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Category: Websites

Oct 01 2015

Websites of Interest

Authentic Assessment Toolbox: In his introduction to this useful site, psychology professor Jon Mueller presents two arguments. First, he claims that our current educational system fails to teach the need for critical skills for success in the 21st century. Second, he posits that the reason for this is, at least partially, due to confusion about how to assess those skills. The website is an answer to that confusion. Here educators will find Mueller’s program of Authentic Assessment. Readers may like to begin with the first three sections of the site, “What is it?,” “Why do it?,” and “How do you do it,” before moving onto sections that explain such topics as Standards, Rubrics, and Tasks. Throughout the site, Mueller makes a genuine attempt to provide both a philosophical backdrop for his assessment techniques and the sorts of down-to-earth tools that educators can easily use in their classrooms.

Center for Genomic Gastronomy: The Center for Genomic Gastronomy thinks of itself as “an artist-led think tank that examines the biotechnologies and biodiversity of human food systems.” As such, it hopes to provide readers with information about food controversies, offer alternatives to our culinary cultures, and “imagine a more just, biodiverse, & beautiful food system.” The site has a youthful, tech-savvy feel. Here readers will find lectures about food politics (under the Talks tab), tracts dedicated to “experimental eating” and other tropes (under the Texts tab), and a backlog of hundreds of Blog entries that outline the activities of the Center, from presentations in Moscow to hosted dinners in Sausalito. For readers who are fascinated by the cutting edge of food culture, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy is worth exploring.

Data Snapshots: Reusable Data Maps: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate education site provides “timely and authoritative scientific data and information about climate” in order to “promote public understanding of climate science and climate-related events.” While NOAA provides a wealth of information on its site, the Maps & Data section is unique for its visual representations of complex patterns. Here readers will find continually updated maps of the United States, including depictions of average monthly temperatures, temperature outlook, severe weather climatology, and a drought monitor. The color-coding makes interpretation relatively easy, while the explanations that accompany each map fill out the story of what is happening around the nation. Readers will also find four data-related sections (Data Snapshots, Dataset Gallery, Climate Data Primer, and Climate Dashboard), each of which explicates the interpretation of climate data from a different perspective.

Medical Dictionary: Comprehensive Medical Terminology Search: While this visually simple service leaves something to be desired in terms of aesthetics, it is a powerful tool for readers who may sometimes find themselves befuddled by the multitude of terminologies in the medical world. Readers who have a confusing medical word or phrase that they want to understand may simply type or paste it into the search box. For instance, entering “kainic acid” returns the explanation that this substance is “a glutamate analogue that exhibits powerful and long-acting excitatory and toxic activity on neurons.” The search engine also allows readers to select “fuzzy search” when they are not certain how to spell a term. This activates an Internet-wide search that clarifies the search. In addition, readers may scout the dictionary by letter, which can make for hours of entertainment as one scrolls through definitions of C factors, C fibers, C genes, C group viruses, and so on.

Sep 01 2015

Websites of Interest

The Plant List: As the website rather modestly states, The Plant List is “a working list of all known plant species.” In other words, botanically inspired readers will find on this site basic information about 1,293,685 (and counting) different plants. Readers may like to begin with How to use this site, a comprehensive section that describes how to search The Plant List, when it is useful or not useful to conduct a search, when it is more helpful to browse, and other tips and tidbits. After getting their bearings, readers may then want to delve into the list itself. For instance, the Browse tab allows readers to look into the four major groups (flowering plants, conifers, ferns, and mosses), and then dig down into family, genera, and species. For science teachers looking for new resources to offer their students, or for anyone fascinated by plants, this collaboration between the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and the Missouri Botanical Garden is a truly comprehensive resource.

Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas: For educators who are searching for ways to harness the power of social media in their classrooms, this Edutopia article by writer Matt Davis will pay dividends. Davis begins by making a case for social media use, then launches into a resource-packed review of 33 Internet articles that offer tips on integrating Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest into a variety of curricula. Highlights include articles, such as Education Week’s “New How-To Guide for Using Facebook in the Classroom” and David Truss’ “One-Stop-All-You-Need-to-Know-Guide to Twitter.” With only one in five teachers regularly using social media with their students, this site could boost confidence and help utilize these powerful tools.

