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Resources for Biology

Brassaia actinophylla, Schefflera Microscopy Work Water

Biology, the study of living organisms, has a number of specialties such as cytology, taxonomy, evolution, ecology, immunology, and neurobiology. Related fields are medicine, environmental studies, and biochemistry. This guide will point you toward sources for definitions, overviews of biological concepts, and places to find research papers on topics in the field. The list is far from complete; don't hesitate to ask a librarian for help.

Table of Contents:

Indexes and Databases
For more information and additional suggestions, visit the Databases Guide for Biology.
  • Biological Sciences
    Citations and abstracts to research in all areas of biological sciences, including biomedicine, biotechnology, zoology, and ecology. Coverage is from 1982 to the present. Biological Sciences indexes over 6,000 primary journals plus patents, conference proceedings, books and reports.
  • General Science Collection
    A collection of over 200 journals covering such topics as particle physics, advanced mathematics, and nanotechnology. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM).
  • Plant Science
    Indexes literature from 1994-present on pathology, symbiosis, biochemistry, and genetics.
    1994-present; updated monthly
  • PubMed
    The primary source for scholarly information in the health sciences. This database is provided by the National Library of Medicine and indexes scholarly literature in medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and the preclinical sciences. Many links to full text are included for articles older than six months. Most of this database may also be searched in the ProQuest interface as MEDLINE.
Reference Works
  • General
    • Concise Encyclopedia: Biology
      Offers brief definitions and in some cases longer articles on a wide variety of topics in the field, including plants and animals, terminology from ecology, microbiology, and biochemistry, and scientific terms.There is another concise encyclopedia covering biochemistry and molecular biology available at Ref QD415.A25 B713 1997.
      • Location(s): Ref QH 302.5 .A2313 1996
    • Dictionary of Biology
      Oxford UP 2008
      Defines key terms in the life sciences, including biology, biophysics, biochemistry, and medicine.
  • Plants and Animals
    • Birds of North America
      American Ornithologists' Union and The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 1992
      Comprehensive and authoritative profiles of current knowledge of approximately 700 species of birds native to North America. Each profile describes the bird, covers distribution, systematics, migration, habitat, food habits, sounds, migration, behavior, breeding, demography, conservation, and appearance. There is an extensive bibliography for each entry.
      • Location(s): Ref QL 681 .B625 1992
    • Dictionary of Entomology
      CABI 2001
      Offers succinct definitions of terms in the field, identification of insects, names of families, topics, and prominent entomolgists.
      • Location(s): Ref QL 462.3 .G67 2001
    • Dictionary of Plant Sciences
      Oxford: Oxford UP 2003
      Defines terms in the field of botany, including plant physiology, cytology, ecology, genetics, evolution, and taxonomic groups.
    • Dictionary of Zoology
      Oxford UP 2003
      Covers aspects of animal behavior, genetics, evolutionary studies, ecology, physiology, genetics, cytology, and zoogeography.
    • Encyclopedia of Endangered Species
      Gale 1994
      Describes over 700 animals and plants currently threatened with extinction. Arranged taxonomically; an index provides common and scientific name access. For each species the status, description and biology, habitat and current distribution, and history and conservation measures are described. Includes indexes by geographic location and a list of wildlife and conservation organizations.
      • Location(s): Ref QH 75 .A1 E53
    • Flora of North America North of Mexico
      Oxford vols. 1-3, 22-26 edition
      An ongoing project that provides essays on the physical and biological factors that have affected the evolution and distribution of plant life on the continent, including physical setting, vegetation and climates of the past, contemporary vegetation and phylogeny, humankind and flora, and classification of flora.
      • Location(s): Ref QK 110 .F55 1993
    • Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia
      Gale 2003 2nd edition
      A survey of animals, organized by taxonomic class. Discussions include distribution, behavior, and appearance; well illustrated with numerous color plates.
      • Location(s): Ref QL 7 .G7813
  • Special Topics
    • Dictionary of Ecology
      Oxford UP 2006
      Covers thousands of terms in habitat management, molecular ecology, and conservation, as well as identifying important biologists in the field.
    • Encyclopedia of Biodiversity
      Academic 2001
      Provides in-depth, scholarly articles on topics ranging from agriculture, conservation, economic aspects of biodiversity, microbial biodiversity, public policy, and systematics.
      • Location(s): Ref QH 541.15 .B56 E53 2001
      5 vols.
    • Encyclopedia of Bioethics
      Macmillan 2004 3rd edition
      Covers issues and controversies in bioethics in lengthy, scholarly articles, each one accompanied by a current bibliography of key sources.
      • Location(s): Ref QH 332 .E52 2004
      5 vols.
    • Encyclopedia of Evolution
      Oxford UP 2002
      Offers in-depth essays covering evolutionary aspects population genetics, cell and developmental biology, molecular evolution, diversity of life, evolutionary systematics, biogeography, behavioral ecology, human evolution, and more.
      • Location(s): Ref QH 360.2 .E54 2002
      2 vols.
    • Encyclopedia of Genetics
      Fitzroy Dearborn 2001
      A one-volume textbook covering genetics of bacteria and viruses, drosophila and other insects, mammals, humans, and plants as well as DNA-based analysis and population genetics.
      • Location(s): Ref QH 427 .E54 2001
    • Encyclopedia of Human Biology
      San Diego: Academic 1997 2nd ed. edition
      Offers articles on topics in human biology, ranging from behavior, biochemistry, genetics and psychology to medical research. There is an index to the set in the final volume.
      • Location(s): Ref QP 11 .E53 1997
    • Encyclopedia of Microbiology (Academic Press)
      Academic 2000 2nd edition
      Covers topics in microbiology, reviewing research in such areas as bacteriophages, anaerobic respiration, and AIDS. The articles, written for the informed non-specialist, are substantial.
      • Location(s): Ref QR 9 .E53 2000
      4 vols.
    • Handbook of Stem Cells
      Elsevier 2004
      A collection of technical articles written by experts on aspects of stem cell research, including basic biology, methods, applications, regulation and ethics, and even the patient's perspective.
      • Location(s): Ref QH 588 .S83 H36 2004
      2 vols.
    • Walker's Mammals of the World
      John Hopkins UP 1991 5th edition
      Covers the description, habitat, behavior, and biology of every genus of living mammal.
      • Location(s): QL 703 .N69 1991
      2 vols.
    • Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour
      Oxford UP 1981
      Covers topics in ethology in short articles, defining terms and discussing theory and discoveries in the field.
      • Location(s): Ref QL 750.3 .O94 1982
Browsing for Books
Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations in the field of biology.
  • GE Environmental education
  • GF Human ecology
  • HC 79 Environmental economics
  • Q Science (General)
    • QD 146-197 Organic Chemistry
    • QE 701-996 Paleontology
    • QH Natural History
      • 301-425 Biology (General)
      • 426-470 Genetics
      • 471-489 Reproduction
      • 501-531 Life
      • 540-549 Ecology
      • 573-671 Cytology
    • QK Botany
    • QL Zoology
  • R Medicine
  • S Agriculture
  • SB Plant culture
  • SD Forestry
  • SF Animal culture

