The Scout Report for Science & Engineering - August 16, 2000

August 16, 2000

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

The target audience of the new Scout Report for Science & Engineering is faculty, students, staff, and librarians in the life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering. Each biweekly issue offers a selective collection of Internet resources covering topics in the sciences, and related fields such as math and engineering, that have been chosen by librarians and content specialists in the given field of study.

The Scout Report for Science & Engineering is also provided via email once every two weeks. Subscription information is included at the bottom of each issue.

In This Issue


Learning Resources

General Interest

Current Awareness

New Data

In The News


This excellent Website from the University of Arizona focuses on the branch of science known as palynology, in which researchers study the microscopic remains of plants and organisms to reconstruct ecological conditions of the past. The site features a wealth of information, including research projects (and publications) from the University of Arizona; background information (and illustrations) describing palynomorphs and archaeological, Quaternary, and stratigraphic palynology; links to scientific and general palynology Websites; a subject-organized list of select palynology references; links to international palynology organizations; and much more. [LXP]
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The Computer Vision Handbook
A work in progress, this site outlines resources for computer vision techniques, including societies and funding; general references and lab procedures; and indices and programs for mathematics, computer science, graphics and physics. The goal of this electronic handbook is to provide graduate students and others new to computer vision research with a useful tool because, "...the computer vision literature is vast and diverse. Furthermore, computer vision research depends on techniques from a wide range of other fields. Therefore, it is difficult for newcomers (e.g. graduate students) to assimilate enough background material to do their research," says the site's collaborative authors, scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Harvey Mudd College, and the University of Iowa. This metasite is well-organized into subheadings: The Computer Vision Community, Computer Vision, Mathematics, Computer Science, Hardware, and Allied Fields, and a glossary is also available. Because it collects so much of the literature and so many Websites, the Computer Vision Handbook is an indispensable tool for graduate students and faculty in the field. [HCS]
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The Environmental Sciences Division (ESD) -- ORNL
The Environmental Sciences Division (ESD) of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is "an interdisciplinary research and development organization" dedicated to understanding and assessing environmental problems related to energy production and use. Six science areas form the backbone of the ESD research (and Website): Ecosystem and Global Change Science, Renewable Resources, Research and Development, Environmental Data Systems, Microbial Biogeochemistry and Biotechnology, Ecological Management Science and Technology, and Environmental Process Science and Technology. The Website includes descriptions of each of the major science areas, including purpose and scope, major research projects underway, research highlights, and a link to an alphabetical list of selected publications. An expanded section on the ESD's publications (since 1956) rounds out the site. [LXP]
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LabVelocity [.pdf]
Geared mainly toward biotechnology researchers, this commercial site provides a wealth of laboratory information such as technique protocols, tools and tables, and a catalog of equipment and literature. The Tools and Tables section gives sizes and weights of genomes and molecules, a buffer calculator, protein affinity tables, and much more. Protocols such as in vitro transcription/translation, expression arrays, and protein assays are available for free download in .pdf format. Certain instrumentation, software, and laboratory product user manuals can be similarly downloaded. Other highlights of the site are the "lab manager," allowing users to create a personalized archive of scientific literature, protocols, product lists, and references; free access to Medline, the National Library of Medicine's searchable database; and a customizable news page. Because LabVelocity is a for-profit venture, a vast array of products are available for purchase from the site. These are subcategorized (e.g., Antibodies, Chromatography, Electrophoresis, Immunology) for easy access. Registration is requested but not required. [HCS]
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PAL: Phylogenetic Analysis Library [.tar.gz, .hqx]
Created by researchers at the Universities of Auckland (New Zealand) and Oxford (UK), PAL (Phylogenetic Analysis Library) is a Java library intended for use in molecular evolution and phylogenetics. Updated every four months, PAL currently consists of thirteen packages with "ready-to-use objects" for reading/writing sequence alignments, distance matrices, and trees; substitution models for nucleotides and amino acids; efficient maximum-likelihood estimation of pairwise distances and tree branch lengths; numerous statistical tests; and options for constructing neighbor-joining and UPGMA trees; among many other features. The program may be downloaded as a .tar.gz or .hqx file, but users who are only interested in accessing the library and not in programming may want simply to download a user front end; conditions for use and instructions are included on-site. [LXP]
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Learning Resources