TED-Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing:
TED-Ed is a multifaceted educational platform based on the knowledge-proliferating philosophies of TED, the organization made famous by its renowned TED talks. To take full advantage of TED-Ed, educators will first want to explore the existing Lessons, of which there are thousands. A drop down menu reveals a dozen subjects, including The Arts, Business & Economics, Health, Mathematics, and others. Various filters, including Content, Grade Level, and Duration, help narrow down to a specific topic. Some of the best lessons, such as “The Benefits of Good Posture,” have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and include thought provoking, ready-made multiple choice and open-answer questions and prompts for student discussions. Educators who would like to use the platform to build their own lessons around web videos (from TED, YouTube, or Vimeo, for example) will need to create an account. Registration is easy, however, and only requires an email and password before creation of video-based lessons can occur.

What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?: Based on a 2011 exhibit at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C., this resource-packed site is a true boon for educators and all those fascinated by how the U.S. government has attempted to influence the ways its citizens think about food. Readers may want to start by selecting the “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam online exhibit on Google Cultural Institute” link to view images and text from the original exhibit. Next, explore the featured Activities, such as “Effects of Food Regulation in the Progressive Era.” This engaging activity invites students to learn about new food laws passed in the early 1900s and how they impacted the safety and quality of consumer goods. Readers will also find much to explore in the Primary Sources section available on the homepage. For example, “School Lunches” opens to many original documents, from recipes used between 1965 and 1987 to a 1946 letter advocating for subsidized school lunches in public school cafeterias.

Aug 03 2015

Websites of Interest

Flora Delaterre: The Plant Detective: When Montana Public Radio and the University of Montana School of Pharmacy teamed up in 1996 to create a radio show about medicinal plants, no one ever dreamed that the popularity would spread so far. But over time Flora Delaterre, the Plant Detective, became a small sensation, reaching listeners around the United States, Canada, and even the Philippines. Episodes are just 1.5-minutes long, and were recorded “from locations as far-flung as Sri Lanka and Siberia, the Appalachian Mountains and the rainforests of the Northwest, research labs and your own backyard.” Dozens of them can be accessed in the Audiofile Archive on the website, where plants are listed in alphabetical order, from Aconite to Yucca.

HowStuffWorks: Science: HowStuffWorks, which began in 1998 at a college professor’s kitchen table, has garnered dozens of awards and features thousands of posted articles and podcasts about everything from cars to animals to money. There are even HowStuffWorks Quizzes, Shows, and Videos, as well as an app for both iOS and Android devices. Unsurprisingly, the Science section of the HowStuffWorks website is loaded with fascinating facts. After scouting the Most Popular section on the landing page, readers may like to jump to What’s Inside: Science, which boasts over a dozen topics, such as Engineering, Environmental Science, Forces of Nature, Innovation, and others. Don’t miss the article, “10 Historical Robots,” which explicates automata from as far back as Swiss clockmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s 1774 intricately constructed moving dolls. Readers are sure to find hours of edifying entertainment on this most famous of science sites.

NSF Special Report: Understanding the Brain: In 2013, President Obama unveiled “The Brain Initiative,” a ten-year, nearly one billion dollar effort to unlock the mysteries of the brain. With contributions by everyone from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to Google, the initiative focuses on diverse fields and research methodologies. Readers will find much to explore on this accompanying website from NSF, including several dozen beautifully produced videos designed for classroom use. The videos, most of which are about five-minutes in length, cover topics such as the thinking brain, the perceiving brain, brain states and consciousness, the evolving brain, the emotional brain, the effects of musical training on the brain, and interviews with a number of groundbreaking brain researchers. Additionally, readers may peruse information about the brain initiative on the site, including Funding, Events, Resources, and News related to the project.

Scratch: Brought to the world by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group and the MIT Media Lab, Scratch allows children to program their own interactive stories, games, and animations, as well as share their projects with a larger online community. Parents and educators may like to start with Info for Parents and Info for Educators sections, which can both be located under the About tab. To take full advantage, users will first need to Join Scratch – a free and simple four-step process that requires nothing more than an email address. From there, users may peruse the Explore tab, where they will find thousands of projects in the categories of Animations, Art, Games, Music, and Stories. However, the heart of the Scratch site is the Create tab, where anyone can begin to design their own projects by following user-friendly instructions.

Jun 01 2015

Websites of Interest

Diversity: A Nature and Scientific American Special Issue: This special issue, the result of a partnership between Nature and Scientific American, explores the links between diversity and good research. Readers may like to begin with the excellent editorial that provides an overview of the other articles in the issue, and makes a strong case for racial, ethnic, gender, and LGBT diversity in the lab. From there, peruse the other articles at your leisure. For instance, based on a sample of 2.5 million research papers, Richard Freeman and Wei Huang make the interesting case that ethnically diverse teams publish more highly cited work. Likewise, Esteban Burchard describes how his experiences in a variety of cultures have led him to do better research, while Monica Ruiz-Casares argues against the common practice of generalizing Western industrialized samples onto other people around the world.