Annual Reviews
Annual series are secondary sources that recap research in key areas of the field. They are an excellent place to gain a sense of the various approaches to a given topic and the literature that supports it.
  • ADVANCES IN MARINE BIOLOGY v. 1, 1963- (QH 91 .A1 A22)
  • ADVANCES IN VIRUS RESEARCH v. 1, 1953- (QR 360 .A3)
  • ANNUAL REVIEW OF BIOCHEMISTRY v. 37, 1968- (QP501.A7); current volumes online
  • ANNUAL REVIEW OF CELL & DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY v. 1, 1985- (QH 573 .A54) current volumes online
  • ANNUAL REVIEW OF ENTOMOLOGY v. 1, 1956- (QL 461 .A5); current volumes online
  • ANNUAL REVIEW OF GENETICS v. 1, 1967- (QH 431 .A1 A54); current volumes online
  • ANNUAL REVIEW OF GENOMICS & HUMAN GENETICS v. 1, 2001- (QH 431 .A56); current volumes online
  • ANNUAL REVIEW OF NEUROSCIENCE; current volumes online
  • WILDLIFE MONOGRAPHS no. 9-173, 1956-2009 (QL 1 .W54); current volumes available online
  • Annual Reviews
    Online access to the tables of contents of the Annual Reviews: 29 volumes published yearly covering biomedical, physical, and social science disciplines. Full text (usually from 1998 to the present) is available for 14 titles: the Annual Review of Anthropology, Biochemistry, Cell & Developmental Biology, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Ecology & Systematics, Entomology, Genetics, Genomics & Human Genetics, Immunology, Neuroscience, Physical Chemistry, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology.
    tables of contents 1932-present; full text from 1998-present
In related fields
    Citations and abstracts for agricultural publications from the 15th century to the present, including articles from over 600 periodicals, USDA and state experiment station and extension publications, and selected books. Subjects include animal and veterinary sciences, entomology, plant sciences, food and human nutrition, and earth and environmental sciences. Many records are linked to full-text documents online. A resource of the National Agricultural Library.
    1970-present, updated monthly
  • Open Science Directory
    This directory provides access to over 13,000 open access journals in the sciences, including those from PubMed Central, Highwire Press, Biomed Central, and the Directory of Open Access Journals, as well as several international efforts to make scientific research more broadly accessible. Many of the articles in these journals can be searched using a Google customized search option at the site.
  • PubMed
    The primary source for scholarly information in the health sciences. This database is provided by the National Library of Medicine and indexes scholarly literature in medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and the preclinical sciences. Many links to full text are included for articles older than six months. Most of this database may also be searched in the ProQuest interface as MEDLINE.
  • Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Knowledge)
    Search citations and abstracts in more than 5,700 major journals across 164 scientific disciplines, including agriculture, astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, medicine, pharmacology, physics, plant sciences, psychiatry, and zoology. It is also possible to search for works that have cited a specific author or a specific work using this resource.
    1997-present; updated weekly
  • Science Reference Center
    This database contains full text for nearly 640 science encyclopedias, reference books, and journals. Topics covered include: biology, chemistry, earth & space science, environmental science, health & medicine, history of science, life science, physics, science & society, science as inquiry, scientists, technology and wildlife. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM).

