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In 1993 a small band of volunteer graduate students initiated the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) Web site, one of the first 50 sites on the Internet. The Internet offered UCMP the opportunity to extend its outreach efforts to new audiences, beyond the practical limits of a very small staff and limited physical space.
Today, the site encompasses thousands of pages of information on life through time, organized in three major "exhibit halls": geologic time, phylogeny, and evolution. The exhibits are heavily interlinked, offering browsers of all levels opportunities to pursue concepts of particular interest. Background sources, authors and dates of publication are documented throughout the site.
Good examples of pages in the major exhibit halls include:
Introduction to the Anthozoa: This exhibit describes the group of organisms containing the corals that build great reefs in tropical waters, as well as sea anemones, sea fans, and sea pens. As with all exhibits in the phylogeny area, major concepts discussed include fossil record, life history and ecology, systematics, and morphology.
Introduction to the Vendian Period: This exhibit describes late precambrian geology and ancient life, 650 to 543 million years ago. As with all exhibits in the geologic time area, major concepts discussed include stratigraphy, ancient life, localities and tectonics.
A History of Evolutionary Thought: This set of pages offers profiles of scientists and thinkers who have contributed to our understanding of life on Earth, especially evolution.
In addition to the major exhibit areas, the site is packed with special exhibits and features geared to particular audiences. For example:
Secrets of the Stomatopod, An Underwater Research Adventure: This fun and friendly special exhibit, written for general audiences, follows the course of a summer research expedition in an underwater research laboratory off the coast of Florida. The content is enriched by spectacular photographs, links to expedition journals, and a video interview with the lead scientist.Explorations Through Time: Built especially for the K-12 classroom, these interactive "modules" cover key concepts while stressing the process of science. Each module includes an extensive teacher's guide.
Biomes: These simple pages were created by a group of Berkeley undergraduate students to communicate important concepts in basic biology. Appropriate for K-12 students and the general public, these pages are well researched and easy to read.
Virtual Paleobotany Lab: Created as an on-line lab manual for a university course, this feature is rich with information for the aspiring paleobotanist or the interested layperson.
On-line Collections Database: Most useful for professional paleontologists but with a public-friendly interface, the collections database offers flexible, round-the-clock access to information about specimens held in the UCMP.
The University of California Museum of Paleontology is located at <http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/>.
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