URL of the Week Archive  2007

December 24, 2007

Euglenoid Project Web

Euglena and its relatives are the subject of this site. A primer introduces peculiarities of euglena behavior and anatomy. Visitors can also check out the original euglena sketches by German biologist Christian Ehrenberg (who named the creatures in 1830) or watch movies of cells on the move or eating other protists. With interactive keys and synopses of most genera, the site contains information for taxonomists.


December 17, 2007

Improving Medical Statistics

The recent concern over the safety of pain relievers such as Vioxx and Celebrex makes the Web site a timely read. Eric Roehm, a cardiologist from Round Rock, Texas, exposes statistical gaffes, shoddy study designs, and unwarranted conclusions that slipped past peer review and into the pages of top journals.


December 10, 2007

Searchable Ornithological Research Archive (SORA)

If you want to browse the historic bird literature, you should refer to this site hosted by the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. The site, named for the marsh-dwelling sora, holds more than 100 years’ worth of The Condor, The Auk, and The Wilson Bulletin, along with shorter spans of the North American Bird Bander, Studies in Avian Biology, and other ornithological titles. A search function lets you scan the full texts of all the journals, and you can download articles as PDFs or in the more concise DjVu format, which requires a free plug-in to view. The newest volumes date to 2000.


November 26, 2007

Microbiology Textbook

Students can discover more about how a bacterium works at this online microbiology textbook from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The site includes 17 partial or complete chapters covering everything from bacterial structure and nutrition to viral pathogens like the pesky rhinoviruses that cause colds. The text weaves in plenty of animations and fun tidbits, such as a section on the hardy Pseudomonas bacteria that can eat nitroglycerin and TNT. There are also comments on bugs in the news, such as the bird flu outbreak in Southeast Asia.


November 19, 2007

Euroforest Portal

This site from the European Forest Institute and Finland’s University of Joensuu contains hundreds of links to forest information for more than 40 countries. You can check the results of Germany’s most recent forest inventory, browse an atlas of Russia’s remaining pristine forests, or read a World Wildlife Fund report on Europe’s involvement in the illegal logging trade. The site also lists opportunities for research and training in forestry.


November 11, 2007


This site contains data on the health risks of chemicals and chemical safety information. The collection of fact sheets, reports, and other documents profiles hundreds of widely used substances and products, such as the flavoring zingerone, which gives gingersnaps their snap. For information about a chemical's risks, flip through the chemical safety cards. Longer documents evaluate hazards from specific pesticides, potential carcinogens, and other kinds of compounds.


November 5, 2007

Math Digital Library

Telling example and lucid graphics are contained at this site. The online library furnishes tools, animations, and other resources to help high school students and undergraduates hone math skills. Exercises let users do everything from graphing 3D equations to investigating the scatter of German rocket strikes on London during World War II, a classic example of the pattern called the Poisson distribution. With open-source math applets, students can study topics such as linear transformation. The site also houses a journal with articles on using history to teach math – for example, analyzing paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance artists can help students understand geometry.


October 29, 2007

It’s in the Blood!

This site chronicles the Linus Pauling's fascination with the blood’s oxygen-hauling molecule. Pauling’s high points and low points are cited candidly.


October 22, 2007

Wellcome Images

This site contains thousands of medically themed photos and art. The site’s contemporary and historical collections are the place to search if you want amazing images. You can download the images free for noncommercial use.


October 15, 2007

Cell Images

This site is a gallery of historic shots revealing the internal structure and workings of the cell is hosted by the American Society for Cell Biology in Bethesda, Maryland. The videos and electron micrographs are peer-reviewed to make sure they are scientifically valuable. Included are descriptions of what they illustrate and how they were taken.


