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Life Sciences

The Life Sciences Today


These are very interesting and crucial times in the Life Sciences. Many wildlife habitats and species are under threat from global warming, new technologies and the effects of rapid industrial growth. The Science Library has covered many of these important issues in its Hot Topics webpages: on Cloning, GM Food, Endangered Species, British Birds and Biodiversity and the effects of Global Warming. Other controversial issues that have been in the news include the heated debate over alternative positions to the theory of evolution: should these be given the same scientific status when taught in schools?

The Life Sciences cover a number of subject areas: the sciences of life and of living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, and distribution. This breaks down into a variety of sub-topics: Anatomical Sciences and Physiology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Evolution and Diversity of Life, Plant Science and Microbiology, Pharmacology, Virology and Neuroscience Physiology and Neuroscience. This can be confusing for users of the Library as the Dewey Decimal Classification system that the library uses takes the Life Sciences to only mean Biology. Also, subjects like the Anatomical Sciences and Physiology, Pharmacology and Virology are kept in the Medical Collection rather than in Natural Sciences. However, the field of Life Sciences is often taken to comprise Biology (with Ecology), Botany and Zoology; and we have included here Palaeontology and Paleozoology also.

The Science Library has a large selection of books covering all areas of the Life Sciences, from beginners guides to more advanced scholarly publications; in particular, there is a substantial Natural History Collection. There are also many historical journals dating back to the mid-nineteenth century and beyond. These include: Transactions of the Linnean Society of London (from Vol. 1, 1791); The Journal of the Linnean Society of London (from Vol. 1, 1855); Transactions of the Entomological Society of London (from Vol. 1, 1836); Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (from Vol.1, 1830); Journal of Animal Ecology (from Vol. 1, 1932); and Ibis (from Vol. 1, 1859). We also have some old foreign language periodicals such as the Botanischer Jahresbericht (from Vol. 1, 1873). Among the journals we still take relating to the Natural Sciences are: British Birds (from Vol. 1, 1907 current); Bird Study (from Vol. 1, 1954 current); BBC Wildlife (from Vol. 1, 1983); and the Journal of Biological Education (from Vol. 1, 1967).

Paleontology and Paleozoology

Palaeontology (US spelling paleontology) is the study of the developing history of life on Earth, of ancient plants and animals based on the fossil record evidence of their existence preserved in rocks. As well as body fossils this also includes tracks, burrows, cast off parts, fossilized faeces and chemical residues. This dates back some 4 billion years (4,000,000,000). Palaeozoology is more specifically the study of animals through Earth's history the palaeontology of animals, dating back half a billion years.

Some Recommended Websites

Paleontology and Fossil Resources
An extensive list of online resources including bibliographies and library guides.
The Paleontology Portal
A US based site. It has a lot of interactive information, with a strong US focus
Anatomical Dictionary of Dinosaurs
As it states, with illustrations.


Biology covers a wide range of subjects including: Anatomical Sciences and Physiology, Microbiology, Biophysics and Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Evolution and Diversity of Life, Plant Science and Microbiology, Pharmacology, Virology, Neuroscience Physiology and Neuroscience, and the collection and preservation of biological specimens. It also covers our material on Darwin which has become popular recently.

Some Recommended Websites

BioMed Central
Principally a resource (mainly through journals) of medical information, but also provides access to information on human biology.
The Natural History Museum
This has a lot of useful material, and some good interactive educational resources for children.
Bio-tech Life Science Dictionary
Useful, although limited, online dictionary, with good links to other resources.
Understanding Evolution
An excellent education website teaching the science and history of evolutionary biology, kept by the University of Berkeley.
the biology project
Run by the Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics of the University of Arizona, and so has a US emphasis; but has excellent learning materials.
Biology Online
This site has a collection of useful articles and tutorials, as well as a dictionary and links to other resources.
Kimball's Biology Pages
An excellent online Biology textbook, with a comprehensive coverage and easy to use links connecting up different topics.
About Darwin
A comprehensive website covering all aspects of the life and work of Charles Darwin.


Botany is the scientific study of plants. The definition of plants normally covers: lichens, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. Sometimes bacteria, algae and fungi are included although they can be seen as having their own distinct kingdoms. It includes, along with many other sub-branches: plant anatomy - the study of plant cells and tissue; Cytology - the study of the structure, function, and life history of plant cells; ethnobotany - the study of the uses of plants by indigenous peoples; ecology - the study of the relationships between plants and the world in which they live; and Palyology - the study of pollen and spores.

Some Recommended Websites

Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses are a 15 acre oasis of delight. Designed by J. C. Loudon, a leading garden planner, horticultural journalist and publisher, they opened to subscribers in 1832.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Botany Encyclopedia
An excellent place for finding plants, and how to look after them.
The Virtual Library of Botany and Biosciences
Aimed at university research level, but has links to just about everything you would need to research these subjects.
Education Index Botany
Another excellent portal for resources; this one aimed more at school students.
The International Plant Science Center
Based at New York Botanical Gardens, this sees as its mission 'to discover and document Earths biodiversity in order to understand and preserve its irreplaceable resources'.
Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew
This site has a lot of scientific information and educational resources.
This has a comprehensive list of links to journals in which articles concerning plant biology are published.


Zoology is the study of all non-human animals: their biology, development, habitat and behaviour. This includes: mammalogy - the study of mammals; entomology the study of insects; arachnology the study of spiders and related organoisms collectively known as arachnids; ichtyology the study of fish; cetology the study of marine mammals such as dolphins and whales; acarology the study of mites and ticks; ornithology the study of birds; and, an especially relevant topic today, anthrozoology - the study of human interaction with animals.

Some Recommended Websites

The Zoological Society of London
The Zoological Society of London describes itself as a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. It runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Animal Park.
Frontiers in Zoology
A scholarly online journal which allows full text acces to its large range of articles.

Other good general online sources of information are:

An excellent Catalogue of Internet Resources arranged in the order of the Dewey Decimal System.
Dewey Browse
Another portal that lists online resources according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system; this one is aimed more at kids
Online Glossary
Comprehensive glossary, very easy to use.
Excite directory
This provides a useful directory of internet sites on botany broken down into detailed subjects.
Wikipedia Biology
As always, a good place to start for information and more resources.

Science Library