The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 3, Number 9

April 30, 2004

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




Topic In Depth


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: VISTA

A very comprehensive and well-organized offering from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, VISTA offers "suite of programs and databases for comparative analysis of genomic sequences. There are two ways of using VISTA - you can submit your own sequences and alignments for analysis (VISTA servers) or examine pre-computed whole-genome alignments of different species (VISTA browser)." The site also offers up-to-date updates on genomic sequences. Included in the April 2004 update are the Human-Chimpanzee, Human-Chicken, and D.melanogaster-Honey Bee whole genome alignments. VISTA is definitely a site for researchers and students involved in genomic research. [JPM]

American Museum of Natural History-Department of Herpetology: Amphibian Species of the World

This incredibly comprehensive database of amphibians includes mention of over 35,000 species. Not only packed with information, however, the database is also easily navigable by either searching or exploring. "There are two finding aids, SEARCH and the EXPLORE. These allow you to search on any 4-letter string (excluding such generally used terms such as frog, salamander, caecilian, newt, et al.) SEARCH will search either on taxonomic names (active or synonyms) or geographic place names." Each species account includes the class, order, family, and genus, as well as mention of the common name and the species' distribution. A great resource for those researching this fascinating class of animals. [JPM]

European Bioinformatics Institute: Research Groups

This website features the specialist research groups at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI). The EBI's research groups provide "biological data and utilities to aid the scientific community in the understanding of genomic and proteomic data." This site offers a variety of information about numerous research groups including the Computational Genomics Group, Sequence Database Group, Macromolecular Structural Database Group, and Computational Neurobiology Group -- just to name a few. The separate research group web pages vary in content, offering links to such areas as research interests, publications, contact information, funding, projects, and more. This site also links to other sections of EBI including Services, Databases, Downloads, and Submissions. [NL]

National Museum of Natural Sciences: Fauna Ibrica [pdf]

Hosted by Madrid's National Museum of Natural Sciences, this website features Fauna Ibrica, a scientific research project, under the directorship of Dr. Maria Angeles Ramos Sanchez. The museum features "the zoological biodiversity of the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands." The website links to information about the history, objectives, organization, and current progress of the project. The site also provides access to the Zoological Database of New Species in the Iberian-Balearic Region, and the Animal Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands: Checklist of Species (reported on in the Scout Report for Science & Engineering, October 13, 1999). The website is offered in Spanish and English versions. [NL]

The American Society for Cell Biology [pdf, RealOne Player]

This website presents the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), an organization whose "objective is to provide for the exchange of scientific knowledge in the area of cell biology." The site offers sections on Careers & Opportunities, Publications, Awards, Membership, and more. Site visitors can learn about upcoming ASCB meetings, as well as access information from past meetings including program schedules, abstracts, and selected audio and video recordings of lectures. The site also provides information about various ASCB committees including the Public Policy Committee, Women in Cell Biology Committee, Minorities Affairs Committee, and the Sub-Committee on Postdoctoral Training. [NL]

National Library of Medicine: Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications [pdf]

This website presents the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications (LHNCBC), a research and development division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). LHNCBC "conducts and supports research and development in the dissemination of high quality imagery, medical language processing, high-speed access to biomedical information, intelligent database systems development, multimedia visualization, knowledge management, data mining and machine-assisted indexing." The Innovative Research section of the site provides information on Language & Knowledge Processing, Infrastructure Research, Multimedia Visualization, and more. The site offers information about training and employment opportunities, as well as access to numerous published articles, technical reports, and lectures. The site also links to Profiles in Science: a NLM site providing access to the research collections of 20th century biomedical scientists. [NL]

University of Leicester: The Deepsea Research Newsgroup [pdf]

Hosted by the University of Leicester, the Deepsea Research Newsgroup serves "as an electronic forum for the world's community of deep-sea and hydrothermal vent / seep biologists, oceanographers, and geologists. Frequent uses of DEEPSEA include searches for specialist literature and opinion, specimen exchange, technical discussions, and general discussions about deep-sea marine biology and geology." The Research Newsgroup is moderated by Dr. Ted Gaten, of the University of Leicester with administration provided by Dr. Andrew G. McArthur of the Marine Biological Laboratory. Messages for the Deepsea Research Newsgroup are posted via email, and site users can search the Newsgroup Archive by using an index or keyword / phrase search engine. The site also links to information about the Deep-Sea Newsletter: an international newsletter, edited by Dr. Torben Wolff, for deep-sea researchers. [NL]


Arizona State University-Life Sciences Visualization Group: Ask A Biologist

Teachers: Have you and your students ever come upon a question with no easy, well-defined answer. If so, then this site from Arizona State University is for you. Intended for K-12 teachers, users can submit a question and, within three days, receive an answer. Also helpful are the Experiments and Stuff, Articles and Profiles, and Web Links sections. The site's guidelines section stresses that the scientists who answer questions for Ask a Biologist are volunteers, but most are acting scientists. Due to volume of questions, or how busy a given scientist is, response time may be a bit slower than the promised three days. A great resource though for those times when you'd like an explanation from an expert and you don't have one handy. [JPM]

PBS-American Field Guide: Teacher Resources-Non Native Species: English Ivy-Landscape Plant or Deadly Killer?