October 8, 2007

Species 2000

An international project to create a comprehensive listing of life on Earth is about one-third complete. Last week, the latest update pushed the total number of species in this site to more than 535,000. The site serves as a portal, allowing you to browse or search a taxonomic tree linked to "federated" databases such as AlgaeBase, the Species Fungorum, the World Spider Catalog, and many more. The project is on track to record all of the roughly 1.75 million named species by 2011.


October 1, 2007

Ultimate Tree Ring Pages

The rings in the tree’s trunk can reveal the tree’s life story, including past fires, droughts, and other growth-changing events. The wooden records can help researchers track global warming, investigate the collapse of ancient civilizations, and more. You can download software for analyzing tree-ring records and browse a bibliography. A list of recommended supplies, links to tree-ring databases, and a tutorial on cross dating, are also included.


September 24, 2007


This site from the University of Bristol in the U.K. offers information for everyone from dinosaur dabblers to devotees. A database holds vital statistics for several hundred dinosaur species. You can tour a gallery of dinosaur art or dig into the site’s forum for announcements of fresh finds and the latest on current debates, such as whether commercial fossil hunters hurt or help paleontology.


September 17, 2007

The Grapes of Staph

This site is a combination Web text and lab manual from microbiologist Gary Kaiser of the Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland. The site offers material that teachers can adopt. The tutorial includes more than 50 sections on basic microbiology, covering everything from bacterial anatomy to viral life cycles to the human body's defenses against invading microbes. You will also find illustrations and animations, a glossary, and self-quizzes. The exercises teach students techniques for culturing and isolating bacteria, testing for pathogens, and more.


September 10, 2007

Elemental Data Index

Any periodic table will provide data such as an element’s weight and atomic number. The wealth of information at this site goes far beyond simple data. The site serves as a portal for more than a dozen collections with atomic measurements, including half-lives and relative abundances for different isotopes and spectroscopy results.


September 3, 2007

Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.

The micro world comes into focus at this Web gallery from Dennis Kunkel of Kailua, Hawaii. There are more than 1500 colorized and black-and-white electron micrographs. Teachers can use the images for free by contacting Kunkel.


August 27, 2007

Historical Anatomies on the Web

Readers can see medical illustrations from as far back as the 14th century on this page. The exhibit showcases selected diagrams from 28 anatomical atlases. Brief backgrounders highlight the innovations in each work and describe the authors. anatomist Galen, then considered the ultimate authority on the body's structure.


August 20, 2007

Reef Check

This database has the condition of individual reefs in the world. Reports from volunteers who collect standard data on coral health are included. Click on the barometer at the bottom of the Reef Check home page to search surveys from locales around the world. The records provide information such as ratings of natural and human-caused damage and counts for fishes, invertebrates, and other residents. Tools let you compare reefs and contrast measures of the same site from different times.


August 13,2007

NASA Virtual Lab

Beginning students often never get closer to an electron microscope than the photos in textbooks. Anyone can get a sense of what the instrument can do by downloading this simulator from NASA. The free Java program allows users to pan, zoom, and use the built-in ruler to measure a beetle's leg, crystals from a human kidney stone, and other objects. The virtual lab plans to add more images and instruments, such as a light microscope.


August 6, 2007

Virtual Courseware: Global Warming

The impact of global warming depends on factors such as human population growth and fossil fuel use. High school and introductory college classes can learn how these and other variables might influence temperatures, sea levels, and more at a new tutorial hosted by California State University, Los Angeles. The Java applet helps students work through scenarios for the future.


July 30, 2007

The Pherobase

Insects employ a multitude of chemical signals to announce their receptiveness for mating, mark the route to their nest, repel enemies, or induce other behaviors. Compiled by Ashraf El-Sayed of HortResearch, this site matches some 3000 of these molecules with the creatures that emit them. Click on a chemical to see its structure, a 3D model, and for some compounds, a mass spectrum.


July 23, 2007

NHM’s Microbiology Video Collection

Microscopic denizens are among the stars of a gallery from the Natural History Museum in London. The site lets you play nearly 1500 short clips of protists. The films don’t include descriptions, but they do allow students to see the organisms in action.


