Category Archives: Biology

Very Cool Bugs

While surfing the web I came across BugBios, a Web site that was created: “to help you really see insects for the miniature marvels they represent and to understand how intertwined our cultures have become with these alien creatures”.

The site contains:

  • Amazing insect photographs accompanied by informative descriptions
  • Cultural Entomology Digest – articles about insects in human culture
  • Educational resources
  • A list of links to other insect-related Web sites
  • Powers of Ten

    The Molecular Expressions Web site at Florida State University has a really cool interactive java tutorial to help get across the concept of orders of magnitude in relation to the relative size of objects in our world and universe:

    View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

    In addition, this site has a plethora of information on microscopy, including a microscopy primer, a miscroscopy museum, a photo gallery and even a list of web resources. You an even try virtual microscopy with interactive java tutorials. For example, you can use scanning electron microscopy to get an up close look at a jellyfish or a gecko’s foot under the microscope.

    Gray’s Anatomy

    The internet is obviously a wonderful resource for many types of information. In fact, many scientific textbooks and references are now available on-line. For example, “Gray’s Anatomy”, an invaluable reference on human anatomy and physiology, is available through

    Barnes & Noble Books describes “Gray’s Anatomy” as follows:

    “From its simplest and most basic parts to its most important and complicated systems, almost anything you want to know about the human body can be found in Gray’s Anatomy, the seminal book on the way the human body works. A landmark in scientific writing, Gray’s Anatomy has been an important source of reference for students of medicine and medical history for more than one hundred years. The classic engravings are by H.V. Carter, and Henry Gray’s prose describes in fascinating detail the miraculous forms and functions of our bones, organs, muscles, veins, arteries, and nerves.”

    “Here you have the opportunity of learning the anatomy and purpose of every part of the human body. For example, if you want to know how your heart does what it does, simply turn to the appropriate section within and you will find diagrams and illustrations accompanied by a clear, comprehensive text that will give you the information you desire quickly and completely. No home is complete without Gray’s Anatomy. It is both an essential reference book for family health, and an enlightening voyage of discovery into the nature of our bodies. This new edition will not only maintain, but enhance the reputation Gray’s Anatomy has enjoyed for more than a century.”

    Cornell Lab of Ornithology

    The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology has a number of research projects that anyone can become involved in:

    Project FeederWatch – “Put up a bird feeder. Count the birds that visit. Send your data to scientists.” Check out their web site for more information.

    House Finch Disease Survey – If you have house finches or goldfinches in your yard, the scientists at Cornell need your help in tracking the spread of disease in the finch population. Check out the web site for details.

    Project Pigeon Watch – This project involves counting pigeons and observing courtship behavior. Help scientists figure out “why are there so many colors of pigeons?””

    And more…check out their web site for additional research projects.

    They also have an Educator’s Guide to Bird Study with “fun activity ideas and support materials to learn about birds and conduct inquiry-based research”

    Introductory Biology

    Here are a couple of links for sites related to introductory biology:

    1) The Online Biology Book: This “book”, hosted by the Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Arizona, contains 58 chapters on topics covered in most introductory biology courses and is a great reference!!

    2) “Froguts!” Try your hand at dissecting a virtual frog! This company sells “virtual dissection” software for use in the classroom. Their website has demos of a few of the modules: dissect and owl pellet and reconstruct a rodent’s skeleton, identify the parts of a squid, or dissect a frog.

    [Note: I found these both of these links on the Discover Magazine Web Picks site].

    Fast Plants

    Have you ever heard of Fast Plants? They are a great way to help students discover the scientific process. These plants can be adapted for use with students in kindergarten all the way up through college. They have even been used by NASA on the space shuttle. However, I think that the Fast Plants website says it best:

    “Exploration, discovery, and the scientific process come alive when your students grow Fast Plants in the classroom. These petite, hardy, attractive members of the mustard family whiz through an ultra-short life cycle in about 35-45 days. At their peak, the tallest plants only reach a height of 30 cm (about 12 inches); most plants are even shorter.”

    “Easy to care for, affordable, and irresistible, Fast Plants are an invaluable tool for learning about how real science is done. The thrill of growing a real, living plant is irresistible. Fast Plants change visibly every single day, right in front of your students’ eyes! In two short weeks, the tiny seeds will sprout, grow, and bloom. In just over a month, students can plant seeds, tend plants, pollinate flowers, and harvest new seeds. Dare your students to resist asking questions!”

    Check out their website to find out more. They have answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ), teacher resources, background resources, growing instructions, student resources, ordering information, etc.

    Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

    I wanted to bring HHMI’s Biointeractive web site to your attention. I have been having a lot of fun with it. There are so many things to try out and explore. You can:

    • watch lectures given by scientists who are leaders in their fields.
    • try out their virtual labs (given top honors in the 2002 Pirelli INTERNETional Award competition).
    • click and learn about various biological topics.
    • and more…

    But wait, there’s even more to be found at…

    On their main site, they have a section devoted to “cool science for cool kids.”

    The 5-Second Rule

    Do you remember the “5-second rule”? Any food item dropped on the floor is “safe” to eat as long as it doesn’t remain on the floor for longer than five seconds before being picked up.

    But is this actually a good rule to live by? A high school senior recently carried out a scientific study to find out whether or not the “5-second rule” was a good measure of food safety. The work was done during a seven-week internship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (check out the UIUC press release here).

    What a great example of making science fun and accessible to everyone!

    Teaching Genetics with Cookies?

    The Center for Biology Education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has links to several different teaching resources on their K-12 outreach page. Two of the listed activities can be used in the classroom to demonstrate/teach students about genetics and heredity:

    1) The Cookie Analogy uses different varieties of cookies (baked by the students) to demonstrate concepts of heredity.

    2) Reebops are imaginary organisms, constructed from marshmallows (and other items), that “breed” in the classroom and therefore allow students to follow the transmission of genetic traits through several generations.

    Meet the Microbes

    In 2002, the American Society for Microbiology and the National Association for Biology Teachers (NABT) released a set of 17 hands-on activities “that correlate with and build on the themes and ideas presented in the PBS series, “Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth.” This set of activities can be downloaded free of charge from the MicrobeWorld Activities website or can be purchased by NABT members on-line.

    Note: I have used some of these activities in workshops with teachers and would highly recommend them.