Desert Life in the American Southwest (DUSA) provides this interesting site, offering a plethora of general information on the deserts of the United States. Designed as an educational tool for discovering "the beauty, life and culture of North American deserts," the site contains illustrated text, factual summaries, virtual reality tours, movie/audio clips, and stories. All materials focus on desert-related topics, including plants, animals, geology, cultural and natural history, and parks, among others. The site has much to offer -- from the basics of the desert environment, to a photo-illustrated guide of desert flora and fauna, to details on specific arid and semi-arid deserts of the American Southwest. A glossary of desert terms and brief descriptions of features of the Chihuahuan, Great Basin, Mojave and Sonoran Deserts round out the site. [LXP]
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Atmospheric Science Quiz
"Just as an organ has a unique structure and function, so does our atmosphere . . . There is a real possibility that the health of this organ has been compromised," by the thinning of the ozone layer and the accumulation of greenhouse gases. The Environmental News Network provides this educational and inspirational quiz about our precious atmosphere. Each question comes with an explanation of the answer, fantastic related links, and statistics about the percentage of participants who answered correctly. For example, only 30 percent of the quiz takers knew which layer of the atmosphere contains the most ozone! This quiz is a unique way to learn about the science of global warming and other human-influenced environmental threats. [HCS]
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University of Connecticut Plant Database
Dr. Mark Brand of the University of Connecticut offers this multimedia plant database, which features many of the plants found on college campuses in the northeastern US. Designed with a horticultural flavor and featuring many exotic ornamental species (as well as some natives), the heart of the site is the hyperlinked lists of plant names (common and Latin), with associated species accounts. Each account provides information on habitat, habit and form, seasonal foliage colors, flowers, fruit, bark, ID features, landscape use, cultivars/varieties, culture and liability, and propagation. An added feature of the site is the virtual "campus walks" section, of use to students at the University of Connecticut. This Website does not attempt to highlight the native flora of the northeast, yet serves a different, still useful educational purpose: to teach students how to identify plants in the immediate campus environment. [LXP]
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Two Geometry Metasites
The Computational Geometry Pages
Geometry in Action
The first metasite, authored by Dr. Jeff Erickson of the University of Illinois's Computer Science Department, provides links to Internet and print resources dealing with computational geometry. At this site, users can find links to research groups (e.g., the Algorithms of Motion Project, University of Minnesota Geometry Center), forums, bibliographies, journals, and software resources. Because the site has not been updated regularly, the job and conference announcements should be ignored, but the wealth of other links makes the site useful nonetheless. The second site listed "collects various areas in which ideas from discrete and computational geometry (meaning mainly low-dimensional Euclidean geometry) meet some real world applications," according to the site's provider, Dr. David Eppstein of the University of California at Irvine. Categories available include Geometric References and Techniques, Design and Manufacturing, Graphics and Visualization, Information Systems, Medicine and Biology, Physical Sciences, Robotics, Other Applications, and Recent Additions. The types of links included are data sets, patents, journal articles, and research pages (note: a few of the links don't work, but overall the site is useful). [HCS]
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General Interest

