NOVA and Frontline programs online

PBS has made some of its NOVA and Frontline programs available online:

NOVA Online

Frontline Online

I watched “Life’s Greatest Miracle” last night, which is about human sexual reproduction (It is a remake of the older “Miracle of Life” video). It was excellent; though I wouldn’t want to show the extended bikini-babes-on-the-beach scene in class.

Grace and Peace

Wild World

At the middle school and high school level, biology textbooks usually have a section on biomes, which are large regions of the Earth that have distinctive communities of plants and animals. Examples of biomes include desert, tropical rainforest, temperate grasslands, and tundra. These biomes can be subdivided into smaller ecoregions, which have more specific assemblages of plant and animal types.

The World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic have teamed up to create Wild World, an online mapping program that has the world divided up into 867 ecoregions. Examples of ecoregions include:

In Romania–

  • Central European mixed forest
  • Carpathian montane coniferous forest
  • East European forest steppe
  • Pannonian mixed forest
  • Pontic steppe

Each of these has a unique combination of plants and animals.

The native ecoregions in my home state of Montana (God’s country) include:

  • Northern Short grasslands
  • Montana valley and foothills grasslands
  • South central Rockies forest
  • North central Rockies forest

Each of these ecoregions, of course, could be further subdivided into more specific regions.

I like the site because it has good maps. General enough for an overview, but more detailed than a world biome map.

Grace and Peace


For several years, I have been using Starry Night software in the classroom when teaching about the stars. The students love it, but at $49.95, they were unlikely to be able to do anything with it at home or in our computer lab. I found an excellent substitute for free on the internet: Stellarium.

There are still a number of things I can’t do with Stellarium that Starry Night can do, such as looking at the stars and planets for any time between 4700 BC and AD 9999. But it is still a great tool for learning the constellations, looking for planets, and seeing how these change according to location or time. You can set the viewing location any place on Earth, and change the time as well. Give it a try.

Grace and Peace

Alaska Volcano Observatory

The US Geological Survey operates five volcano observatories, which keep watch on regions of volcanic activity in the United States. The five observatories are for the Cascades, Hawaii, Yellowstone, Long Valley (in California) and Alaska. My web site of the week is for the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Here’s a description of the Alaska volcanoes from the AVO site:

Alaska contains over 100 volcanoes and volcanic fields which have been active within the last two million years. Over 40 of these have been active in historic time. These volcanoes make up about 80% of all active volcanoes in the United States and 8% of all active above-water volcanoes on earth.

Most of these volcanoes are located along the 2,500 km-long (1,550 mile-long) Aleutian Arc, which extends westward to Kamchatka and forms the northern portion of the Pacific “ring of fire”. Other volcanoes which have been active within the last few thousand years exist in southeastern Alaska and in the Wrangell Mountains. Smaller volcanoes, some active within the last 10,000 years, exist in interior Alaska and in western Alaska as far north as the Seward Peninsula.

Hardly a year goes by without a major eruption from a volcano in the Aleutian Arc. Eruptions in the largely unpopulated western arc often go unremarked by all but volcanologists. The remote volcanoes are potentially hazardous, as jet airplanes which enter eruption clouds often are severely damaged, and sometimes lose all engines temporarily. There are more than 70,000 large aircraft per year, and 20,000 people per day, in the skies over Aleutian volcanoes, mostly on the heavily travelled great-circle routes between Europe, North America and Asia. Volcanoes in the eastern arc, especially those from Cook Inlet volcanoes, can have severe impacts. The series of 1989-1990 eruptions from Mt. Redoubt was the second-most costly in the history of the United States, and had significant impact on the aviation and oil industries, as well as the people of the Kenai Peninsula. The three eruptions of Mt. Spurr’s Crater Peak in 1992 deposited ash on Anchorage and surrounding communities, closing airports and making even ground transportation difficult, and disrupted air traffic as far east as Cleveland, Ohio. The 1912 Katmai eruption, which formed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes on the Alaska Peninsula was the largest 20th century eruption on earth.

I chose this site because it has a wealth of great pictures and high-resolution topographic maps:

Fourpeaked Mountain, currently at YELLOW status (USGS AVO)

Kaguyak Volcano (C. Nye, USGS AVO)

Augustine Volcano (C. Read, USGS AVO)

Ukinrek Maars (J. Kienle)

Augustine Volcano (M. Coombs, USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Kaguyak Volcano (USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Mt. Edgecumbe (USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Nuschkolik Mtn. (USGS AVO)

Grace and Peace

The Inner Life of the Cell

Web site of the week: “The Inner Life of the Cell.”

This site has a computer animation of the inner workings of a white blood cell. Absolutely amazingboth in terms of the animation, and the processes it portrays. It is a testimony to the wisdom and power of the Creator.
I got this link from my biochemist friend Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle.

Image from the movie “The Inner Life of the Cell.”

The movie is also on YouTube.

Grace and Peace

eNature — Online Field Guide

A good online field guide—with images and information about 5500 different species—is at, which is produced by the National Wildlife Federation. With sections on birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, spiders, seashells, wildflowers, and more; eNature is a good site for those of us who don’t have a complete shelf of field guides (I have almost worn out some of my Roger Tory Peterson guides).

One shortcoming: There are no range maps, showing the distributions of the species. Despite this, eNature is a fun and useful resource for identification of North American organisms.

Grace and Peace