Dolphin Deaths: A Case Study in Environmental Toxicology: The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, which is housed at the University of Buffalo, is a National Science Foundation-sponsored, award-winning program that brings together various peer-reviewed case studies in order to enliven science education at the secondary and university levels. This particular case concerns an “unusual mortality event” (UME) of dolphins on the East Coast of the United States in the year 2013. The case study follows a journalist and four scientists attempting to solve the mystery. It then puts students in the role of investigators, asking them to read, compare, and interpret various explanations of the events, in the process learning the scientific and social aspects that likely intersected to cause the dolphin deaths. The entire case may be downloaded for free as a PDF. Teaching Notes and Answer Keys are also available.

It’s Our Environment: EPA’s Blog About Our World: Interested in what EPA employees have to say about the work they do, the environmental issues they care about, and the programs they support? This blog will not disappoint. Most posts feature a short article, as well as photographs, graphs, tables, or some other visual representation of a topic near and dear to the hearts of the U.S. EPA. Readers may search the site by Recent Posts, or scroll through the many categories. For instance, at the time of this writing, the blog had featured 437 articles about Air, 70 about Earth Day, 306 about Communities, and many others on a variety of topics. Via the blog’s Archives, readers can also browse articles chronologically, going all the way back to 2008. One particularly interesting post, by a former ORISE Fellow in the EPA Climate Change Division, examines the peak bloom dates of cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., and finds possible evidence for climate change.

Neuropod Podcasts: The 1990s may have been the “Decade of the Brain,” but the groundbreaking research and paradigm shifting discoveries of neuroscience have only accelerated since then. If you are looking for the newest in neuroscience, and you’d like it in the form of punchy, approachable podcasts, look no further than Neuropod, a series of podcasts by “self-confessed neurogeek,” Kerri Smith. Smith, who holds a master’s degree in science communication from Imperial College London, provides an upbeat look at topics that run the gamut from psychosis to education to how the brain keeps time. Hosted by the Nature Publishing Group, podcasts have been published monthly since 2006 and the archives contain a host of wonderful material.

May 01 2015

Websites of Interest

Career One Stop: Green Careers: Interest in green careers (those that promote the health of the environment) has been growing for decades. But students are not always clear about what the options are. This U.S. Department of Labor website can help. Readers can scout the site in a number of interesting ways. A first step might be the What Are Green Careers? section, which outlines how the Department of Labor defines green careers, as well as some of the terminology used throughout the site. Readers may then locate and explore more than 200 green careers, in categories such as Renewable Energy Generation, Transportation, Green Construction, and about a dozen others. The Find Education and Training section is also informative, as it links to options that run the gamut from short-term on-the-job training to master’s degrees. This is an excellent resource for guidance counselors, advisers, or anyone who works with young people to help them clarify and pursue their careers.

Farmers Bear the Brunt of Climate Impacts: Nearly a third of the seven billion people alive on Earth today directly depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. So when floods, storms, and – above all – droughts occur, it is this swath of the population that suffers most. In addition, a new United Nations study concludes that as the effects of global climate change increase, these losses accrue more and more to the farmers who can least afford them. Featured here is the complete UN study, “Farmers Bear Brunt of Climate Impacts.” Readers may want to begin by reading the short overview of the report. More information can also be found in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ press release, which goes into more detail. This content here can be especially useful to educators who are teaching about Sub-Saharan Africa and other Third World economies, politics, and agricultural practices.

Moorea Coral Reef LTER: Coral reefs are enormously complex ecosystems, teeming with biodiversity. However, due to overfishing, coastal development, and factors associated with global climate change, the world’s coral reefs are dying off at staggering rates. In fact, researchers estimate that we’ve already lost 20% of our reefs worldwide, and we’re set to lose another 35% by 2050 if the global community doesn’t act quickly. The Moorea Coral Reef Long-Term Ecological Research Site (MCR LTER), a National Science Foundation-funded project intended to study and protect reefs in Moorea, French Polynesia, boasts a particularly informative web site. Under General Information, readers may browse sections on News, What We Do, Locality, and Habitats Studied for information about the project, as well as beautiful pictures of this tropical paradise. The Research link takes readers to glosses of long-term trends and process-oriented studies. Educators may be particularly interested in the Education & Outreach link, which navigates to a separate website designed for teachers.

