Monday, March 28, 2016

Biology, Botany, Zoology and Earth Sciences

Malinowsky, H. R. Reference sources in Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Agriculture. Phoenix, Ariz. : Oryx Press, 1994. pp. 39-40.
Biology, Botany, Zoology and Earth Sciences

Biology is the study of all living organisms whether microscopic bacteria, giant whales, or Sequoia trees. Two subdivisions of biology—botany and zoology—have separate sections in this chapter. As with all science disciplines, biology can be subdivided into many specialized fields which include:

  • Cell biology—the study of the individual cells that make up whole organisms.
  • Ecology—the study of organisms in relation to their environment.
  • Embryology—the study of the early development of organisms.
  • Evolution—the study of the historical development of organisms.
  • Genetics—the study of the genes and heredity of organisms.
  • Morphology—the study of the form and structure of organisms.
  • Physiology—the study of all the vital functions of organisms that makes them total and unique.
  • Taxonomy—the systematic naming of living organisms.

The prefix “bio” means “life” or “living organism.” Science dictionaries list many entries with this prefix, including bioacoustics, bioassay, biocatalyst, biocenology, biochemistry, biocide, biodiversity, bioelectronics, biofeedback, biogenesis, biogeography, biomass, biostatistics, biotic, and biozone. As with other science categories, the boundaries of biology fade as technology and other fields of science become involved in biological research. 
The reference sources for biology appear with new editions on a fairly regular basis. Access to the world’s research is found through Biological Abstracts. Dictionaries and encyclopedias are numerous and handbooks are very important. 
The term “botany” comes from the Greek for “herb,” botanikas, which signifies that part of biology concerned with plants. Botany includes the study of plants’ physical and chemical makeup, evolution, environmental impact, and interaction with other organisms. Researchers may study the genetic relationships between plants, the growth and development of plants in hostile environments, ways to protect crops from diseases and pests, and new methods for increasing crop yields. Of primary concern to researchers are methods for growing plants without chemicals, producing hardier crops, maintaining rain forests, and protecting endangered species. Botanists generally study either the function and development of plants, or they study plants by types. There is a lot overlap between the distinctions, however, and studying functions and development of the total plant community (or type) is not unusual. 
The function and development of plants are studied in these fields:

  • Plant anatomy—the physical makeup of the plant.
  • Plant chemistry—the chemical processes that occur in plants.
  • Plant cytology—the study of the plant cells.
  • Plant embryology—the study of plant development from seeds.
  • Plant genetics—the evolution of plants.
  • Plant physiology—the study of how plants function and grow.
  • Plant taxonomy—the systematic naming of plants.
  • Ethnobotany—the study of the physical differences between plants.
  • Paleobotany—the study of fossil plants.

For the study of plants by type of plant, there are

  • Agrostology—the study of grasses.
  • Algology or phycology—the study of algae.
  • Bryology—the study of mosses.
  • Mycology—the study of fungi.
  • Pteridology—the study of ferns.

For reference purposes, a large number of sources identify plants. Detailed field guides, handbooks, and encyclopedias are important to researchers and laypeople alike, and taxonomic dictionaries are essential. Biological Abstracts is the main source for accesses the research literature. 
Zoology is the branch of biology that deals with all animals from the microscopic to the wales. The study of zoology is based on the structure and function of the animal, usually broken down to a particular class. These structures and functions include

  • Physiology—the living processes that make up the whole animal.
  • Embryology—the development and new life of animals.
  • Genetics—the area of heredity and variation.
  • Parasitology—animals living in or on other animals.
  • Natural History—behavior of animals in nature.
  • Ecology—relation of animals to their environment.
  • Evolution—origin and differentiation of animal life.
  • Taxonomy—classification and naming of animals.

As experts, zoologists may cover a particular class of animal:

  • Entomology—the study of insects.
  • Ichthyology—the study of fishes.
  • Ornithology—the study of birds.
  • Mammalogy—the study of mammals.
  • Herpetology—the study of snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles, dinosaurs, frogs, toads, and salamanders.

