Science  29 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5697, pp. 787

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  1. DATABASE: Small-Molecule Central

    Drug chemists and basic scientists seeking data on biologically active molecules can now turn to the chemical equivalent of GenBank, the public DNA sequence repository. The PubChem database was launched last month by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) National Center for Biotechnology Information. The site—searchable by substance, chemical structure, and assay—holds standardized data on nearly 900,000 small molecules, from drugs to pollutants such as dioxin. Type in “Vioxx,” the arthritis drug just pulled from the market for safety reasons, and you get links to information on 11 similar compounds, hundreds of related abstracts in PubMed, and results from 58 bioassays, or test tube studies of the drug's activity, in a National Cancer Institute database. That's just the beginning. Starting next year, PubChem will store assay results for up to a million molecules generated by new high-throughput chemical screening centers as part of NIH's Roadmap initiative (Science, 18 June, p. 1728). In addition, as with GenBank, the community will be invited to submit data to PubChem.

  2. LINKS: Dig Here

    The well-organized Links for Mineralogists from the University of Würzburg in Germany can help unearth, say, movies that show the structure of garnet crystals or a tutorial on x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, which scientists deploy to determine mineral composition. The collection of annotated links is designed to help everyone from hardened geologists to neophytes who have just picked up a rock hammer. The offerings include online texts, software, bibliographies, professional directories, and job boards.

  3. IMAGES: Speaking of Slugs

    Sea slugs such as Pteraeolidia ianthina from the southeast coast of Australia are a far cry from their dowdy, garden-lurking cousins. The flashy marine mollusks caught the eye of American novelist John Steinbeck, who in Cannery Row described them “slid[ing] gracefully over the rocks, their skirts waving like the dresses of Spanish dancers.” Modern fans of the creatures can share information at the newly revamped Sea Slug Forum, hosted by malacologist Bill Rudman of the Australian Museum in Sydney. The site includes more than 30,000 images, and fact sheets offer tidbits on the biology of about 1400 species from around the world. For example, Pteraeolidia ianthina hosts colonies of photosynthetic algae, which share their food with the slug and account for its brownish color. In the forum section, an audience including scientists and scuba divers talks taxonomy and ecology, mulls photos of hard-to-identify specimens, and swaps sea slug lore.

  4. RESOURCES: Amphibian Archive

    The first worldwide survey of amphibian populations delivered grim news: About one-third of known species are threatened or have gone extinct (Science, 15 October, p. 391). The Global Amphibian Assessment, sponsored by IUCN-The World Conservation Union, NatureServe, and Conservation International, also spawned a comprehensive database on these creatures. The site hops with information on all of the world's 5743 kinds of frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians. Each species' entry describes its habitat and ecology, enumerates current and potential threats, and lists conservation measures. A highlight is the range maps for every species. Shown above is the marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum) from the southeastern United States, whose populations are healthy.

  5. DATABASE: Sampling the Skies

    If you're looking to tease out trends in U.S. air pollution, one place to start is AirData from the Environmental Protection Agency. The site provides annual summaries of pollution measurements over the last decade, merging information from two other EPA databases. You can create yearly reports on levels of seven “criteria” air pollutants, including lead, particulate matter, and ozone, and a long list of other hazardous compounds, such as carbon tetrachloride and mercury. Narrow your search to a particular county, ZIP code, or monitoring station, or compare emissions from year to year. For example, the Santa Clarita monitoring station near Los Angeles overshot the 1-hour federal standard for ozone on 35 days in 2003, 32 days in 2002, and 9 days in 2001.