Washington Post: Energy and Environment: For readers who are looking for a clear-eyed source for news about ecological issues, the Washington Post’s new blog, Energy and Environment with Chris Mooney, is a fantastic place to start. Mooney and his colleagues publish daily articles about the intersection of water rights, economics, psychology and behavioral science, global warming, and many other topics. Each article is professionally researched and presented with a balanced journalistic prose. The site can be searched by five categories (Climate Change, Energy, Psychology and Behavior, Science, and Endangered Species). It’s also interesting to simply scroll down the news feed, examining the most recent posts. However readers approach the site, they will find up-to-date coverage of the latest science, politics, and economics of environmental issues.

Mar 03 2015

Upcoming Social Media Event for Garden Lovers!

You are invited to participate in the Biodiversity Heritage Library / BHL’s “Garden Stories” campaign, which will occur March 23-27, 2015.

“Garden Stories” is a week long social media event for garden lovers. The campaign will explore the fascinating world of gardening, from the rise of agriculture to the home garden and the mail order gardening phenomenon. Content for the campaign will include gardening tips, history, and plant factoids, using the over 13,000 seed and nursery catalogs in BHL to help tell these stories and provide this information.

Content will be published via the BHL Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Pinterest,
with additional posts through the Smithsonian Libraries’ Tumblr.

All content will be tagged with #BHLinbloom.Creation Stories

For more information, go to:

Feb 01 2015

Websites of Interest

NSF Science Now: Hosted by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Dena Headlee, NSF Science Now is a weekly newscast that covers some of the latest innovations from NSF-funded projects around the country and the world. For instance, a recent episode focused on increased plant productivity, the activity of the brain during reading, manufacturing a more reliable prosthesis, and better predicting earthquakes and tsunamis. At three to five minutes long, each video is fast-paced and entertaining. NSF Science Now is a great way to track what the NSF is sponsoring and how those projects are breaking new ground in everything from astrophysics to zoology.

The Salt: What’s On Your Plate?: NPR’s The Salt is an extraordinarily entertaining food blog with an eye toward “food news from the farm to the plate and beyond.” The site updates daily. Recent articles have covered such topics as faux fish made from plants, an investment fund that is bankrolling environmentally sustainable fish farming, and a debate about whether oranges or orange juice are more nutritious. The articles are fresh and punchy, highlighting the simultaneous seriousness and absurdity of food and food culture in sparkling prose.

The Untold History of Women in Science and Technology: The White House provides this website, a set of largely unknown stories of female pioneers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, dating from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Examples include Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) who, in 1843, wrote the first computer algorithm for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. Lovelace’s story is read by U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith. Other women in STEM who appear on the site are astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, environmentalist Rachel Carson, molecular biologist and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) at Cytonome/ST Lydia Villa-Komaroff, and geneticist Barbara McClintock, the only woman to win an unshared Nobel Prize for her work. With women from across the Administration sharing stories of their personal heroes, this website is intended to inspire girls to go into the STEM fields.

Zooniverse: The Zooniverse provides an extraordinarily popular venue for citizen science projects. To explore what’s on offer, readers may click on projects, then select either science or laboratory. Dozens of possibilities present themselves, from programs that examine how galaxies form to projects that study the lives of the ancient Greeks. Readers may join a project and start contributing to data analysis of various kinds, from coding British World War I diaries to monitoring the wildlife of urban Chicago. Teachers will appreciate the extensive Education resources on the site, found within the Community tab. Zoo Teach, a companion website, can be explored by subjects (sciences, math, humanities, arts) as well as ages (from middle school through higher education). This is where readers will find lesson plans and activities to brighten a wide range of related topics.

Dec 01 2014

Websites of Interest

Anatomical Atlas of Flies: This interactive anatomical atlas is a great resource for educators who are teaching the anatomy of flies. Built by scientists from the U.S. and Australia, the user friendly interface allows users to click on body parts to discover the name, or to click on a name to identify the correct anatomical region. The site opens with an explanation of the project. From there, select Access the Anatomical Atlas to open crystal clear photographs taken using a stereo microscope. The four major fly groups can be explored in great detail. This is a gem of a resource with snappy visuals and meticulous anatomical precision.

Future Climate Change: With more than half of the current congress skeptical about climate change despite overwhelming scientific evidence for rising temperatures, sea levels, and severe weather patterns, it’s nice to know that at least the Environmental Protection Agency still has a head on its shoulders. This website offers clear indications of how global warming will impact our food supply, water resources, infrastructure, ecosystems, and health. The hidden gem is a series of slideshows answering the question: How do climate models work? Readers can learn about models and scenarios, how they are tested, and how they diagnose the past and estimate the future.