July 16, 2007

Videos might be the best way to learn the subtleties of a lab procedure. This pair of sites can help biologists find or swap video how-to’s.

Journal of Visualized Experiments

This site has step-by-step demonstrations of more than 30 lab techniques, including how to isolate blood-forming stem cells or extract embryos from a mouse uterus. Launched by Moshe Pritsker and Nikita Bernstein, the site features videos shot by professionals and vetted by scientists.



This site from Siddharth Singh of Devi at Devi Ahilya University in India contains video clips on subjects such as genetics and bioinformatics. It aims to be fun as well as educational, with a category set aside for amusing takes on campus life.


July 02, 2007

Consensus CoDing Sequence

To straighten out these discrepancies between sites that list human genes, this site is a master catalog of nearly 15,000 of our genes that almost certainly code for proteins. The project involved organizations such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the European Bioinformatics Institute and entailed comparing the latest gene rosters compiled by researchers and by computers. Recent estimates suggest that humans may have 10,000 more genes, but many of these didn't make the cut because of insufficient evidence.


June 25, 2007
The Bryozoa Home Page
Bryozoans are difficult to categorize. Some of the colony-forming animals resemble fronds or shaggy shrubs, but others look like corals. This site explains that fossil bryozoan skeletons can form limestone layers, and some modern species have become pests because they stick to ships’ hulls or clog intake pipes. Visitors can brush up on bryozoan taxonomy or browse full-text versions of more than 30 classic publications.

June 18, 2007
The Center for North American Herpetology
You can catch up on the latest developments in reptile and amphibian taxonomy at this site headed by Joseph Collins of the
University of Kansas, Lawrence. Check the standard scientific and common names for 596 species of reptiles and amphibians. The site announces newly described species and records classification and nomenclature updates for existing ones.

June 11, 2007
Thorkild’s Lectins Page
This sprawling collection of 2000 links details the world of lectins. A primer introduces groups such as the collectins, which recognize carbohydrates in bacterial cell walls and rouse the body’s defensive proteins. You can also scan a database with 3D lectin structures or read up on the lectin in kidney beans that occasionally causes food poisoning.

June 4, 2007
Ovarian Kaleidoscope Database
Learn about the genes that sustain egg production and orchestrate other ovarian functions at this site that describes more than 1800 genes that work in the ovaries of humans, mice, rats, and other animals. Entries indicate the gene’s function, where it’s active in the ovary, what controls its expression, the effects of particular mutations, and more. Links lead to additional information about the gene’s structure and its roles in biochemistry and diseases.

May 28, 2007

NOAA CarbonTracker

This site from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado charts the ups and downs of the carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. It incorporates CO2 measurements from more than 60 locations around the world to provide a broad picture of carbon uptake and release for North America, the globe, and the oceans between 2000 and 2005. You can also check out the “carbon weather” to see how storms alter levels of the gas. The site may eventually become an objective tool for gauging whether carbon emission targets are being met.


May 21, 2007

Lakota Winter Count

Visitors to this site can peruse a collection of winter counts analyze their iconography at this new exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution. The site lets users scroll through 10 counts covering mainly the 18th and 19th centuries. Click on the drawings to read a description of what happened during those years.


May 14, 2007

The Cell Centered Database

This site from the University of California, San Diego, is a destination for charting the nuances of neuron branching to realistic cell simulations. Launched in 2002, the archive houses images, reconstructions, and models of nerve cells of brain neurons based on microscopy data. It helps fill the gap between gene and protein databases and those holding images of larger brain structures. Visitors can access images and raw data on more than 30 nervous system cells. The listings also include measurements such as the cell’s surface area and the lengths of major branches.