Very little of the world today can be called truly representative of the native ecosystem it was meant to be. In this lesson plan, students are challenged to consider the ramifications of introducing a non-native plant species, English Ivy, into an area and how this affects the overall health of that area's ecosystem. The site includes two activities -- one in which students use photos and grids to measure habitat diversity and a second whereby students examine how and why diversity is a good thing, ecologically speaking. Designed for grades 9-12, this site includes all of the necessary resources needed to implement these activities immediately. [JPM]

Florida Plants Online: Young Naturalist's Page

Hosted by Florida Plants Online and edited by Botanist Leigh Fulghum, this Young Naturalist website provides links to a wide variety of educational sites for students, teachers, and parents. The Young Naturalist site focuses on Florida's natural history, but connects to resources useful for students in other geographic regions as well. The natural history resources are organized by such categories as Animals, Insects, Plants, Habitats, and more. The site also links to samples of artist Susan Trammel's collection of Florida native botanical watercolors. [NL]

Illinois State Museum: The Midwestern U.S. 16,000 Years Ago [QuickTime]

Produced by staff at the Illinois State Museum, this online exhibit offers a variety of interesting information and images for students and others interested in environments of the distant past. The site offers sections on Late Pleistocene Plants, Animals, Landscapes, and Extinctions. These broader sections include information on such topics as Spruce Pollen, Ground Sloths, Jaguars, Poplars, and many more. Site visitors can access different sections of the site through an exhibit index, or by selecting hyperlinked words embedded in the text of separate exhibit pages. The site also provides access to cited references, related book lists, and information about a paleontological cave exploration in central Missouri. [NL]

University of Utah - Genetic Science Learning Center: Teacher Resources-Classroom Activities Index [pdf]

From the University of Utah-Genetic Science Learning Center (reported on in the Scout Report for Science & Engineering on February 2, 2000) this website offers a plethora of educational activities for educators and students. Designed for multiple grade levels, examples of classroom activities include Transcribe and Translate a Gene, Build a DNA Molecule, What Makes a Firefly Grow?, What is a Mutation?, How to Extract DNA from Anything Living, and many more. Each activity provides the following background sections: Abstract, Key Concepts, Prior Knowledge Needed (including appropriate age/grade designation), and Materials needed. Many of the Learning Center's activities are entirely web-interactive. For the non-web interactive activities, teacher guides and other materials are available for download or printing. [NL]

Missouri Botanical Garden-The Butterfly House & Education Center: The Butterfly School

Created by the Missouri Botanical Garden's Butterfly House & Education Center as a companion site for visiting school groups, this website has great resources to offer both teachers and students. For students, the site offers Species Identification Pages, information on making a butterfly house, a description of metamorphosis, a gallery of beautiful photos, and more. For teachers, the site provides instructions for such activities as Raising Butterflies & Moths, Insect Scavenger Hunt, Design Your Own Insect, and Butterfly Arts & Crafts, to name a few. The site includes lists of related books for teachers and students as well. [NL]

University of Vermont: Charlotte, The Vermont Whale

This kid-friendly educational website from the University of Vermont, tells the story of Charlotte, a whale whose remains were discovered in Vermont by railroad construction workers in 1849. Although the site is not extensive, it features some great images, and relates an interesting phenomenon in an intriguing narrative style. The online exhibit includes brief sections on how the whale got there, where and how it was found, how the whale was preserved, and more. The site also offers information on the Champlain Sea environment, Beluga whales, and original observations from naturalist Zadock Thompson. [NL]


BBC-Science & Nature: Animals

While it might seem a bit unrealistic to be able to depict the entire kingdom of animals in one website, the BBC does a great job of keeping it manageable. Each of the major sections -- Birds, Mammals, UK Wildlife, Sea Life, Wildfacts, Conservation, More Articles, Pets, and Children's Zone -- offer all sorts of information on the animals of the world. Included are quizzes, articles, video clips, and more. Also of note is a comprehensive look at David Attenborough's series on the Life of Mammals. Included here is a video introduction by Attenborough himself. While packed full of information, this site would serve teachers and students of upper level zoology and biology well as a source for detailed information about the animals of the world. [JPM]

