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Top Internet Sites--Biology

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The Tree of Life | Plants for a Future-The Species Database

The Tree of Life -- (David R. Maddison, University of Arizona -- Coordinator and Editor)

23/30 -- Quality
23/25 -- Uniqueness
11/20 -- Refresh Rate
10/15 -- Loads Fast
8/10 -- Organization
75/100 -- Total
**Last Reviewed September 1, 2000**
The Tree of Life is an extremely ambitious attempt to electronically trace and illustrate (using the parts of a tree) the diversity of life on this planet--the evolutionary history and the characteristics of all groups of organisms. The effort is based at the University of Arizona and has grown to encompass the work of some 300+ biologists working in institutions around the world. While the information displayed on the pages was originally aimed just at practicing biologists, it has caught the interest of many students and other non-biologists. According to the coordinators of the site, authors are now encouraged to include some information aimed at the latter audience. Even more than most other Web sites perhaps, The Tree of Life is and will be a work in progress. Currently, the site contains some 1600+ pages ... but, of course, much work remains.

There are many positives to the site--a consistent organization that makes the site easy-to-use, lots of nice colorful graphics for navigation purposes, and many wonderful images of organisms and habitat. In addition, there is extensive help and other explanatory information and many bibliographic references scattered among the pages of the Tree. The site also has a search tool which allows searching by organism name and by keyword. All in all, The Tree of Life is a quality site, and I look forward to it becoming even better as time goes on.

If unfamiliar with The Tree of Life, I would suggest starting with the Introduction and the Help pages and then moving to the Browsing page.

Back to Biology--Core Reference Materials

Plants for a Future-The Species Database -- (Ken Fern and Plants for a Future: A Resource and Information Centre for Edible and Other Useful Plants)

22/30 -- Quality
21/25 -- Uniqueness
11/20 -- Refresh Rate
12/15 -- Loads Fast
5/10 -- Organization
71/100 -- Total
**Last Reviewed May 11, 2001**
The Species Database "contains details of nearly 7000 plants, all of which are either edible, have medicinal properties or have some other use such as fibers, oils or soaps. For each plant the database contains details of the uses of the plants, as well as information of the environment it will grow in and cultivation details" (from the introduction to the Database--

This is a very interesting and informative site. The Database contains information for which there might not be a constant demand but, when needed, such information can otherwise be difficult to locate--especially difficult to locate rapidly, in this amount, and in such an easy-to-find fashion. The Database can be searched in 5 ways--by name, use, native area, habitat, and keyword. In addition, there is a rather detailed Advanced search feature, pages full of potentially useful canned queries, a list of common plant names, and much more. The search interfaces are straightforward, search results and pages appear with dispatch, help information is plentiful and detailed, and an extensive bibliography is included.

The Database itself seems to have been last updated in February 2000; other supporting parts of the Database appear to have been updated most recently in 1999. There are 3 mirror sites around the world (the links in this review go to the mirror site in the United States). The organization of the site is a bit spare but workable.

To understand the way the information is presented in the Database, it is essential to first read or otherwise have available the Help information.

Back to Biology--Core Reference Materials

Questions about any or all of the above? Do you have a favorite Internet site(s) that you would like to nominate for possible inclusion on these lists? Please let me know.

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Updated 4:00 p.m. CT May 11, 2001
Kevin Engel (
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