Zoology is intriguing to most individuals because of the wide variety of exotic animals that live on this planet. The literature that has accumulated through the years is voluminous and the access has become more and more sophisticated. Biological Abstracts continues, however, to be the primary source for searching this literature. Handbooks are numerous, but field guides and encyclopedias predominate. 
Earth sciences
Earth sciences covers all of the disciplines concerned with the earth’s origin, composition, physical features, and atmosphere. It encompasses all the forces that have changed and are changing its makeup. It is related to cosmology, the study of how the universe has evolved, because clues about the origins of things in space provide information about how the earth itself was formed. Earth sciences also include the study of physical geography, which is called geomorphology, the study of landforms, their description, classification, origin, history, and ongoing changes. Subfields of geomorphology include glaciology, soil mechanics, remote sensing, fluvial geology, karst landscapes, and to some extent, cartography. 
By far the largest branch of earth sciences, geology is the study of the planet from its beginning to its future. The term “geology,” however, is now considered too restrictive and has been replaced with geoscience. Other disciplines within earth sciences are:

  • Geochemistry—the study of chemical processes within the geological process.
  • Geodesy—the science of surveying and mapping the earth’s surface.
  • Geophysics—the study of the physical forces on and within the earth.
  • Mineralogy—the study of minerals found in the earth.
  • Petrology—the study of the three types of rocks found in and on earth: igneous or volcanic, metamorphic or pressure changed, and sedimentary or eroded.
  • Meteorology—the study of the atmosphere which includes Climatology or the study of the climates.
  • Oceanography—study of seas and oceans, including the shores and beaches, subsurface rocks and sediments, waves and related forces, chemistry, and all life that depends on the oceans and seas for survival.
  • Paleontology—the study of all fossil life, including Paleobotany, Paleozoology, Invertebrate Paleontology, and Micropaleontology.
  • Hydrology—the study of the forces of water on the earth. 
  • Stratigraphy—the study of the layers of sediments that make up the surface of the earth.
  • Economic Geology—the study of all materials that are mined from the earth.

Because earth sciences is a popular discipline for the layperson, guidebooks to landforms and fossils abound. The Bibliography and Index of Geology is the major indexing service for this discipline.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Hurt, C. D. Informational Sources in Science and Technology, 3rd ed. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1998. pp. 71-72.
Traditional science made a simple distinction between zoology and botany; botany deals with plants, zoology deals with animals. This definition has been stretched somewhat in modern times. Zoology still is concerned with animals, and this is the largest area of zoology. However, zoologists now extend the definition to organisms that are not animals. They now study organisms such as monera, protista, and fungi. 
Zoology and botany have a great deal in common. In effect, they are now branches of the same tree—studying the life forms of the Earth. They are also similar in that each is very old. The ancient Egyptians had a rudimentary understanding of blood circulation, functions of the organs, and disease. Aristotle laid the foundations of what we now call zoology. His contributions in taxonomy, anatomy, physiology, and genetics form an excellent base for the modern zoologist. These four areas are still the pillars of zoology. This does not mean, however, that zoology is a stable discipline in which to work. As an example, great debate rages about the origin, physiology, and demise of the dinosaur. This is one example of many in zoology that suggests a lively intellectual climate. Such climates are excellent breeding grounds for generating large amounts of literature. 
Zoology, like other areas of science, borrows from all of science and technology. The electron microscope is one tool the zoologist might use to determine the cellular structure of a particular animal to differentiate it from another animal. Like botany, however, the borrowing from other disciplines is not as intense as it is in other fields. 
Zoologists tend to publish in a relatively narrow group of journals. Their conference activity is high, but the results of conferences are disseminated relatively quickly and efficiently. For zoologists interested in taxonomy, there are few outlets, and these tend to be highly traditional. Zoologists tend to use monographic literature more than do other scientists. This is partly the result of having a systematized schema that has weathered well. 
Bibliographic control in zoology is better than in most of science. The premier abstracting and indexing service in zoology, Zoological Record, has been published since 1865, and is available as an online database. The crossover areas in zoology are the ones where bibliographic control is difficult. Finding material that is published in a chemical journal about a zoological subject remains hard. 
The future for zoology appears to be a continuation of the present. A consistent and well-developed research program in the traditional four areas of zoology will certainly continue. The melding of zoology and other areas such as physics, chemistry, and environmental sciences will also continue. The result will be a rich literature that can only partly be controlled bibliographically.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Hurt, C. D. Informational sources in Science and Technology, 3rd ed. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1998. pp. 57-58.
Botany can be approached from a variety of perspectives. As an example, there can be several classification systems employed within botany. A substantial literature discusses and argues the merits and faults of the various classification systems.
Plant diseases, heredity, form, and structure are examples of areas within botany. The range of areas within botany is a direct function of the immense variety of plants and plant-related issues. Like a number of other fields in science and technology, this means the botanist is forced to specialize. Unlike a number of other fields, the rampant specialization is not as widespread. This has the very positive effect of allowing specialists to see the work of other specialists in botany. The assumption, and it is a large one, is that such exposure leads to a certain level of interest. 
In terms of bibliographic control, two characteristics set botany apart from other disciplines. First, the number of journals devoted to botany is relatively small. Therefore, the bibliographic control is better in botany than it is in most of science. The major abstract and indexing service for botany is Biological Abstracts. Botanical Abstracts was an excellent tool but was merged with Biological Abstracts in 1926. Depending on the speciality area, abstract and indexing services in agriculture such as AGRICOLA and CAB Abstracts will be invaluable. 
Second, the scope of botany is not as wide as that of other disciplines. Relatively speaking, botany does not borrow from other areas as heavily as do other scientific disciplines, although borrowing does frequently occur, as botany incorporates some elements of chemistry, physics, zoology, and agriculture. 
At the present time, there appears to be two basic camps in botany. The first camp is the more traditional. This camp is concerned with refining the classification systems and fitting all categories of plants into the proper place. The second camp seems less interested in refining the building blocks of the field and more interested in moving forward and furthering new knowledge. One such area is the discovery (rediscovery, some would argue) of natural drugs from plants around the world. The pharmacological value of plants, rare or common, is a hot topic in botany and pharmacy. In keeping with the theme of interdisciplinary work, this last area of study is an example of a fundable project at the national level: it includes at least two fields and has a practical outcome. The future will see more of both camps, although it appears that funding levels and funding interest are more in tune with the goals of the second camp. 
Botany seems to be an area ripe for explosion in a variety of ways. If this is true, then botany will become just as difficult to control bibliographically as any other science.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Hurt, C. D. Information Sources in Science and Technology, 3rd ed. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1998. pp. 39-40.
Biology is an old and venerable discipline. Evidence from approximately 3000 BC suggests that people had a reasonable knowledge of living systems and basic biological principles. The Greeks brought biology to the level we now would call a science. The Arabic world was responsible, as it was for so many other areas, for retaining, refining, and adding to the store of knowledge regarding biology. The reawakening during the Renaissance was an impetus to biology, and new advances came more frequently. Work by Pasteur and Koch laid the groundwork for microbiology. Hook’s work opened the doors to cellular biology. Mendel laid the foundations for genetics. Through all the examples above, there is a thread. Each scientist used techniques or apparatus from other fields to further biology. Indeed, the use of chemistry and physical models led directly to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

