Virtual Reference Desk - Natural Sciences
Last update: June 9, 2014 ShareThis


Natural Sciences

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Cogito -
A news and education site for avid, young scientists and mathematicians.  It has book reviews, news and features, "Best of the Web" guides, and listings and reviews of summer and distance education programs, internships, and academic competitions.

Essential Science Indicators: Special Topics -
Citation analyses (i.e., ranking of papers, scientists, institutions, countries, and journals), interviews, and essays on hot topics in science.  It includes a New Hot Papers section selected from the top 0.1 percent of articles cited in a bimonthly period.
EurekAlert -
Searchable database of science-related press releases from research institutions, universities, government agencies and corporations.

How Stuff Works -
Search or browse by category to find readable explanations for how things work.

National Inventors Hall of Fame -
Searchable database of inventions and inventors, includes biographies and pictures.

National Science Foundation -
Research results, statistics, speeches and lectures, and classroom resources covering all the sciences and engineering.

Patent & Trademark Resources -
LSU library's web resources for research patents and trademarks.  Includes links to the USPTO database and tutorials. -
Scholarly news and links to the best free scientific news research sources.

ScienceNetLinks -
A useful site that has gathered science resources for teachers, including detailed science education web sites and includes curriculum ideas and activities.

The Why Files -
Founded in 1996 as part of the National Institute for Science Education, the The Why Files "explores the science, math and technology behind the news of the day" and presents those topics in a clear, accessible and accurate manner.


Astronomical Almanac Online -
A joint publication of the U. S. Nautical Almanac Office and the Nautical Almanac Office (HMNAO) in the United Kingdom. It contains "precise ephemerides of the Sun, Moon, planets, and satellites, data for eclipses and other astronomical phenomena for a given year."
Astrophysics & Space Science Center -
News, databases, calculators, and other tools and links for researching the field of astronomy.

CDS - Centre de DonnĂ©es astronomiques de Strasbourg -
A data center dedicated to the collection and worldwide distribution of astronomical data and related information.  NASA stopped maintaining its Astronomical Data Center in favor of this site.

Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams -
News and information on astronomical events maintained by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature -
Offers reliable, high quality, searchable database of names used in our planentary system.

Great Images in NASA -
NASA's database of over a thousand images from historic events.  You can browse by subject or center, or search the entire database by keyword.

Planetary Science Research Discoveries -
An educational site devoted to sharing the fascinating discoveries being made in planetary and space sciences through NASA-sponsored research.

NASA Technical Reports -
An "online publication listing citations and abstracts of NASA and worldwide aerospace-related research."


The site of the Biotechnology Association of Alabama.  In addition to membership information, site includes news and events information on the state and national levels.

BIODIDAC--a bank of digital resources for teaching biology -
An image resource for instructors in the biological sciences.

BioMedSearch -
"BioMedSearch is a biomedical search engine that contains NIH/PubMed documents, plus a large collection of theses, dissertations, and other publications not found anywhere else for free, making it the most comprehensive free search on the web."
The Biology Project -
An online interactive resource for learning biology.

Botanical Society of America Online Image Collection -
The Society's collection of 800 images, divided into fourteen different categories, made available for instructional use. -
An encyclopedia of plants.

Dennis Kunkel's Microscopy -
Offers an image gallery with light and electron micrographs, a primer on microscopy, and a variety of other features related to microscopy.

The Reptile Database -
A database of information on reptile taxonomy focusing on the species level.

Frontiers in Bioscience -
A journal and virtual library.

Human Genome Resources -
Maintained by the National Center for Biotechnlogy Information, this central access point to a valuable databases for human genome researchers will be of interest to biology students as well.

Insect Identification Laboratory
Pictures, how-to guides, and subject areas for identifying, collecting, and studying insects.

Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia -
Full text articles from the first series v1-8 (1817-1842). You can also search the entire digitized collection available from the Academy's Ewell Sale Stewart Library.

Marine Biology Web -
Professor Jeffery Levin (SUNY-Stony Brook) offers his marine biology textbook and access to the choice references of experts, with each subject including summary papers, classic papers, and recent contributions.

