SITE VISIT: Enchanting Garden

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Science  09 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5387, pp. 195
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5387.195a

When he set up his own Web site 3 years ago, Dutch nature lover and amateur botanist Marco Bleeker says he wanted to “teach plant biologists about the use of software and nonbiologists about the love for plants.” The result, Chez Marco's Botanical Diversity pages, boasts an interactive trip into the rainforest of Suriname, complete with chirping crickets and the haunting cries of howler monkeys. For contrast, it also offers an excursion to the Diemerzeedijk, a waste site named for an old dike near Amsterdam that is both botanical paradise and industrial nightmare: A blanket of flowers covers one of Europe's worst dioxin dumps.

Chez Marco's has a large collection of software useful to taxonomists, ecologists, and collection managers. The site's most elaborate feature, however, is the “botanical sorting machine,” where the user can click on hundreds of alphabetized plant names to find out that species' place in the taxonomic world order—along with pictures and many links to specialized sites or databases. Bleeker, who studied biology years ago but now works as a receptionist at the Netherlands' National Cancer Institute, says he'd like to expand the site: “I'm hoping that universities or educational organizations will lend a helping hand.”

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