Earth Primer (fun) and Map of Life (for citizen science)

Best Apps for Teaching & Learning 2016 | American Association of School Librarians (AASL)

Earth Primer by Chaim Gingold

Level: Elementary and Middle School
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

Earth Primer is a cross between an intro to earth science textbook and an interactive sandbox game. This creative application allows students to play with the powerful concepts that make up the physical aspects of our planet. Manipulate glaciers, volcanoes, biomes, weather systems, and more and experience how all of these structures combine to affect the makeup of our awesome planet.

Tip: Use Earth Primer to reinforce content in an earth science class.

app icon Map of Life by Map of Life

Level: Middle School, High School
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

Map of Life is a field guide applicable to anywhere in the world. Search species by category and/or location, and contribute to the map by recording your sightings in your location. Several categories of species are represented, such as trees, mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Choose a type of species and view images, read about characteristics and habitat, and view a map showing range. Helps with conservation efforts worldwide!

Tip: Great application for classes using GIS data. Use Map of Life on science field trips to report wildlife and to identify plants and animals.

Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

Source:  The Scout Report — Volume 22, Number 16

“NASA’ s Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet website features a diverse set of resources related to the measurement, analysis, and dangers of global climate change. Here readers will find a collection of Interactive Features all designed to bring to life the sometimes abstract conclusions of scientific articles on climate and its effects on human and other life on Earth. For example, the Climate Time Machine allows readers to go backward and forward through four different key climate indicators, including Sea Ice, Sea Level, Carbon Dioxide, and Global Temperature. Perfect for educators who are looking for impactful visual representations of the rising temperatures on the planet, the interactive makes these measurements visceral in a way that charts and graphs are seldom able to do. Other interactives on the page include the Global Ice Viewer, Quizzes, The Sun: A Virtual Tour, The Water Cycle, and others. [CNH]”

Scientists unveil a new Tree of Life


Bacteria dominate newly drawn tree of life
Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Waterloo in Canada studied more than 3,000 species and pieced together bits of DNA to update the tree of life. The tree is dominated by bacteria, while all the eukaryotes are represented on a slender twig. The work is published in the journal Nature Microbiology.” The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (4/11)

APRIL 11, 2016

“A version of this article appears in print on April 12, 2016, on page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: The Tiniest Beings Writ Large.A version of this article appears in print on April 12, 2016, on page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: The Tiniest Beings Writ Large.”

From FBR SmartBrief <> Wed., April 13, 2016

GenBank has reached 200 billion base pairs from > 350,000 spp.

“Almost the number of stars in the Milky Way.” Through this stellar comparison, the National Institutes of Health proudly announced in 2005 that the content of their computerized collection of DNA sequences called GenBank had reached 50 billion bases or units of DNA. Today, it contains far more, over 200 billion bases from over 350,000 different species, making it one of the largest scientific database in the world.

Here is the announcement of the availability of the Nirenberg papers: “GenBank & The Early Years of “Big Data”

“Deciphering the Genetic Code: A 50 Year Anniversary” January, 2015

Marshall Nirenberg in the lab in early 1960’s, when he completed the first summary document of the genetic code — how triplets (DNA sequences) direct amino acids to form proteins.  Pictures of the group and more about the papers are here:

A young man in a lab coat and plastic gloves holds up a glass tube in a laboratory.


Arctic Matters day, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies is January 14th.  Go to to read about it.  Link to their Interactive web tool, or download a PDF of their 32-page, well-illustrated booklet or download a poster.  What happens in the Arctic, affects the whole globe.

Interactive web tool: see the global effects of changes in the arctic

Arctic Matters interactive web tool:
see the global effects of changes in the arctic



National Library of Medicine Technical Bulletin

This article collects the notable data changes made to MEDLINE during annual National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintenance known as Year-End Processing (YEP) for 2016:

MEDLINE Data Changes — 2016

Tybaert S. NLM Tech Bull. 2015 Nov-Dec;(407):e8.

2015 December 08 [posted]

Brand new concepts include: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Human Embryonic Stem Cells, Olive Oil, Origin of Life, Open Access Publishing, War-Related Injuries, RNAi Therapeutics, and many more terms.  Medline thesaurus terms are remapped when changes occur, so as to include articles under former headings.

Human evolution video: 6 million years in a minute!

Medical Subject Headings for 2016 are now available online

NLM [National Library of Medicine] New files for Nov 10, 2015

*NLM Technical Bulletin, Nov-Dec 2015, 2016 Medical Subject Headings Available for Download

NLM Technical Bulletin, Sep-Oct 2015, 2016 MeSH Headings Available in the MeSH Browser [Editor’s note added November 10, 2015]

Poisonous Plants Database from Cornell, Animal Science Dept.

“Best of the Web” column in “Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News” <>

More »

Oct 15, 2015 (Vol. 35, No. 18)

Poisonous Plants Database

The people in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University want to make sure that you don’t accidentally poison your livestock or pets with toxic plants. Their Poisonous Plants database includes a sizable number of entries such as oak trees (the acorns and young leaves are poisonous to horses and cattle), Daphne (toxic to cats, dogs, and humans), and rhubarb (the leaves are toxic to goats, swine, horses, and even people—who knew?). Each entry is accompanied by images of the plants, as well as answers to questions that the authors have either encountered in the past or anticipate that readers may have. The database is simple to browse—either by scientific name or common name—or users can search the database by scientific name, common name, primary poisons, or species most often affected.

Life on Earth, 4.1billion years old?

Life on Earth likely started 4.1 billion years ago, much earlier than scientists thought

Posted: 19 Oct 2015 12:41 PM PDT

“Geochemists have found probable evidence for life on Earth at least 4.1 billion years ago — 300 million years earlier than previously documented, pushing the origin of life close to when the planet formed, 4.54 billion years ago.


Carbon in 4.1 billion year old zircon.
Credit: Stanford/UCLA.

University of California – Los Angeles. “Life on Earth likely started 4.1 billion years ago, much earlier than scientists thought: Evidence that early Earth was not dry and desolate.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 October 2015.

Go to <>. to read more about this, or see the journal reference.

Journal Reference:

  1. Elizabeth A. Bell, Patrick Boehnke, T. Mark Harrison, and Wendy L. Mao. Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion-year-old zircon. PNAS, October 19, 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1517557112