas of the University of Leeds and his colleagues posit that with the unstoppable rise in global temperature will come an unstoppable species extinction. As a result of the warming, species will either not have any remaining habitat or they won't have the means to find it. Depending on the criteria, 15-37% of the species examined in the study will be extinct by the year 2050. While a somewhat unsettling forecast, the authors note that with technical advances towards lessening human impact on global warming, fewer species may ultimately perish. This link leads to the article as well as a News and Views response to the article titled Ecology: Clouded Futures and written by J. Alan Pounds and Robert Puschendorf. [JPM]

Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition

In what looks to be an incredibly successful partnership, the universities of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon have teamed up in an "investigation of the neural mechanisms that give rise to human cognitive abilities..." This site, the online home for the center is packed full of interesting resources for researchers, prospective students, and graduate students alike. The Research section is immensely well organized and fruitful. There is even a way to search for research based on Methods, Topics, or the Department / Program of interest. Topics include perceptual processing, working memory, perceptual stability, Alzheimer research, and much more. Interested students should check out the Graduate Training link for application details and post-docs should visit the Other Training link. [JPM]

Purdue University: Crop Plant Variety Study Results [pdf]

Just about every mid-western state has its share of agricultural research going on and Indiana is no exception. At this Purdue University Agronomy Department website, visitors can access all sorts of raw data (dating back to 1997) on Corn, Sorghum, Soybeans, Small Grains, and Forages from variety trials across the state. Provided in both pdf and html formats, there are several tables of raw data available for almost all years and plant type. In addition to the raw data, visitors to the site can view and download the specific year's entire report. This site may be of interest to researchers in related fields and students looking for data of this type. [JPM]


BBC: Wildfacts

Would you like to learn more about your favorite animal? This excellent BBC: Wildfacts website provides teachers, students and wildlife enthusiasts with useful information and facts about hundreds of animals. Wildfacts website users can perform a Basic Search for a specific animal using common or scientific names or an Advanced Search through categories such as habitat, diet, distribution and more. Individual animal site pages provide photos and concise information in areas such as physical description, behavior, reproduction, and statistics. Animal site pages offer links to related articles and a print version of information as well. [NL]

USFWS: Introduction to Bats [pdf]

Did you know that bats are the only true flying mammals? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's website on Bats provides educational information about this commonly misunderstood animal. The Bats site includes short sections on the Biology of Bats, Common Misconceptions, Hibernation and Migration, and Reasons for Decline. The site also connects to a Bat Fact Sheet which provides information about bat species that are on the U.S. endangered species list. The Bats site offers links to related sites, however several of the Bat Links are not currently connecting. [NL]

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership: Whooping Crane [Windows Media Player]

This thorough educational website was developed through a partnership of Annenberg/CPB, Journey North, and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. This coalition of non-profit organizations, government agencies, and individuals are "joining forces to bring a migratory flock of whooping cranes back to eastern North America." This site connects to an extensive selection of lessons, activities and information, facts about Whooping Cranes in question/answer format, and background information about the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Study. Users can also connect to highlights from the Year 3 Reintroduction and Migration including maps, video clips, and photos. [NL]

Classification of Living Things: Introduction [QuickTime]

Dr. Dennis O'Neal of Palomar College designed this site to introduce students to a tutorial on the Classification of Living Things. Topics addressed at this site include the Linnaen system of classification, amount of species in our world, the importance of biological diversity, the history of classification, and the relevancy of classification in the present day. There are links to the Main Menu, a Practice Quiz, and the other topics in the tutorial including Principals of Class, Kingdom to Subphylum, Class, and Subclass to Infraclass. Additionally, to link to a comprehensive glossary of relevant terms click on the Ecological Niches or Natural Selection links at the bottom of the site. For users with QuickTime there are several sound files that provide correct pronunciation of key terms. [NL]

Shedd Educational Adventures

As the site notes, the Shedd Educational Adventures "contains a treasure trove of aquatic science resources for K-12 teachers and students." And it certainly does. The three main groupings of materials offered here include Lesson Plans, Interactives, and Explorer's Guides. In all, there must be hundreds of resources, searchable by both grade (pre-K through 12) and by topic. As an added bonus, the resources are also searchable by Illinois and national education standards. Thus, if a school is too far away to visit the Shedd aquarium in Chicago itself, this site will definitely help teachers bring aquatic science to their classrooms. [JPM]