Print journals are housed in the periodicals collection on the first floor of the library. Additional journals may be available in full text through various subscription databases.

Many scientific and medical publishers make their journals contents available online for free within six months to two years of publication. These can be accessed through these Web sites:

Free Medical Journals links to over 1,200 journals with free content
Highwire Press
includes free access to back issues of many of its journals
PubMedCentral an archive of life science journals maintained by the National Library of Medicine

  • American Biology Teacher
  • American Midland Naturalist
  • Audubon
  • American Midland Naturalist
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Annals of the Entomological Society of America
  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Botany
  • Canadian Journal of Zoology
  • Cell
  • Entomological News
  • Environment
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Environmental History
  • Genes & Development
  • Global Environmental Change
  • Horticulture
  • JAMA: journal of the American Medical Association
  • Journal of Cell Biology
    Scholarly journal covering all aspects of cellular structure and function, including nuclear organization and structure, cell cycle and division, cell growth, survival and death, cellular adhesion and motility, and intercellular communication. Cell biology can also encompass structural and molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics.
  • Journal of Freshwater Ecology
  • Journal of Heredity
  • Journal of Neurophysiology
  • Learning & Behavior
  • Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Nature Neuroscience
  • Wilson Journal of Ornithology
  • General Information
    • BioNetbook
      A searchable directory of biology web pages.
    • Online Biology Book
      Lectures covering basic chemistry, cellular biology, genetics, thermodynamics, protein synthesis, plants and structure, animal organ systems (integumentary, respiratory, etc.), evolutionary theory, and biological diversity, and more.
    • Scirus
      A search engine for science web sites and journal articles (which may not be available for free).
  • Audio and Visual Resources
    • EcoPort
      Contains over 13,000 photographs and over 75,000 species records (memes).
    • Listen to Nature
      from the British Library, offers 150,000 animal sounds that can be browsed by location, animal type, or habitat. For best results, use an advanced search of the catalog and limit to wildlife sounds.
  • Biodiversity and Conservation
    • Amphibiaweb
      From Berkeley's Digital Library Project, offers information about amphibian species, including distribution maps, sound files, photographs, and references to relevant biological research.
    • Animal Diversity Web
      From the University of Michigan's Museum of Zoology. Animals are classified by phylum, order, class and family. Searchable.
    • Encyclopedia of Life
      The goal of this Website is to create a Web page for every living organism that includes "taxonomy, geographic distribution, collections, genetics, evolutionary history, morphology, behavior, ecological relationships, and importance for human well being." Within ten years the project hopes to have pages for some 1.8 million organisms. Some of the contents come from other Websites such as the Animal Diversity Web.
    • Plants Database
      From the USDA's National Resources Conservation Service, provides basic information about plants growing in the US, including images, species abstracts, growth distribution, growth data, and more. Includes sections on "culturally significant" plants and invasive species.
    • Tree of Life
      A multi-authored Internet project containing information about phylogeny and biodiversity.
  • Biotechnology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Historical Information
    • History of Biomedicine
      This page contains links to resources on indigenous cultures, Mesopotamian, ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Islamic, and Western medicine.
  • Marine Biology
    • Census of Marine Life
      A website that chronicles the work of the Census of Marine Life, an international effort to document and study the diversity and distribution of life in the oceans. The site provides lists of publications arising out of the project (including a database of published papers), a summary of projects with links to their websites, an image gallery, and more.
  • Online Documents/Reports
    • DOE Information Bridge
      Free access to Department of Energy (DOE) research and development reports, some of which relate to biology and environmental sciences.
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Microscopy Work -
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