Aquatic Ecology
The New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFLA) hosts this excellent page on online Aquatic Ecology resources. Originally written by Alice Dossett, this metasite links users to the best Websites in the field of aquatic ecology. Organized into nine main sections, hyperlinks are browseable by Organizations and Biological Stations; General Aquatic Information; Plants; Algae; Ichthyology and Herpetology; Insects; Birds; General Biology & Ecology; and Manuals, Companies & Products. Whether users are seeking research-oriented or educational information, this metasite offers impressive depth and quality of information. [LXP]
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Electron Microscopy Unit Snow Page
Whether you are a climatologist or geoscientist looking for good image data or just want to cool off during a summer heatwave, this site from Beltsville Agricultural Research Center is not to be missed. Over 40 exquisite electron micrographs of snowflakes are housed here. A low temperature scanning electron microscope (SEM) was used in the imaging. Martian snow, rime and graupel, stereo images with cool .gif animations, and comparison of light and SEM images are showcased. Some images can be zoomed and informational summaries accompany the plates. An overview of agricultural applications of snow research and a publication list with some full-text links are also available. [HCS]
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Ecological Footprints of Nations [RealPlayer, .zip]
In the wake of the 1997 Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development), Dr. Mathis Wackernagel and other experts wrote this report comparing the ecological impact ("footprint") of 52 large nations containing 80 percent of the world population. The report, featured on this Webpage, shows the extent to which each nation's consumption can be supported by its local ecological capacity. One key finding is that "today, humanity as a whole uses over one third more resources and eco-services than what nature can regenerate." This site contains all sections of the report, and includes (in addition to the detailed methodology and results) a glossary, a RealAudio interview with lead author Mathis Wackernagel, and the capacity to download (.zip) the text portion of the report. [LXP]
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Three New movies from NASA:
Mars Rover 2003 [QuickTime]
Docking of Cargo Ship to the International Space Station [RealPlayer]
TRACE Solar Mission Movie Gallery [MPEG, QuickTime, Java,]
The evolving art of computer imaging, in combination with policies requiring government agencies such as NASA to disseminate information publicly, has spawned a number of exciting, educational movies and animations of outer space on the Web. These three recent examples, all topics of science news headlines, are worth checking out. The first is a computer animation of what the planned 2003 Mars Rover expedition might look like. Viewers can see the bumpy, balloon-cushioned landing of the cartoon rover and then follow it as it zips along the simulated surface of the red planet. The file is available for download in high, medium, or low resolution formats (approximately two minutes long; QuickTime). The next page is a 20-minute RealVideo consisting of a narrated newscast of the docking of a cargo ship to the International Space Station. It includes reports from the control room as well as black-and-white video of the docking. The third page comes from the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) Mission's homepage. The latest videos of solar activity can be viewed in a variety of formats (MPEG, QuickTime, Java, and .gif); they include images of the dynamic solar flares that have recently been disrupting radio and television transmissions (see the July 19, 2000 Scout Report for Science and Engineering). [HCS]
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Current Awareness
(For links to additional current awareness on tables of contents, abstracts, preprints, new books, data, conferences, etc., visit the The Scout Report for Science & Engineering Current Awareness Metapage:

Protecting Biodiversity -- ENN
This recent feature from Environmental News Network tackles the growing question: Are Americans (and all rich nations, for that matter) willing to do what it takes to preserve our (native) biodiversity? This Webpage highlights the US, which "boasts the most diverse collection of ecosystems on Earth, . . . with more than 200,000 native animal and plant species." A series of links at the end of the feature points users to additional materials. [LXP]
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Astronomers Report Discovery of New Extra-solar Planets: Four Reports
1. Astronomers Discover Bundle of Extra-Solar Planets
2. Astronomers report discovery of three new extrasolar planets, plus hints of many multi-planet systems
3. THE PLANET SHOWER STILL GOES ON! Six new planetary candidates announced
If you are feeling alone in the universe, this breaking news of the search for new planets might inspire you. The first account is from the popular space science Website, It chronicles the latest detection of at least nine possible planetary bodies orbiting stars outside of our solar system. The text includes a discussion of how detection of wobble behavior is used in the search for extra-solar planets and plans for future planet hunts. This site also features links to Websites of the observatories involved in extra-solar planet detection, related stories, a diagram of Doppler shift due to stellar wobble and a table of the nine planet candidates's size and distance from Earth. The next three resources come hot off the presses from the meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Manchester England. Researchers at the University of California; the University of Arizona; Geneva Observatory, Switzerland; and Grenouble Observatory, France are reporting on their finds as part of the daily updates from the IAU meeting. [HCS]
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New Publications