May 07, 2007
PBS Teachers
This new web site for K-12 educators is the front door for all educational resources and services that PBS offers, including free lesson plans, teacher professional development opportunities, videos, blogs, and more. It provides information about effective ways to use media and technology in school. Among the site’s features are a new blog, called “Media Infusion,” that showcases ideas for (and encourage conversations about) using media and technology in the classroom. The “Shop for Teachers” feature allows purchase of video programs. Advanced personalization features that will enable educators to bookmark, annotate, and share the resources they find is expected this summer.

April 30, 2007

Australian Biological Resources Study

Australia has many biological oddities. Its estimated that it has 2 million kinds of plants, animals. The taxonomic catalogs at this site from the Australian government's Department of Environment and Heritage in Canberra can help you sort through this diversity. The Fauna Online page directs you to species descriptions for many animal groups, providing distribution maps, notes on ecology, key references, and other information about organisms. The listings will eventually cover all Australian animal species. The Flora Online page lets you search a similar catalog of plants, algae, and lichens.


April 23, 2007


Who needs a brain? The cnidarians--corals, jellyfish, sea anemones, and their relatives--have stuck around for more than 500 million years without one. Researchers intrigued by these animals will find everything from stunning photos to genomic data at these two sites. This site, run by German zoologist Vreni H1/4aussermann, focuses on the group that includes corals and sea anemones. You can connect with fellow researchers by browsing a directory or joining a discussion forum. The site also includes a taxonomy of the group; species lists for Hawaii, the Mediterranean Sea, and other places; and several bibliographies.


April 16, 2007


Create climographs using this site. It is great for showing students the differences in northern and southern hemisphere temperatures, different climates in different biomes.  You can just click on the map or enter latitude and longitude coordinates. You can also save the climographs. 


April 09, 2007
Chemical Experiments on the Web
Demonstrating chemical reactions in class is a great way to spark students’ interest--assuming the procedures work, everyone can see the lab bench, and nobody gets hurt. An alternative that eliminates these potential problems is this library of some 200 experiments for undergraduate labs from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. You can search the experiment list by topic, keyword, or element to find everything from instructions for identifying metals by burning them to the synthesis of nylon. Movies of the reactions highlight important chemical transformations. Other features include a synopsis of the reaction, still photos of stages in the procedure, safety precautions, and references. Although some descriptions are in German, most experiments include English translations.

April 02, 2007

Flowers in Ultraviolet Light

To our eyes, a narcissus flower looks uniformly yellow, but a camera that captures ultraviolet (UV) light reveals the flower's speckles, streaks, and splashes. Many flowers use these hidden patterns to signal bees and other pollinators, which can detect UV light. For a bee's-eye view of more than 100 plant varieties, check out this gallery from Bjørn Rørslett, a retired water scientist and photographer from Oslo, Norway. A geranium's "bull's-eye" pattern, for example, functions like the runway lights at an airport, guiding approaching insects to a touchdown at the flower's center, where nectar and pollen await.


March 26, 2007

The Francis Crick Papers

Along with a biography that follows his professional zigzags, this site holds letters, papers, photos, and other memorabilia from a collection cached at the U.K.’s Wellcome Library. You can read an early sketch of The Double Helix, for example, or read a letter from chemist Linus Pauling chastising Crick for including too few hydrogen bonds in a paper on DNA. Also included is a 1979 composite photo showing Crick’s animated lecture style.


March 19, 2007

Guide to South American Cichlids

Cichlids are the fish equivalents of Darwin’s finches, having captured the interest of evolutionists and ecologists because of their diversity of shapes, behaviors, and feeding habits. This guide from the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm summarizes South American cichlids. The site profiles more than 30 genera, offering physical descriptions, keys for sorting species, geographical distributions, and notes on nomenclature.


March 12, 2007

Tree of Life

The site provides information about diversity of organisms on Earth, their evolutionary history and their characteristics. Authoritative discussions on many species are included and some with morphological synapomorphies and distribution maps.


