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Showing posts with label science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science. Show all posts

13 November 2017

Celebrating the discovery of evolution

Associate Professor Martin Burd, from the Monash School of Biological  Science, has written this article for our blog celebrating the anniversary of the publication of the seminal book,  Origin of Species.



Sexual selection of birds was further
 examined in Darwin's, Descent of Man
This November marks the 158th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Monash University holds a copy of the first edition volume in its Rare Books Collection, a true treasure from the history of human thought. This book stands with a handful of other great scientific works like Galileo’s Starry Messenger or Newton’s Principia Mathematica as a marker of our collective effort to understand nature.

The Origin of Species famously proposed that the diversity of species we observe in the world has been derived from ancestral species, now extinct, that differed from current forms of life. This idea of the “mutability” of species had been brewing among naturalists in Europe for decades at the time Darwin published his book. He turned the somewhat ill-defined notion of mutability into a science by proposing how it could happen through natural selection, a mechanism that would act automatically as a consequence of simple and observable features of nature. A century and a half of research since publication of the Origin has abundantly confirmed its central claims. The force of natural selection on populations has been observed and measured often, and even the natural formation of new species in historical times has been documented (it doesn’t always take millions of years!). Darwin’s ideas still form a core to evolutionary biology, but, following the blossoming of genetics in the 20th century, and the revolution provided by molecular genetics in this century, we are now aware of a richness and complexity to evolution far beyond what Darwin could have known.

Biologists still read Origin of Species, but the book’s influence has extended well beyond biology and even well beyond science. Its most important consequence has been on our conception of our own place in nature. Although Darwin gave only the slimmest allusion to humankind in the book, the implication that we had an origin like that of other species, proceeding from natural causes as a part of nature, was immediately apparent to readers in 1859, and to readers since. This has not been a comfortable thought for everyone. With our civilisation now facing challenges from climate disruption, it might prove to be a thought we need to embrace all the more.

You can see Darwin’s privileged education and social origins in his command of the language in Origin of Species: it’s a good book, easily read and elegant in a Victorian way. For anyone who wants to be acquainted with the ideas of the past that have shaped our world today, it is worth dipping into, or reading entirely.



Associate Professor Martin Burd completed his PhD at Princeton University. His main area of research focus is cvolutionary ecology. As an Evolutionary Ecologist, Martin investigates life-history evolution, behaviour, and reproduction in a variety of plants and animals. 


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24 April 2017

Researching organisms? Try BIOSIS Previews

Information about any animal, bird, organism or other form of life can be found in this database of journal articles from emerging and traditional areas of  biological science, says subject librarian Madeleine Bruwer.



Are you a life scientist researching organisms? 

BIOSIS Previews allows you to explore the entire field of life sciences by providing access to journal content from Biological Abstracts supplemented by Biological Abstract Reports, Reviews and Meetings. 

Our BIOSIS Previews coverage dates from 1926 to present, and includes the traditional areas of biological sciences, such as zoology, botany, microbiology, as well as emerging areas like drug discovery, gene therapy, biodiversity and biotechnology.

Searching for an organism using the taxonomic data field

Biosis Previews uses a relational indexing system, which provides hierarchical access to kingdom, family and common genus species names. Knowing how to best utilise the taxonomic structure of the database will assist in targeting your search to retrieve records with the required organism as the primary focus of the article.

Start by performing a topic search, listing as many variations as possible of the organism name, either the formal scientific name, Latin name or the common organism name.



Select a relevant result based on title information and scroll down past the abstract to the taxonomic data table.

The taxonomic data table displays the following categories: Super Taxa, Taxa Notes, Organism Classifier, Organism name and Variant. 


The Super Taxa field refers to broad categories of organisms, in this instance Mammalia, Marsupialia. The Taxa Notes supply the common names of broad groups of organisms, for example Marsupials, Mammals and more. The Organism Classifier provides the controlled term for the taxonomic rank of family as well as the five-digit Biosystematic Code for an organism. Organism name refers to the organism name as provided by the author and this will assist users unfamiliar with the taxonomic nomenclature to easily search for an organism. The Variant name is also captured if the article provides this information. Other details on the organism such as gender, its developmental stage and role may also be supplied.

Once you have a clearer picture of the appropriate terms to use, you would narrow your search by entering the organism name in the taxonomic data field.

The Super Taxa terms or Taxa Notes are useful for broadening a search. To broaden your search to include both kangaroos and wallabies, use the Organism Classifier term “Macropodia“.

BIOSIS Previews is listed our A-Z database list and is available through Web of Science. Select BIOSIS Previews from drop down list on Web of Science Core Collection home page.