EPA Report: "Clinton-Gore Administration Proposes New Protection for the Nation's Wetlands"
This page is the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) press release regarding the Clinton-Gore Administration's August 10 proposal of significant new protection for tens of thousands of acres of environmentally valuable wetlands across the United States. Under this action, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are proposing to address a major regulatory loophole in the Clean Water Act by clarifying the types of activities that can harm wetlands and which therefore require regulation. [HCS]

Designated Airspace Handbook
Although it is intended for pilots navigating Canadian airspace, this 1997 Designated Airspace Handbook may be of interest to those wishing to understand (or protest) current airspace regulations for airplanes (e.g., over national parks). Not intended for the layperson, this handbook includes an array of detailed information related to airspace use over mainland Canada and the Arctic. [LXP]

Two-Year Review of Canada-Wide Accord on Harmonization of the Environment [.pdf]
In June 2000, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) released this document, providing a two-year review of the Canada-Wide Accord on Harmonization of the Environment. The Accord seeks to enhance environmental protection, promote sustainable development, and "achieve greater effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, predictability and clarity of environmental management [in Canada]." [LXP]

Environmental Assessment of Co-Management Agreement Between the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS/NOAA) and the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council (CIMMC) [.pdf]
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS/NOAA) and the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council (CIMMC) have entered into an agreement to permit a subsistence harvest of beluga whales on Cook Inlet. The Cook Inlet beluga population (stock) is currently "depleted," and the subsistence harvest is limited to one whale for the year 2000. This document (.pdf format) offers the Environmental Assessment of the Co-Management Agreement. [LXP]

The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture [.pdf]
This 258-page report from National Academy Press details the potential future of pesticides in US agriculture. The report covers the circumstances under which pesticides may be permitted in the future; which types of pesticides may be permitted; ways to reduce health risks and environmental damage from pesticides; and recommendations for a public role in future pesticide debates. The report must be viewed in Open Book format but can be printed as .pdf files. [LXP]
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Job Openings in Science and Technology from The Chronicle of Higher Education

Netting A Job: Job-hunting on the Internet (includes numerous job links)
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Grants for the Analysis of Science and Technology (S&T) Resources -- National Science Foundation
Deadline: September 18, 2000

ECI and IRPE (International Recognition of Professional Excellence) Prizes: Nominations Requested

Nanoscale Science and Engineering -- National Science Foundation (.pdf, ASCII, or MS Word)
Deadline: November 2, 2000

Intel Scholarships and Grants
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Fourth Asia Pacific Conference of Entomology (APCE)
August 14-17, 2001, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Abstract deadline: December 31, 2000

Eleventh Nitrogen Workshop
September 9-12, 2001, Reims, France
Pre-Registration: October 1, 2000
Extended abstract deadline: March 1, 2001

Fern Flora Worldwide: Threats and Responses
July 23-26, 2001, Guildford, England
Deadline: second circular to be released in July 2000 (check Website)

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Noise and Vibration Conference and Exposition
April 30-May 3, 2001, Traverse City, MI
Abstract deadline: September 11, 2000

Second Joint Conference on Cheminformatics
April 9-11, 2001, University of Sheffield, England
Abstract deadline: September 15, 2000

2001 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
International Conference on Data Mining
November 29-December 2, 2001, Silicon Valley, CA
Abstract deadline: June 15, 2001
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New Data