Perhaps because it is an old discipline, biology is also multifaceted and multidisciplinary. “Biology” as a term is thus inadequate to describe the field. Investigators generally focus on one aspect of the field. In this, biology shares a great deal with physics. The trend in biology to specialize will continue. One effect of this specialization is the splintering of biology literature into outlets (journals and other forms) that match or attempt to match the specialization. This means that the questions put to the information specialist will continue to be more specialized.

The structure of the biological literature is placing increased emphasis on interdisciplinary tools and literatures. In some sense, it appears to the outsider that biology has opened Pandora’s box of the rest of science and technology and is using all that it can find. This perception is not far from the truth. Biology has considerable cross-pollination with other disciplines, for two reasons. First, interdisciplinarity is now part of the culture of biology. Chemists, for instance, find it relatively easy to move into and through major portions of the biological literature. The second reason is a phenomenon that spans all areas of science and technology: the changes in government funding that reward interdisciplinary work. Biology is “ahead” in this regard because it already has a culture that accepts interdisciplinary work. An example of an area in which biology has received both attention and funding is the human genome project.

The human genome project is important for another reason. Biologists determined early in the project that offering the results of the mapping process in paper form did not convey the results in the most suitable manner. Thus, the project results are now available via the World Wide Web. Although some specific issues of interpretation and technique are discussed in the traditional literature, this is an example of a major scientific project that is making good use of electronic resources.

Bibliographic control in biology is a function of frustration. The focus on specificity is maddening to most traditional librarians. This specialization, combined with the subsuming of other discipline specialities, makes the control of its literature difficult. However, the biological literature is generally well documented. The print source Biological Abstracts and the online version BIOSIS are renowned for their coverage.

Recently there has been some attempt to rein in the proliferation of biological journals as they develop into ever-smaller specialities. This movement has met with some resistance because the journal proliferation mirrors the proliferation of specialization in biology itself.

Biology is journal-driven for the most part. The major advanced and continuation literature are published in the traditional archive journal. Good use is made of conference literature, because in a field that moves so rapidly, conferences are one way to disseminate information widely. The number and range of conferences parallels the specialization movement in biology. As with all conference proceedings and conference literature, there are problems of access and identification. Moreover, conference literature in biology is elusive and poorly controlled.

Biology is an old science with a venerable history. It is also a rapidly evolving discipline that is changing before our eyes in terms of both research and dissemination of research.