The INHS Library News blog is to inform users of new resources, library events, library systems downtime, and library schedule changes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Study on Blackawton bees in Biology Letters written by British Schoolchildren

The article is written in the children's words, including the use of sound effects and hand-drawn illustrations in colored pencil. The full citation is:

Lotto, R.B., et al. (2010). "Blackawton bees." Biology Letters Published online before print December 22, 2010. Online at

Background: Real science has the potential to not only amaze, but also transform the way one thinks of the world and oneself. This is because the process of science is little different from the deeply resonant, natural processes of play. Play enables humans (and other mammals) to discover (and create) relationships and patterns. When one adds rules to play, a game is created. This is science: the process of playing with rules that enables one to reveal previously unseen patterns of relationships that extend our collective understanding of nature and human nature. When thought of in this way, science education becomes a more enlightened and intuitive process of asking questions and devising games to address those questions. But, because the outcome of all game-playing is unpredictable, supporting this ‘messyness’, which is the engine of science, is critical to good science education (and indeed creative education generally). Indeed, we have learned that doing ‘real’ science in public spaces can stimulate tremendous interest in children and adults in understanding the processes by which we make sense of the world. The present study (on the vision of bumble-bees) goes even further, since it was not only performed outside my laboratory (in a Norman church in the southwest of England), but the ‘games’ were themselves devised in collaboration with 25 8- to 10-year-old children. They asked the questions, hypothesized the answers, designed the games (in other words, the experiments) to test these hypotheses and analysed the data. They also drew the figures (in coloured pencil) and wrote the paper. Their headteacher (Dave Strudwick) and I devised the educational programme (we call ‘i,scientist’), and I trained the bees and transcribed the childrens' words into text (which was done with smaller groups of children at the school's local village pub). So what follows is a novel study (scientifically and conceptually) in ‘kids speak’ without references to past literature, which is a challenge. Although the historical context of any study is of course important, including references in this instance would be disingenuous for two reasons. First, given the way scientific data are naturally reported, the relevant information is simply inaccessible to the literate ability of 8- to 10-year-old children, and second, the true motivation for any scientific study (at least one of integrity) is one's own curiousity, which for the children was not inspired by the scientific literature, but their own observations of the world. This lack of historical, scientific context does not diminish the resulting data, scientific methodology or merit of the discovery for the scientific and ‘non-scientific’ audience. On the contrary, it reveals science in its truest (most naive) form, and in this way makes explicit the commonality between science, art and indeed all creative activities.

Principal finding: ‘We discovered that bumble-bees can use a combination of colour and spatial relationships in deciding which colour of flower to forage from. We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before. (Children from Blackawton)’.

Friday, December 17, 2010

NBII Access Fall 2010

The Fall 2010 issue of Access, newsletter of the National Biological Information Infrastructure, is now available. 

In this issue:
Renewable Energy Project (RENEW) Now Available Online
Raptor Gains Honorable Mention in Government Computer News 
GCN Award Competition
BioOne and the NBII: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Mexico Invites USGS Scientist for Keynote Address at Invasive Species Strategy Event
Invasive Species Toolbox
International Connections
NBII in the News
Upcoming Events

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

BHL Adds 14,000 Records to WorldCat

The Biodiversity Heritage Library, the world's largest repository of full-text digitized legacy biodiversity literature, has added more than 14,000 records of digitized materials brought together from 12 prestigious institutions to WorldCat, making these items accessible to researchers through the world's largest resource for finding library materials.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions organized to digitize, serve and preserve the legacy literature of biodiversity. BHL is the scanning and digitization component of the Encyclopedia of Life, a global effort to assemble information on all living species known to science into one ever-expanding, trusted, Web-based resource.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library will continue to send records to OCLC representing new titles scanned and added to their collection. The records link directly to the BHL Web site to access the full text. see full story

Mercury causes homosexuality in male ibises

Read the full story in Nature.

Exposure to mercury pollution could be hitting some wild birds' reproductive prospects hard by causing males to pair with other males.
Citation for the study referenced in the article is Frederick, P. and Jayasena, N. "Altered pairing behaviour and reproductive success in white ibises exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of methylmercury." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, online before print December 1, 2010. Online at