URL of the Week Archive  2008

December 29, 2008
Is Evolution a Theory or a Fact?
The National Academies Press presented Science, Evolution, and Creationism in 2008. This link was sent in by Virginia Malone, a TABT past president, as one that is particularly useful as Texas redefines its teaching standards.
This is an excellent one page synopsis that explains what scientists mean by theory. Especially important in the definition of evolution is that it allows predictions, something Intelligent Design (ID) cannot do. Missing is the idea that theories are falsifiable, something ID is not. Beyond this page of the book are some excellent examples of scientific work in evolution.


December 22, 2008

Human Ectoparasites

This URL is one of several presented by NSDL Scout Reports. There’s some excellent “icky stuff” here that may be especially useful for middle school and secondary biology topics.


December 15, 2008

Understanding Evolution

This web site bills itself as a “one-stop source for information on evolution.” It probably doesn’t live up to that billing, but it is darned good anyway!

December 8, 2008

Doing What Works

These teaching tips from the U. S. Department of Education are dedicated to assisting teachers in the implementation of effective educational practices. The website contains practice guides developed that evaluate research on the effectiveness of teaching practices. It also contains examples of possible ways the research may be used, but not necessarily the only ways to implement these teaching practices.

December 1, 2008

Periodic Table of Videos

The University of Nottingham has posted these brief videos for the various elements. Probably most acceptable in chemistry classes, biology teachers and students may find the videos associated with elements found in biological compounds useful, too.


November 24, 2008

Skulls: Structure and Function

Skulls have evolved for both form and function. Through the use of text and labeled photographs, this site explains how specific skull adaptations meet the needs of organisms. The site also presents a series of skull facts, questions, and answers provided by scientists. A unique feature allows visitors to rotate the images of skulls so they can view the different adaptations in form from all angles. While this site is appropriate for high school students, many middle school students would have difficulty abstracting the images into coherent alignment with concepts of evolution and adaptation.


November 17, 2008 

Human Ectoparasites
As a living organism part of a bigger ecosystem, humans are hosts to innumerable other living things. This site lists several related web sites on the topic. I especially recommend “Human Body Lice Reveal the Birthdate of Fashion” and “Humans Less Hairy Thanks to Parasites and Sex” These are illustrative of how evolutionary theory relates structure and function to animal behavior.


November 10, 2008
All Lives Seek Balance: Intro to Homeostasis
Maintaining balance between a living system’s internal conditions and fluctuating environmental (external) conditions is called homeostasis. This site illustrates and describes feedback loops and contains links to Balance in Natural Communities, Balancing the Planet: Gaia Theory, and teacher resources.


November 3, 2008

The Pleistocene – Holocene Event: The Sixth Great Extinction

According to environmentalist Dave Foreman, life today faces the sixth great extinction event in Earth’s history. He says the cause is eating, manufacturing, traveling, warring, consuming, and breeding by six billion human beings. For the first time in the history of life on Earth, one species, Homo sapiens, is waging a war against nature.

October 27, 2008

Molecular Phylogeny

Familiarity with the tree of life allows for deeper comprehension of the diversity of life and evolutionary theory, including the concept of “descent with modification.” This resource provides a concise description and representation of the shared common ancestor of all life on earth and the science of phylogeny using molecules as a basis of the tree’s organization. The page also contains links to information about protozoa and study guides.


October 20, 2008

eNature ZipGuides
Exotic creatures with stories just as fascinating as that of any endangered species are found in abundance – even in our own backyards or any other place one might visit. Use these guides to get to know the birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and other living things that share your environment. The guides are comprehensive local field guides to the animals and plants. You can also use them to find the threatened or endangered species in your area; learn to identify local mammals by their tracks and lots more.


October 13, 2008

Traits of Life Web Site
This page introduces the Exploratorium’s Traits of Life collection, a set of biology exhibits and demonstrations that examines the fundamental elements common to all living things. The collection addresses questions such as: What are the essential elements of life? How can you distinguish between the living and nonliving world? After reviewing the site’s contents, you can choose which sections to share with your students.


September 29, 2008


Sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, this site brings together those interested in E. coli as a model organism with information and data related to E. coli. There are numerous resources that are pulled together into a harmonious whole by the site. It uses web services to connect online resources and is a growing system that will incorporate more resources and services as it grows. It has news and events system for keeping track of upcoming meetings and reporting news of interest to E. coli researchers; a community forum; a cross-site search engine; and links to information and tools.