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: The Birdhouse Network

We're oftentimes overwhelmed with the idea that the natural environment is in a state of seemingly unstoppable decline. One of the greatest causes is destruction of natural habitat. And, loss of nesting spaces for birds is a prime example of a major consequence. This site leads the visitor to a very simple solution that allows one to act locally while thinking globally. The Birdhouse Network website from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers all sorts of good information on bird houses, including construction plans to where to put the house(s) once finished. A great resource on the site for those of us who are backyard birders is the Bird Bios section. This area gives short snippets on common backyard birds like the Black-capped Chickadee to the House Sparrow. If you build it, they will come! [JPM]

PBS NATURE: Flight School [RealOne Player]

Flight School is a PBS NATURE companion website for a video production about the amazing recovery of the Whooping Crane. The site includes an interview with Operation Migration's Joseph Duff, information about bird flyways, imprinting, and more. The website links to a downloadable Teacher's Guide, a list of relevant links and books, and desktop images. A short video clip of the whooping cranes in flight is provided as well. [NL]

Georgetown University: Sounds of the World's Animals [Quicktime]

This fascinating and quirky website was developed by Georgetown University Linguistics Professor Catherine N. Ball, to present the ways that animal sounds are expressed in different languages. The study includes an extensive group of animals such as bees, donkeys, geckos, hyenas, wolves, and many more. Animal sounds are provided for numerous languages including Albanian, Japanese, Italian, and Hindi, just to name a few. The site invites contributions from around the world, and provides a list of related links as well. [NL]

Harvard University -- Harvard@Home: Professor Edward O. Wilson, On the Relation of Science and the Humanities [QuickTime, RealOne Player, Windows Media Player]

Hosted by Harvard@Home, and part of Harvard University's Science Center Research Lecture Series, this website presents an hour-long lecture by the prominent entomologist, Professor E.O. Wilson. In his intriguing lecture titled, On the Relation of Science and the Humanities, Professor Wilson discusses the link between genetic evolution and cultural evolution. In addition to the lecture, the site provides a glossary, background information, and a brief biography of Dr. Wilson. Note: Although the video footage is a bit choppy, the audio transmission is clear and relays the lecture content nicely. [NL]

Cornell University: Explore Cornell: Home Gardening

A leader in agricultural research, Cornell University offers this artful website on home gardening to provide site visitors with information on a variety of issues regarding community and home horticulture. The three main categories in the site are Flowers, Vegetables, and Lawn Care. The Flower section includes growing guides, and information on designing a flower garden. The Vegetable section includes a virtual visit to the family garden of a Cornell University horticulturalist, and access to the Cornell vegetable database for guidance on planting and growing vegetables. The Lawn section includes informational slideshows and videos, and a Lawn Care Calendar. The site provides links to numerous fact sheets for all three sections, as well as a list of related sites. [NL]

California Native Plant Society

This website presents the California Native Plant Society, a national leader in biological diversity conservation science and advocacy. Established in 1965, the CNPS "is a statewide non-profit organization of amateurs and professionals with a common interest in California's native plants." The site provides a variety of information and resources useful to botanists and native plant enthusiasts alike. One notable feature is the site's Photo Gallery which contains many beautiful annotated photos from different parts of California. The site links to the Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants presenting "the most recent Inventory data from CNPS, plus thumbnail illustrations, maps, a variety of search tools, and links to additional information." The site also links to information about the Native Plant Conservation Campaign, the Manual of California Vegetation (reported on in the Scout Report for Science & Engineering on December 9, 1998), and to online discussion opportunities. [NL]

Topic In Depth


Nature Sound Studio: the Sound of Spring Peepers
Education World: Springtime Lesson Plans
Chicago Tribune: Signs of Spring,0,1572906.story
Illinois State Museum: Planting a Prairie Garden Spring Migration
NPR: Spring Bugs

Depending on where you are, spring is either wrapping up or just around the bend. From the sounds of spring peepers peeping to birds chirping, this is definitely the season of re-birth. Check out this handful of sites that look at some of the signs of spring.

The first site (1), from, allows you to hear the chorus of a truly spring sound: spring peepers. Next, from Education World, is a good collection of lesson plans for any teachers out there hoping to bring some spring fever into the classroom, or at least try to harness it(2). The Chicago Tribune (3)has the spirit with this feature on the signs of spring in the third site. The fourth site (4), from the Illinois State Museum, will help those out there considering putting in their own prairie garden this spring -- a perfect time to plant. The fifth site (5) is from and offers a great look at the spring migration. Lastly is a show from NPR on spring bugs (4).

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