to BioTechniques free email alert service to receive content updates.
WebWatch

Done Buggy

There's something buzzing in the air, and it isn't just that pesky fly circling your head. It's change, specifically in our view of insects, and it's coming rapidly. Exhibit one is the widespread concern over declining bee populations. Once considered pests, noted more for their stinging than their pollinating, bees today are recognized as essential vectors for many plants in the food supply. It's not surprising, then, to see that bees occupy the front page of the popular BugGuide site, which contributes to the buzz on the changing perspectives toward insects. Part of the reason can be attributed to the drop-dead gorgeous photography, but the informative capture of “never-before-seen behaviors,” and an attention to detail educates visitors and brings them back for more.

[http://bugguide.net/node/view/15740]



Talkin' Toxin

It's natural to take an apprehensive gulp in response to the expansive coverage provided by this informative National Library of Medicine site. Just be sure not to swallow when you're around the site's subject matter—toxic compounds released into the environment by industrial and federal facilities. Taken at face value, the information is overwhelming, creating a niche for a site that helps users to easily navigate it. Tracked by the EPA, the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) arises from a reporting requirement for facilities with 10 or more employees that process 10,000 pounds of any toxic chemical annually. And be prepared for surprises when it comes to the number of such facilities in your own backyard as well as the types and amounts of chemicals they handle. If you have ever doubted the impact of humans on the environment, this site could convince you otherwise.

[http://toxmap.nlm.nih.gov/toxmap/main/index.jsp]

Hormones Alone

Though central to the coordinated functioning of multicellular organisms, hormones don't get the credit they deserve. Partly in recognition of this, Dr. G.P.S. Raghava at the Institute of Microbial Technology in Chandigarh, India created and manages HMRbase, a database dedicated solely to hormones and their receptors. With topics spanning peptide and non-peptide hormones, as well as their cellular binding targets, HMRbase provides users with easy access to information, especially with tools like browsing options, search functions, and sequence BLAST capability. Retrieved data comes in the form of records, replete with links to chemical and structural information, impressive molecular models, and even synonyms.

[http://crdd.osdd.net/raghava/hmrbase/]

I've Got a Secretory Pathway

If you consider the processes of signaling, digestion, the immune response, and cellular adhesion, at first there probably isn't a common thread that springs to mind. But secretory proteins, the tiny messengers that do so much, are essential for each of these organismal phenomena and many other functions that living systems must carry out. Coverage of these extracellular, molecular laborers is the almost exclusive domain of the Secreted Protein Database (SPD). Hosted by the Center of Bioinformatics at Peking University, SPD helps visitors keep abreast of over 18,000 known proteins secreted by cells in rats, humans, and mice, and over 100,000 proteins from nine related databases. When it comes to secretomics, it's no secret: SPD has it covered.

[http://spd.cbi.pku.edu.cn]

The Bright Stuff

When people think about scientists, the image they usually have isn't one of humor, and while there may be good reasons for it, the truth is that scientists don't just walk around in white lab coats and pipet things into tubes. It's an unfair stereotype, as most of us are well aware, because the brainpower applied to solving complex scientific problems can also be brought to bear onto more whimsical pursuits. When that happens, look out! Aiding to dispel scientists' stuffy stereotype—and broadening the public view of science—is the Science Humor web site, which has a hilarious set of science-based videos (among other things) that will make the point better than anything written here.

[www.sciencehumor.org]

Industry of Evolution

Love him? Hate him? With Richard Dawkins, there is typically not much middle ground. One thing that almost everyone can agree about is that he's a walking, talking “industry” on topics at the center of modern discourse. From atheism to evolution, Dawkins has sterling credentials combined with a manner of communicating that has contributed to keeping these matters in the public crosshairs. At richarddawkins.net, visitors familiar with Dawkins' modus operandi won't find any surprises, other than possibly the breadth of this man's reach. There are 11 thought-provoking books, a 15-pack DVD collection, several community links (including YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Bebo, and even Flicker), and an extensive list of atheist resources—to name only a few of the many items available.

[http://richarddawkins.net]