September 22, 2008

Nearctic Spider Database

This clearinghouse includes taxonomic and natural history data for about 10% of the roughly 3800 North American spider species. The accounts weave in information such as the spiders' distribution, habitat, anatomy, and diet.


September 15, 2008

Mangal Cay – Virtual Tour of a Mangrove Forest

Mangrove forests reinforce tropical coastlines, filter runoff, and house throngs of terrestrial and aquatic organisms. The intricate ecology of these forests is shown in this virtual tour from the Smithsonian Institution. Mangal Cay is an island in Belize that has a peat bog, mats of cyanobacteria, and tree-climbing shellfish. You can also virtually visit the waters surrounding Mangal Cay, home to everything from delicate anemones to crocodiles, and learn about threats to mangrove forests such as coastal development and shrimp farming.


September 8, 2008

Britain's Birds

BirdFacts, a new guide from the British Trust for Ornithology, profiles 258 species that frequent or breed in the British Isles. The species accounts are crammed with ecological, anatomical and conservation data. You'll find results from recent surveys of British and European populations and summaries of long-term trends in the species’ numbers. Although it focuses on Britain, BirdFacts will prove useful for non-U.K. users because many of the species also inhabit Europe and North America.


September 1, 2008

Greener Education Materials for Teachers

Green chemistry is a growing movement to reduce industry’s use of hazardous raw materials and release of noxious byproducts. Teachers looking for lab and classroom resources on green chemistry can use this new directory from the University of Oregon, Eugene. The site links to lab procedures, tutorials, and Environmental Protection Agency software for identifying green chemicals and reactions. Listings also include abstracts of articles in the Journal of Chemical Education.


August 25, 2008

Evolution Resources from the National Academies

To help teachers and other visitors better understand evolution, the U.S. National Academies have released a collection of previously published reports, position statements, and other documents. The offerings include a synopsis of the evidence for evolution and a guide to using it to help students learn how science works.


August 18, 2008

Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North America

This site, hosted by three Italian scientists and insect enthusiasts, covers some 1450 kinds of European and North African moths and butterflies.


August 11, 2008

Flying Snake Home Page

Learn more about the five species of flying snakes of Asia at a site created by Jake Socha of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. These snakes launch themselves into the air and parachute, flattening their bodies to slow their descent. Nobody knows why the snakes adopted the aerial habit. The site showcases photos and videos of the reptiles flinging themselves from high perches.


August 4, 2008


This site contains information about siphonophores, communal relatives of jellyfish and corals. Each of the communal units (called zooids) resembles an individual animal. Pages explain how one zooid gives rise to a siphonophore’s elongated body.


July 28, 2008

World of Amber

Find out all you want to know about amber – including how to tell the real stuff from the fake – at this site.


July 21, 2008

Rediscovering the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

The ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), long thought to be extinct, may still hang on in the swamps of eastern Arkansas. This site hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, is collecting reports of potential sightings. Tips on how to distinguish the bird from the pileated wood-pecker (Dryocopus pileatus), are included with extensive background on the ivory-bill's decline, including footage from a 1935 expedition to northern Louisiana that made the first recordings of the woodpecker's calls.


July 14, 2008

Web Images of North American Moth Species

There's no comprehensive catalog for the nearly 11,000 species of moths in North America. However, entomologist John Snyder of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, has compiled this virtual field guide that links to photos of more than 4000 moth species scattered around the Internet. Snyder says that he made an effort to include caterpillars, which are often hard to find in other references.


July 7, 2008

David G. Cogan Opthalmic Pathology Collection

Students studying eye diseases may visit this pathology collection from the U.S. National Eye Institute (NEI). The database presents case descriptions of eye illnesses, injuries, and disorders. Examples range from cataracts to a parasitic worm infestation of the retina. There are more than 3000 photos. You can search the cases by location in the eye, diagnosis, and type of tissue abnormality.


June 16, 2008

Science of Gardening

This site from the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California has information on everything from the bacteria that maintain soil fertility to the origins of modern plant varieties. One section explores the relationship between plants and their pollinators with mock love letters between the parties, followed by a scientific explanation of what’s happening.


June 9, 2008


This site tells you what you should read to get up to speed on neuroscience, psychology, and pharmacology. Created by graduate student Shawn Thomas of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the site offers compilations of abstracts from recent papers that introduce topics from autism genetics to the connection between migraines and the neurotransmitter glutamate. Some entries link to the full-text articles. Other offerings include a listing of drugs under study for depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. You can also browse MetaDB, which links to more than 1000 biological databases on everything from mammalian brain anatomy to the genome of the hepatitis C virus.