Introduction to Technical Communication: What if you could take a technical communication class with a world class professor at a leading university? What if it was all laid out for you – the readings, the lectures, the assignments? And what if the only thing you had to pay for was a couple of books? That’s exactly what Dr. Donald N.S. Unger and the MIT Open Courseware system are offering here. On this site, viewers can browse the syllabus, have a look at the required readings, and ponder the ten assignments that form the foundation of this writing intensive class. Self-directed learners who want to improve their technical and scientific writing need look no further than this web-based adaptation of an MIT classic.

LabWrite: Improving Lab Reports: This National Science Foundation funded site from North Carolina State University “guides you through the entire laboratory experience, from before you walk into the lab to after you get back your graded report.” Start with How to Use LabWrite for a comprehensive Powerpoint overview of the program. Then, navigate slowly through the steps of PreLab, InLab, PostLab, and LabCheck, each of which provides careful instructions on everything from formulating a hypothesis to presenting results. Teachers will especially recognize this tool as a welcome supplement to in class discussions of best lab practices.

Nov 07 2014

NC Launches Major AgBio Marketing Push

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center branded the state’s globally leading agricultural biotechnology hub as the AgBio[sphere] at a November 5th rollout event. NCBiotech President and CEO Doug Edgeton explained that the AgBio[sphere] brand will provide a recognizable identity to North Carolina’s complete value package for all facets of the industry. Those include academic research, workforce development, business support programs, a strong agricultural sector and a massive $59 billion-a-year biotech industry involving some 650 companies, more than 80 of which are ag biotech firms. Several state ag leaders made commitments during the rollout event to use the brand as a global recognitiion tool in corporate recruitment and other promotional activities. For the full WRAL TechWire story, go to:

Nov 03 2014

Websites of Interest

bioRxiv: The Preprint Server for Biology: In a time of instant information, many scientists wonder why the publishing process still functions at such a glacial pace, with the time between submission and publication of articles sometimes taking half a year or more. bioRxiv (pronounced “bio-archive”), a preprint server for biology published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, seeks to remedy this situation by posting preprints of studies. While these papers will not be peer-reviewed, and it will therefore be up to the reader to judge their validity, proponents of the new system argue that it could be a support to the slower peer-reviewed process as it will at least allow scientists to examine one another’s results quickly. The site is easily searchable by subject area, date, author, keyword, and title. Equally easy and straightforward is the submission process for those interested in adding to the archive.

eLife: This highly thought of open access journal promises a speed and ease of publishing unheard of in most traditional life science journals. Initial decisions on a manuscript are usually made within days. Post-review decisions are made within weeks. Most articles only go through a single round of revisions. For the reader, this means that the results you’re reading are hot off the lab bench. Best of all, unlike most scientific journals, which can cost upwards of $20 for a single article, the 842 (and counting) articles on this site are completely free. The eLIFE podcast is also available for easy download, online listening, or subscription.

Encyclopedia of Earth: Biodiversity: The Encyclopedia of Earth, a project by the National Council for Science and the Environment, was launched in 2006 as a “free, fully searchable online resource on the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society.” Over 1,400 scholars from around the world have contributed to the site to make it one of the most reliable sources for environmental and policy information on the web. This link to the Biodiversity section of the Encyclopedia opens a small universe of insights into the diversity of life on our planet. Featured Articles are forefront on the site, with topics such as Coral Reefs, Crustacea, or Habitat Fragmentation. Each category opens to dozens of loosely related articles. The Recently Updated section is another great place to start for those daunted by the variety of conceivable subjects related to biodiversity.

Long Term Ecological Research Network: Established in 1980 and funded primarily by the National Science Foundation (NSF), The Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) is committed to providing “scientific expertise, research platforms, and long-term datasets necessary to document and analyze environmental change.” The site is arranged for four broad types of users: Researchers, Educators & Students, Media Professionals, and Decision Makers. Information for researchers includes a link to the LTER data portal (a separate site, and instructions on how to write a data plan for an NSF grant. Similarly, the Educators & Students area links to the LTER Education Digital Library, also a separate site ( ), with a searchable collection of lesson plans. Press releases make up the majority of the Media Professionals section, while the area for decision makers is populated with LTER Key Research Findings. These are presented as short reports with citations and are designed to be easily built into the talking points of a public presentation.