March 5, 2007

The Paleobiology Database

At this site, you can find out where researchers have collected particular species of Tyrannosaurus rex or tackle broader questions about patterns in the fossil record. Headed by paleontologist John Alroy of the University of California, Santa Barbara, it lets you scan his and other experts’ records of more than 43,000 fossil collections, dating back to more than 540 million years ago. Searching for a species returns a list of collecting locales. Click on a particular one for a detailed profile that includes lists of other remains discovered there, descriptions of the strata, evaluations of how well the fossils had held up, and other information. You can also map the finds or use the data to ask “big-picture questions” about the history of life.


February 26, 2007
Barcode of Life Blog
This site provides weekly news updates, analyses of papers, and other information concerning DNA barcoding. Recent posts, for example, discuss the technique’s success in distinguishing hard-to-separate species of red algae and why the mitochondrial DNA sequences often used as bar codes differ more between species than within them.

February 19, 2007
Johns Hopkins AIDS Service – Life Cycle of the AIDS Virus
This brief description of the life cycle of aids and drugs under consideration in stopping the virus in its tracks is presented in a single Web page. In addition, a simple FLASH animation of the process of infection is shown.

February 12, 2007

Arctic Change

Aimed at decision-makers and the general public, this site provides historical perspective on more than 20 climate change indicators, from wildlife behavior to river outflow, that mostly reflect rising Arctic temperatures. The number of months that northern residents can travel on ice roads has fallen from more than six in the early 1970s to fewer than four today, for example. The site’s brief backgrounders offer plenty of links to reports and more detailed data.


February 05, 2007

Take a Stand for Science

What can you do if your local school board proposes a curriculum that downplays evolution or if your hometown newspaper runs an editorial supporting “intelligent design”?  This site from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Rockville, Maryland, offers advice and resources for scientists who want to defend Darwinism. Downloadable documents provide pointers on meeting with public officials, testifying at school board hearings, and related topics. Much of the advice is common sense, but some of it may be counterintuitive for scientists. For example, although you want your papers to run in prestigious journals, an op-ed will probably have more impact if it appears in the local paper than if it's accepted by The Wall Street Journal. The site also furnishes PowerPoint files on topics such as the importance of learning about evolution.


January 29, 2007

Alfred Russel Wallace Online Collection
A new online exhibit from the Natural History Museum in London documents Wallace’s work and life with annotated selections from his writings and other memorabilia. You can browse some of his travel letters. Other offerings indicate that Wallace didn’t resent being overshadowed by the older scientist.

January 22, 2007

Genetics Home Reference

This site serves as a reference for students and helps teachers catch up on the latest findings. The goal of the site is to translate information from the human genome project for student use. The handbook section explains topics such as inheritance, different kinds of mutations, genetic testing, and gene therapy. Users can learn about the genes responsible for illnesses and read up on some 100 conditions. You can browse the descriptions by gene, condition, or chromosome.


January 15, 2007

The Diptera Site

This site, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a good launching point for anyone looking for information on the more than 120,000 species of these insects. Pages describe morphology, habits, and other details of 16 fly families. You can find possible collaborators in the site’s directory or fire up the Nomenclator, a database of valid scientific names.


January 8, 2007

Millennium Coral Reefs Landsat Archive

This archive can help researchers monitor this and other coral reefs and study how their structures differ in various regions. The library, collaboration between NASA and the University of South Florida, holds more than 1400 images captured by the Landsat 7 satellite between 1999 and 2003. By clicking on a world map, you can zoom in on a particular reef and download close-up photos. The shots provide baseline data on location and size that are missing for many reefs, making it easier to track changes such as declines that might result from global warming and pollution.


January 1, 2007

Gymnosperm Database

This database from Christopher Earle, a consulting ecologist in the Seattle, Washington, area, offers an up-to-date synopsis of the group’s taxonomy. The species accounts cover more than 500 modern kinds of gymnosperms.