May 26, 2008

Genetic Science Learning Center

From stem cells to gene chips, from prions to cloning, genetics and biotechnology can look complex to high school and college students. Beginners can ease into these subjects at this site, a tutorial from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Primers include topics from DNA structure to the different types of stem cells. Animations illustrate techniques such as microarray analysis and investigate questions such as how cystic fibrosis upsets the ion balance in lung cells.


May 19, 2008

Southwest Exotic Plant Information Clearinghouse

This site is a good source of facts about non-native plants such as purple loosestrife that are invasive. Sponsored by federal agencies and Northern Arizona University, the database collects backgrounders on more than 300 species. Another feature lets users map reports of the species in the Southwest.

May 12, 2008

Barcode of Life Initiative

At this site, hosted by the University of Guelph in Canada, you can read up on the concept of using barcodes to speed the identification of species. The site already holds codes for more than 13,000 animal species. The codes, based on different sequences of the cytochrome c oxidase I gene in mitochondria, encompass 260 species of North American birds and a selection of insects. Users can compare a bar code from their specimen to the entries in the database. The site will soon contain about one-fifth of North American butterflies and moths.


May 5, 2008

List of Bacterial Names with Standing in Nomenclature

This site was compiled by microbiologist J. P. Euzéby of the École Nationale Vétérinaire in Toulouse, France. The site has more than 7000 valid species names. The entries include references to the original description, comments on nomenclature difficulties, and other information.


April 28, 2008

The Physiology of the Senses

This tutorial from Tutis Vilis of the University of Western Ontario in Canada offers 12 animated chapters on the basics of vision, hearing, and the other senses, along with topics such as memory. Students can probe the workings of the vestibular system in the inner ear, which maintains our balance, or learn how receptors in the skin transform pressure into the sensation of being touched. The chapters also include exercises demonstrating concepts such as working memory, the mental scratch pad for temporarily storing information.


April 21, 2008

West Nile Virus Maps

The mosquito-borne disease of West Nile fever first struck the United States in 1999. You can track this year's outbreak using a mapper from the U.S. Geological Survey. Updated twice weekly during prime mosquito months, the site charts human cases, along with reports of infected birds, horses, and sentinels (chickens or other animals that scientists test regularly to reveal the disease’s presence). You can also chart where mosquitoes carrying the virus have turned up. An archive lets you compare this season's results to those from past years.


April 14, 2008

The Virtual Fossil Museum

This site, created by Roger Perkins of Jefferson, Arkansas, offers a gallery of fossil photos. Users can browse by taxonomic group or by fossil location. Another section profiles famous sites such as the Chengjiang formation in China, which contains remains of some of the earliest known animals, and the fossil-rich Bundenbach site in Germany. You can use the museum's images, which come from fossil collectors, researchers, and other contributors, for research and education purposes.


April 7, 2008


Carbohydrates are now getting attention because of their roles in immunity, cancer, and other processes. Basic carbohydrate data is at this site from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg. Search by categories such as molecular formula, classification, and full or partial structure. You’ll find a 3D image of the molecule, predicted peaks for mass spectroscopy, a list of references, and other results. For more information, use the site’s bibliography of carbohydrate publications.


March 31, 2008

Emiliania huxleyi Home Page

Individual cells of the protist Emiliania huxleyi are so tiny that researchers can barely see them with a light microscope. But E. huxleyi has a large impact on the planet. This site offers expert information on the cells’ anatomy, reproduction, ecology, and other topics. The site also includes a gallery of delicate E. huxleyi shells, a bibliography, and a link to NASA satellite photos of E. huxleyi blooms.


March 24, 2008

R. A. Fisher Digital Archive

Stephen Jay Gould dubbed R. A. Fisher “the Babe Ruth of statistics and evolutionary theory.” A British geneticist and mathematician, Fisher (1890-1962) earned the review with achievements from inventing the analysis of variance to helping mesh natural selection and genetics, which many scientists in the early 1900s believed were incompatible. At this site you can browse more than 170 of Fisher’s publications, which probe questions such as the origin of dominant genes and the inheritance of the Rh blood groups. Fisher’s correspondence lets you follow along as he discusses heredity, natural selection, and other topics with thinkers such as Charles Darwin’s son Leonard, a soldier and scientist. Fisher’s papers also reveal what Gould called one of his “major-league errors,” his campaign to discredit the link between smoking and lung cancer. A pipe smoker, Fisher argued that we needed stronger evidence “before plant[ing] fear in the minds of perhaps 100 million smokers around the world.”