National Center for Biotechnology Information -
Provides an integrated approach to the use of gene and protein sequence information, the scientific literature (MEDLINE), molecular structures, and related resources, in biomedicine.

The Parasitic Plant Connection -
A comprehensive site covering in the field of parasitic plants in great detail.

PlantFiles -
The largest plant database in the world with 66,053 entries, 41,938 images and 20,459 comments. Currently entries are from 314 families, 2,667 genera, 6,432 species, and 51,448 cultivars.

Ultimate Tree-Ring Web Pages -
An award-winning site by Henri D. Grissino-Mayer at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, this site concerns dendrochronology and it's related subdisciplines, in studying tree rings, dated to their exact year of formation, to analyze temporal and spatial patterns of processes in the physical and cultural sciences.

The Virtual Fossil Museum -
"Fossils across geological time presented in multiple contexts of geological history, the tree of life, paleobiology and evolution." You'll find pictures, articles, a glossary, and links to more information here.

Wildflowers of Alabama -
Features a slideshow and a searchable database of Alabama wildflowers, including their common and scientific names.


Chemistry 2000: Two thousand of the best chemistry sites on the web -
In addition to basic chemistry data (i.e., terms, periodic table, biographies, etc.), this site provides links to chemistry databases, chemistry timelines, organizations, journals, and chemistry departments at universities around the world.
Chemguide -
Includes material on atomic structure and bonding, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, instrumental analysis, basic organic chemistry, and organic reaction mechanisms, all on the level of general college chemistry.

CHEMINFO: Chemical Information Sources from Indiana University -
Offers a rich array of information for the chemistry student.

Chemistry of How Things Work -
A set of case examples of how fundamental chemistry influences policy and decision making on issues from alcohol to fuel. -
Part search engine, part portal, this Web site makes it easy to find relevant data.  Use the database search section to search multiple databases, reference works, and journals.  There are also tutorials, portals, and a section for the latest news.

Fundamental Physical Constants -
List of values for physical constants with links to a conversion calculator and other reference tools.

Hazardous Substances Data Bank -
A toxicology data file "with information on human exposure, industrial hygiene, emergency handling procedures, environmental fate, regulatory requirements, and related areas."
High Wire Press -
The largest repository of free full-text life science articles in the world, with more than 850,000 free, full-text articles online.  It includes articles from 42 of the 100 most cited journals in science.

NIST Chemistry WebBook -
NIST data can be searched by name, chemical formula, Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number, molecular weight, ionization energy, or proton affinity.

Periodic (Chemistry) Table -
Information about the elements.

Periodic Table -
Information about the elements, their reactions, their properties, their structures, and their histories. This site also includes images.
Periodic Table of Videos
The periodic table comes to life with short videos featuring experts discussing the elements.

PubChem -
Three linked databases: PubChem Substance, PubChem Compound, and PubChem BioAssay. Records include links to PubMed scientific literature and NCBI's protein 3D structure resource.

Toxnet -
A database from the National Library of Medicine that provides information on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, and related subjects.  From this page, you can also access other relevant databases Household Products Database and Material Safety Data Sheets.

WebElements -
An interactive Web site based on the periodic table, including sound files of the names of the elements pronounced in English.

Earth Science

Dive and Discover -
Research scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute present this chronicle of a current expedition to the mid-ocean ridge, exploring the eastern Pacific off Central America, seeking new volcanic eruptions on the undersea crest where several tectonic plates meet. Includes videos, glossaries, timelines, maps, and charts.
GeologyLink Glossary -
A free, reliable glossary of geology terms from Houghton Mifflin.

Geologic Time -
Clickable geologic time scale made available by the University of California Museum of Paleontology.

Geological Survey of Alabama -
Provides maps, including interactive ones, online publications, and more.

Groundwater Atlas of the United States
Text and images from the book are browsed by region.  All 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are included.

Inside Geology -
Links to "hundreds of class lectures, web sites, references, news items, organizations, and glossaries on every aspect of geology."