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1 March 2017

Solve agricultural and environmental problems with scientific knowledge


Science librarians, David Smith-Chitty and Madeleine Bruwer, introduce this new resource in the fields of agriculture and applied life sciences.




CAB Abstracts is the leading database for applied life scientists performing research in animal health and production, biofuels, biosafety and bioterrorism, climate change and environmental sciences, ecotourism, invasive species and horticultural sciences and more. With a focus on solving problems on a globalised but local scale, CAB Abstracts is a tool to find practical solutions for issues in the applied life sciences.

CAB Abstracts is produced by CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International), an international non-profit organisation, with development and research projects around the world. The database has an international focus with publications from over 120 countries, including developing countries, and in 50 languages.

CAB Abstracts contains more than 8.3 million records from 1973 onwards and keeps increasing with over 360,000 new abstracts added each year. In addition, Monash University has access to 1.8 million records dating back to 1910 via CAB Abstracts Archive.

Build a sophisticated search using the CAB Thesaurus, which allows users to utilise specific terminology for all covered subjects (including plant, animal and microorganism names), across different languages (Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish equivalents are available for most English terms). Filter search results by organism descriptors based on terms used, timeframe, location, full text availability and publication type.

Register for a MyCABI account to save your search history and receive email alerts for your favourite searches. Organise your searching with the My Projects feature which will sort your searches and results into separate folders based around specific research topics and focuses.

To access the CAB Abstracts database select the CAB Direct online platform from our A-Z database listing.

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5 August 2015

SPIE Digital Library

In this article by Nhan Le, we look at an extensive resource on optics and photonics. Monash researchers working on light and light-based technologies have access to this resource.


2015 is the International Year of Light and Light-based Technology. The world has enjoyed the benefits of light and light-based technologies through photography, medical imaging and radiology, and much more.

Technology has not stopped there. Clean energy, lightning-fast communication, and sustainable manufacturing are among many others which are the future of light-based technologies. [i]

Monash researchers can continue to explore and make use of an extensive resource available on optics and photonics through SPIE Digital Library. This resource is provided by one of the most prestigious societies that focuses on light, optical and photonic technologies.

The Society for Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) is an international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light. SPIE was founded in 1955.

SPIE plays a vital role in researchers’ scientific endeavours. Through the Library's subscription to SPIE Digital Library Monash researchers have access to more than 230,000 technical papers from SPIE journals and conference proceedings from 1990 to present. Researchers can also look forward to more than 17,000 new research papers added annually.

Journals: SPIE Journals publish peer-reviewed articles on optical engineering, electronic imaging, biomedical optics, microlithography, remote sensing, and nanophotonics.

Conference Proceedings: The innovations in research and technology are captured in Conference Proceedings of SPIE. These original research papers presented at SPIE conferences are among the most cited references in patent literature and are available two to four weeks after each event.

Monash users can search across the two platforms using the basic Search, or Advanced Search, or separately. For example, on the Journals tab, you can view individual titles through Current Issue or All Issues, or on the Proceedings tab, you can browse by Conference, by Year, by Volume No., or by Volume Title.

Featured Video is displayed on the SPIE home page. For example: Watch the video "Kathryn Flanagan: Hubble and JWST inspire the scientist in everyone" and read an article on Space Telescopes co-authored by Kathryn Flanagan  (as of August 5th, 2015).

You can access all the scholarly material on SPIE Digital Library through the Library-managed subscription.


[i] Celebrating light: 50 ways light-based technologies enrich our world, 2015, SPIE Press, pp. 118-119.

Nhan Le is a subject librarian for Engineering and Science in the Hargrave-Andrew Library.

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29 May 2015

Explore the botanical world with a unique resource


Monash Library databases can link you to a wealth of information in the form of articles, papers and books, but there is another side to our extensive electronic collections....By Catherine Hocking




Imagine being able to take a sneak peek into the extensive botanical collections of international herbaria – this is precisely what JSTOR Global Plants allows you to do! Over 300 institutions (including 11 Australian) have contributed images and other materials from their collections including:
  • botanical type specimens
  • illustrations
  • photographs
  • artefacts
  • correspondences
  • articles, books, dissertations, reports and manuscripts. 
In addition to an extensive advanced search you have the option of browsing by 55 broad collections which can then be narrowed by resource type, geography and herbarium.

High quality, high resolution images allow for zooming in closely on specimens - almost like visiting the collection in person. Seeing the pollen on an acacia specimen at close range is almost enough to bring on a bout of hay fever!
While a highly specialised collection, JSTOR Global Plants has the potential for much broader application with the general interest potential of illustrations and historic correspondence.

Those unfamiliar with scientific plant names may find using JSTOR Global Plants in conjunction with a more general resource such as A dictionary of plant sciences helpful in identifying specific plants.



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