March 17, 2008


If you’re wondering what goes on in a CD burner or how the drug Botox erases wrinkles, check out this Web site. It is packed with ads, but beyond them you’ll find hundreds of brief articles on autos, electronics, health, and science (mostly written by nonscientists). Brush up on how fuel cells work, read about the chemicals inside fireworks, or get a quick overview of diabetes.


March 10, 2008


Videos of suicidal cells and images such as the “death receptor” add to this Web site by Phil Dash of St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London. Embedded in a cell’s membrane, the receptor picks up the suicide signal and unleashes enzymes, which help orchestrate the cell’s demise.


March 3, 2008

The Micropolitan Museum

Many photos hang in the online galleries of this Web site. The site work of Wim van Egmond, an artist and photographer in the Netherlands, are displayed. He has trained his camera on everything from pond-dwelling water mites to the glasslike skeleton of a sponge to mats of cyanobacteria. Learn more about some of these creatures by linking to the magazine Micscape, which features articles written by enthusiasts of the small.


February 25, 2008

African Crop Improvement

Africa has the fastest-growing population, and ways to hike food production may be found at this site. The home page of a Rockefeller Foundation research grants program, the site offers information on the needs of African agriculture, biotechnology, and related topics. Backgrounders on important crops such as bananas, cassava, and sorghum describe the plant’s origins and uses and identify research priorities. Links include the bean and millet genome projects. A news section posts media reports and press releases on the latest developments, and you can share ideas with fellow researchers on the new message board.


February 18, 2008

Botany: Home Page

This federal government portal helps you to locate hundreds of quality botany Web sites. The annotated links – from a single page on paleobotany to an algae taxonomy database – include many useful sites for teachers. Check out the anatomy of a fern’s leaf, learn about the diseases of forage crops, or read Gregor Mendel’s original 1865 paper on plant hybridization that revolutionized genetics.

February 11, 2008

Whatever Happened to Polio?

At this Web site you can look back and learn about the vaccines that helped stamp out polio in the United States. The site, which accompanies an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, marks the 50th anniversary of the polio vaccine. It offers period photos, audio clips from polio survivors, and other resources that chart the disease's wrenching impact on society and families. You can also learn about Jonas Salk’s and Albert Sabin’s vaccines. A final section looks at current efforts to eradicate polio from the few countries where it remains.


February 4, 2008

World Wind 1.4

This Web site allows adventurers to swoop past Japan’s Mount Fuji, trace the fractures in a Greenland iceberg, or zoom in on their houses from high altitudes. The software from NASA’s Ames Research Center knits together satellite images and elevation data, letting users chart spectacular virtual trips. For major U.S. cities, the program features 25-centimeters-per-pixel color images. Black-and-white aerial photographs and topographic maps capture the rest of the country. You can also overlay the latest temperature and cloud-cover measurements and summon data on fires, floods, storms, and volcanic activity. You’ll need Windows, a 3-D graphics card, and a 1.4 gigahertz or faster processor.


January 28, 2008

Arctic Report Card 2007

It was big news when the amount of Arctic sea ice reached a record low during the summer of 2007. At this site, pole watchers can track other environmental changes in the far north. The site, from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, updates last year’s State of the Arctic report by offering brief, peer-reviewed articles on variables such as air temperature and the mass of Greenland’s ice sheet. As one entry reveals, a “hot spot” where temperatures are 3° to 4°C above average has edged closer to Europe from its previous position in eastern Siberia. Overall, the Arctic continues to heat up, but the site notes that not all measures follow the trend. For instance, permafrost temperatures appear to be leveling off.


January 21, 2008

USGS National Wetlands Research Center

This site offers fact sheets on topics such as mangroves and climate change as well as the nutria, a ratlike invasive species. An online library includes reports documenting the ecology and habitat needs of more than 100 coastal wetland residents, from the black abalone to the yellowtail snapper.


January 14, 2008
Genographic Project

In April 2005, the National Geographic Society and IBM announced a project to produce a sharper picture of human migrations by analyzing DNA samples from 100,000 people. This site is contains lavishly illustrated backgrounders on genetics and migrations. A timeline depicts what we know about the human expansion from Africa beginning about 60,000 years ago. Another section explains how to send in your DNA and find out where your ancestors originated. Genealogical curiosity will cost you $99.95 plus shipping for the test kit.


January 7, 2008

The Brain From Top To Bottom

This site comes in several languages and three levels. It is very interactive and allows those interested in the morphology or physiology of the brain to get a great base of knowledge.


2008 TABT URL of the Week
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