Life along the Fault Line -
Produced by the Exploratorium, San Francisco's "museum of science, art and human perception," this report on "Life and Science in Earthquake Country" tells the story of a region shaped by its recent seismic history. The site features personal recollections, images, and video; and an introduction to topics in earthquake engineering, architecture, prediction, and preparedness.

Mineralogy Database -
A comprehensive, user-friendly database of over 5000 individual pages on minerals, organized with alphabetical links by names of the minerals.

National Geophysical Data Center -
A NOAA web page that provides data, images, reports, and other products.  Search the entire collection of pages, or browse by subjects: space weather and solar events; global relief; marine geology and geophysics, natural hazards, geomagnetic data and models, or earth observations from space.

U.S. Geological Survey -
Another data rich site with key resources on the front page for natural hazards (water, earthquakes, data), news, and state research.  Use the Science Topics link in the top menu bar to find indepth coverage of full-text reports, images, and data on over 50 topics.

Visible Earth -
NASA's searchable directory of over a thousand images, visualizations, and animations of the earth.


Audubon Online -
A bird and wildlife conservation site from the National Audubon Society.
Beautiful Birds -
An exhibit of 276 illustrations from Cornell University's Hill Ornithology Collection, which is devoted primarily to pre-1900 North American works by notable ornithological artists.

Biodiversity: Measuring the Variety of Nature -
Summarizes the results of years of work by investigators at the Biogeography & Conservation Lab at the Natural History Museum in London.

Chemical Scorecard -
A service of the Environmental Defense Fund, providing information about chemical pollutants.

Environmental Protection Agency -
Use the Quick Finder section at the top to retrieve subject specific resource pages.  The left side of the page includes quick links to laws & regulations, news, and educational resources.

Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) -
A fast, comprehensive and convenient way to find information about environmental treaties and national resource indicators.

Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia -
Full text articles from the first series v1-8 (1817-1842). You can also search the entire digitized collection available from the Academy's Ewell Sale Stewart Library.

National Climatic Data Center - Weather/Climate Center -
Summaries of weather and climate events.

National Service Center for Environmental Publications Information -
This division of the EPA "maintains and distributes EPA publications in hardcopy, CD ROM and other multi-media formats."
Our Planet Online -
An international site maintained by the United Nations Environmental Program and is a web-based, bimontlhy magazine covering topics on the environment and sustainable development. -
Gateway for information and resources on rainforests.

Water Environment Web -
The official site of the Water Environment Federation.

From the Central Library of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, covering atmospheric and oceanic sciences and related policy issues.

World Climate -
A huge searchable database of climatological records for thousands of locations worldwide.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre's -
Provides information on issues related to biodiversity.  Includes maps, international policy, species databases, conventions, and much more.


Einstein Archives Online -
An exhibit of 276 illustrations from Cornell University's Hill Ornithology Collection, which is devoted primarily to pre-1900 North American works by notable ornithological artists.

Fermi Lab -
One of the major physics research institutes.  Don't miss their Teacher Resource Center, which includes full-text databases and documents.

Newton Project
A complete electronic edition of all of Isaac Newton's works, including a catalog of all Newton's surviving theological, alchemical and administrative papers.

PhysLINK: the Ultimate Physics Resource -
An award-winning site providing useful links to many departments and sources of information, including reference, societies, journals, history, news, software, and companies in the field of physical science.

Physics Central -
With the subtitle, "learn how your world works", this site aims to provide interesting facts and features illustrating the everyday exposure to physics.

Physics Education Technology
Download or access from the site physics simulations on basic concepts such as motion, sound, energy, light, heat, and thermodynamics. 

PhysicsWeb -
A very up-to-date site offering physics news, employment opportunities, and resources.

The Virtual Library of Physics -
A small collection of links to physics Web sites and journals.

The Virtual Nuclear Tourist -
This site provides information on nuclear power in general as well as more detailed information on plants around the world.  There is also a hot topics section which addresses security concerns.

Virtual Physics Laboratory -
A collection of interactive physics activities teaching fundamental physics lessons.


Aardvark - Preprint and Fulltext Science Archives -
A good directory of 120 free preprint and fulltext articles in the sciences.  Some sites require registration.
Public Library of Science