Hydrologic Information Center: Current Hydrologic Conditions
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)'s Hydrologic Information Center provides this page on Current Hydrologic Conditions across the US. Categorized into seven sections, the site offers daily information on floods, river/ streamflow conditions, drought, soil moisture, snow conditions, water supply, and meterological outlooks. The depth of each daily summary/ forecast varies by topic (e.g., floods, drought) but offers at least a national outlook, featuring highlights for newsworthy states and, in some cases, detailed information from specific locations within a state. [LXP]
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Two New from National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)
The 2000 Olympic Games - A Climatology for Sydney, Australia [.pdf, WordPerfect 8]
Climate-Watch, August 2000
Meteorologists attending or following the 2000 Summer Olympics will enjoy the data tables, maps, and discussion of Sydney, Australia's climatology provided in this 22-page publication, available free of charge electronically (.pdf or WordPerfect 8 format). For example, average temperature, rainfall, and wind direction data for this Olympic venue are given. Color maps accompany text and tables. The second site offers a weather log, selected city and state extremes, and additional resource links for August 2000. Among the items discussed are the wildfires in the Western US, fish-bearing waterspouts in Britain, and heatwaves in Morocco. Another feature is a table of hurricane systems in the Atlantic Basin. [HCS]
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Effort Gap Database
Maintained by the Biological Resources Research Center (BRRC) at the University of Nevada, Reno, the Effort Gap Database organizes information on biological research efforts in the Great Basin. Users may search the database (by multiple topics) for current and past projects, or they may add new information to the database. Typical returns provide information such as project title, scientific goals, available data, Principal Investigators, temporal and spatial scale of research, habitats in study area, types of organisms, source of funding, and finished products. Designed as an interactive Web application to allow and encourage researchers to share research foci and learn about other conservation biology projects in Nevada, this database is an excellent example of how to facilitate collaboration across multiple ecological scales and agencies. [LXP]
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In The News

Wildfires Rage Across the West
1. "Already, Fires Hitting Record Highs" -- CSM
2. "Wildfires in the West" -- ENN
3. USDA Forest Service: Fire News
4. National Interagency Fire Center
5. Fire Research Network (Canada)
6. Lightning & Atmospheric Electricity Research at the GHCC
7. Fire Events: Images -- NOAA
8. Simulating Fire Patterns in Heterogeneous Landscapes -- ORNL
9. FARSITE Fire Area Simulator -- SEM
10. FireLib Home Page -- SEM
11. Global Forest and other Wildfires Status Reports
12. Boise Fire Weather
Only part of the way into a wildfire season that threatens to become the worst in half a century, much of the US is currently ablaze this August, with 65 large wildland fires in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. The fires have roared across the dry western US this month, following an unusual year-long dry spell that some experts attribute to La Nina. To date, nearly 63,000 wildfires have burned four million acres of forest and grassland nationwide. Dry lightning strikes, strong breezes, high temperatures, and the potential for human error led government officials to close more than six million acres of state, private, tribal, and federal land in Montana last week as a preventative measure. This week's In The News focuses on wildfires; the twelve resources listed above provide information from the general to the technical, with several exceptional resources for the research community.

The first news resource, from The Christian Science Monitor, offers a brief look at recent wildfire events at a national scale (1). For an overview of the spread of wildfires through the western US, we suggest this news feature from Environmental News Network (2). Current headlines, regional fire conditions, and fire reports are posted at the US Forest Service's Fire News Website (3) as well as at the National Interagency Fire Center's homepage (4), which additionally includes national wildfire maps and year-to-date fire summary statistics. For information on wildfire research, this site from Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Forest Service has much to offer (5). Also of interest to researchers, the Global Hydrology and Climate Center's Lightning Research site (6) provides data, global images, publications, and an excellent primer on lightning -- one of the primary players in the spread of fire. For recent color images of fire events in the US, visit this page from NOAA (7). Four additional research sites include the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's page on modeling fire patterns in Yellowstone (8); two research tools from the nongovernmental research group Systems for Environmental Management: a graphical fire area simulator (9) and FireLib, a "wildfire behavior function library" (10); and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)'s site on Global Wildfires (11). Finally, for those seeking more information on wildfires and wildfire research, the National Weather Service in Boise, Idaho's Fire Weather homepage (12) offers an excellent collection of resources. [LXP]
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The Scout Report for Science & Engineering
Brought to You by the Internet Scout Project

The Scout Report for Science & Engineering is published every other Wednesday by the Internet Scout Project, located in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Computer Sciences.

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Laura X. Payne
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