Tropical Fruits

This website showcasing Tropical Fruits was created by Marilyn Rittenhouse Harris a tropical fruit aficionado, cookbook author, and longtime resident of Hawaii. Her website provides interesting information about common and uncommon tropical fruits including cooking tips and recipes. Harris' site offers links to more in-depth information on a variety of issues concerning tropical fruit, as well as links to information about Hawaii. [NL]

Duke University: Endurance of Plants Under Quartz Rocks Possible Model for Life on Early Earth

This webpage reports on a study led by Dr. William Schlesinger of Duke University on the ability of microscopic Mojave Desert plants to photosynthesize through translucent quartz pebbles. In addition to an ability to photosynthesize, these plants are able to pull nitrogen from the air, and endure both cold and extreme heat. The scientific study team said that the plants "could offer a model for how plants first colonized land" when the environmental conditions on Earth were harsher. [NL]

NASA: Habitable Worlds [pdf]

NASA's Habitable Worlds website encourages visitors to "search the solar system for signs of life," by selecting a "World to Explore." This creatively designed website smartly displays our solar system's colorful planets or worlds amidst the dark background of space. In order to gain in-depth information specific to each planet, users simply click on the world of their choosing. Each planet page provides beautiful images and information about habitability, moons, and more. [NL]

World Health Organization: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)

The discovery of a cow carrying BSE in the United States has reenergized the public's interest in such topics. This site, an offshoot of the WHO site devoted to diseases, offers a good overview of the disease and its similar nature to that of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease -- the form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that can affect humans. Also of note at this site is a exceptionally comprehensive resources section that offers links to publications, articles, and websites devoted to related topics and information. For a quick snapshot of the disease, check out the WHO fact sheet on BSE, located at the bottom of this main page. [JPM]

Minnesota Department of Health: Children's Environmental Health [pdf]

With sending your children off to school can come worries about bullies, crossing streets, competition, and stress -- not to mention health. As we learn more about the school environment, it appears that measles may not be the only malady facing school children. This site from the Minnesota Department of Health, offers a comprehensive look at the hazards children face in their environment. Included at the site are discussions of lead in school drinking water, pesticides in schools, air quality in schools, mold in schools, and much more. Each link to these subjects offers a non-technical, yet comprehensive description of the issue as well as an easily printable fact sheet in the pdf format. This site should be of interest to anyone wanting to understand the environmental health issues that children face. [JPM]

Topic In Depth


1. ThinkQuest: Hibernation
2. Australian Institute of Alpine Studies: Snow as a Factor in Animal Hibernation and Dormancy
3. London Times: Scientists Have Discovered Genes for Hibernation in Humans
4. NWCU: Gene Study of Hibernation May Aid Organ Transplants, Hypothermia
5. Science News Online -- Chilled Brains: Animal Hibernation and Stroke Research
6. WhyFiles: Hibernation
7. Environmental Education for Kids: Snug in the Snow -- Hibernation Story
8. Perpetual Preschool: Hibernation

In the deep still of winter many animals are hibernating. What knowledge or inspiration can humans gain from our hibernating kin? The following websites present important and interesting information that people have discovered from studying hibernation. The first site, both comprehensive and well-designed, provides a good overview of hibernation and defines related terms such as torpor, estivation, and diapause. This website also supplies great information about warm-blooded and cold-blooded hibernators (1). The second site presents an Australian Institute of Alpine Studies Conference Abstract by Michelle Walter and Linda Broome on the importance of snow as an insulator for "both endothermic and ectothermic hibernators" (2). The third and fourth sites both discuss scientific investigations and discoveries of human genes for hibernation. The third site presents an article from the London Times in February of 2000 that reports on scientific hibernation studies in Britain and at North Carolina State University (3). The fourth site presents a NCSU press release describing how Dr. Matthew Andrews and his research team "have identified and mapped two genes for enzymes that play important roles in hibernation of ground squirrels, and have discovered that these genes are nearly identical to ones found in nonhibernating mammals, including humans." These discoveries could potentially help physicians in areas such as organ preservation and hypothermia treatment (4). The fifth and sixth sites also address connections between hibernation research and potential advances in medicine. Both sites provide detailed information about different scientific studies on hibernation aimed at treating strokes (5) and the sixth site, from Whyfiles, also reports on hibernation/organ transplant research, and hibernator mating (6). The seventh site is an educational overview of hibernation hosted by Environmental Education for Kids!, a great electronic magazine designed for kids in grades 4-8 (7). The eighth site hosted by perpetual preschool, provides great preschool activities under categories of hibernation songs, snacks, art, science, and games (8). [NL]

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