Learning Resources for Biology

Through Twitter, blogs and email, I run across some fabulous resources for learning various topics or fields of biology. I will list and link them on the pages linked here, organized by subdiscipline. Most of these resources are appropriate for university-level introductory biology. If you know of a resource that isn’t listed here, or would like to add your experience with these resources, please comment! I will continually update these pages.

New page! Climate change resources for intro biology

New page! Ecology resources

New page! Evolution resources

New page! Quantitative Biology & Stats

Last updated February 18, 2015

Agriculture and Plant Biology

http://archaeology.about.com/od/domestications/a/plant_domestic.htm A table of when and where plants were domesticated, with dates and links to more information.

A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself A NY Times article by Justin Gillis on the looming crisis in agriculture, caused by increasing population, changing diet, and global climate disruption, while research and development funds have declined. Links to follow-up related articles.

How do we feed the world without destroying it? Video by UMN Inst. Environment http://bit.ly/90yJFZ

Excellent National Geographic piece on the state of agriculture in Africa, with wonderful informative visuals http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/land-grab/

Biochemistry & Bioenergetics

Online Macromolecular Museum A rich and extensive gallery of molecular 3-D visualizations of biomolecules, from simple amino acids to nucleic acids and macromolecular assemblies such as photosystem II and the ribosome. Requires JMol or Chime plugins.

Where do trees come from? YouTube video by 1veritasium exploring common misconceptions and the Van Helmont experiment.

Trees come “from out of the air,” said Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman. Krulwich blog posts YouTube videos of Richard Feynman musing about and explaining carbon, oxygen, and where trees come from. Also includes the veritasium video above.

Are you lightest in the morning? YouTube video by 1veritasium exploring common misconceptions about matter/energy

http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/life-science/metabolomics/learning-center/metabolic-pathways.html – The IUBMB-Nicholson metabolic pathways animations of glycolysis, pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, citric acid cycle, the electron transport chain, and ATP synthase. For advanced level undergraduate/graduate students – more mechanistic detail than required for intro biology students. The ATP synthase animation may be suitable for some intro students who want more detail on stoichiometry.

Photosynthesis Light Reactions – NDSU Virtual Cell animation

Proteorhodopsin in marine surface bacteria Science Daily news summary of a PLoS paper characterizing the role of proteorhodopsin in light-dependent enhancement of survival and growth of some marine Vibrio. Accompanying commentary in PLoS.

Cell Biology

Cell size and scale Interactive animation at Learn Genetics on cell size and scale

Biovisions Harvard University multimedia page, including Biovisions Inner Life of the Cell and Mitochondria

A new take on Inner Life of the Cell, Protein Packing, shows a more accurate picture of the cell crowded with molecules and stochasticity of molecular motions of proteins, including dynein walking. See this NY Times page for description: www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/science/watch-proteins-do-the-jitterbug.html

Cell Picture Show “A place to showcase striking images in cell, developmental, and molecular biology; a place to learn about cutting-edge research with beautiful images.”

Clathrin-mediated endocytosis molecular animation a Janet Iwasa (Harvard Medical School) molecular animation on YouTube, with introductory narration and set to “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Dengue virus escape from the endosome a Janet Iwasa (Harvard Medical School) molecular animation on YouTube, with audio narration.

Fatty acid micelles and vesicles a Janet Iwasa (Harvard Medical School) molecular animation on YouTube, with audio narration.

Hamamatsu Digital Video Gallery Videos of fluorescently labeled live cells. See mitosis, microtubules, Golgi, ER, mitochondria in spectacular color and motion.

Hidden life of the cell A 1-hour film by BBC Two with animations and contributions from the likes of Nick Lane and Bonnie Bassler. A virus infects the cell.

How cells divide Step-wise animation by PBS NOVA shows mitosis and meiosis side by side

Mitosis in Real Time Video of synchronous mitosis in Drosophila syncytial stage embryo; only 19 secs!

Meiosis tutorial U. Arizona Cell Biology Project has a click-through animation of meiosis, with 10 thought-provoking problem questions.

Molecularmovies.com Fabulous cell & molecular animations organized by topic.


Learn Genetics A multi-faced resource by the U. Utah Health Sciences Genetic Science Learning Center, with excellent interactive tutorials, examples, animations. In addition to Genetics and Human Health, the site has modules on Cell Biology, Evolution and Ecology, and Science Tools.

DNA and RNA structural comparison A 5:20 video with animation and clear explanation of structure of nucleic acids. Video hosted on DNA Tube, unclear who owns the copyright.

Protein Synthesis The original 1971 Stanford U. film of protein synthesis, played out by people in a campus lawn, with words adapted from Jabberwocky, and introduced by Paul Berg (1980 Chemistry Nobel laureate)

Genetics of Harry Potter at the National Library of Medicine (thanks to Charlie Warden for reporting this discovery). Two lessons for middle and high school students; first is very basic Mendelian inheritance, second goes into multiple alleles, modifiers and complex traits.

Doodle animation of DNA packaging at a very basic level, with lovely music: http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2012/02/24/fitting-in/

Biorad’s PCR song – can’t teach PCR without it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zxr-52KwKo&feature=youtu.be

http://www.dnalc.org/ The Dolan DNA Learning Center, gateway to some great animations. The Animation library has the best animation explaining PCR (interactive version here) and cycle sequencing. The 3-D Animation library contains truly excellent molecular animations of DNA packaging in chromatin, DNA replication, transcription, RNA splicing, and translation. Basic cloning into plasmids, too.

DNA from the Beginning – An animated primer of the 75 experiments that made modern genetics. An offshoot of the Dolan DNA Learning Center, affiliated with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories.

The Central Dogma – a Nature Video animation of the central dogma with Tron-like effects. Just under 11 min.

How Genes Are Regulated: Transcription Factors – a short molecular animation of transcription factor binding to DNA. 2:56

RNA interference – a Nature Reviews Genetics video animation of RNAi  5:07

This July 2011 Tedx Boston talk (11 min) by Richard Resnick is accessible for lay audiences and intro biology students, and powerfully makes the point about how genome sequencing will be as disruptive as computing and the internet:

DNA Turning Human Story Into a Tell-All Alanna Mitchell’s NY Times science news story about DNA of Denisovans and interbreeding of humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans, Jan 30, 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXamRS85hXU YouTube video on “Whole genome sequencing and you” explains very basic information about genome sequencing, benefits and risks.


Overview of Immune System A short (< 6 min) YouTube video, from http://www.handwrittentutorials.com, outlining steps from initial infection to full-blown adaptive immune response.

Cytotoxic T-Cells on Patrol Video from the American Society for Cell Biology showing movement of T-cells and their interaction with cancer cells


Exploring-the-invisible-universe-that-lives-on-us-and-in-us A summary of the state of human microbiome research as of Nov 2013, with a cute 5-min animated video, by NPR.

http://aidsvu.org/   and http://www.maphiv.org/index.html A county-by-county map views of AIDS/HIV in the U.S.; data from 2008 for both sites.

HIV Replication 3D Medical Animation The best animation of HIV replication I’ve seen, also shows how various anti-retroviral drugs interfere with HIV replication.

HHMI Virtual Bacterial ID lab – virtual lab that goes through the process of taking a bacterial sample from a patient and identifying it through 16S rDNA sequencing.

Microbes ‘R’ Us July 2009 blog post by Olivia Judson summarizing recent discoveries about the human microbiome.

Virology blog By Vincent Racaniello A virology Professor unravels viruses. Check out TWiV (This Week in Viruses podcasts), with links, as well as regular blog posts on recent virology research findings of interest. Be sure to visit his Virology 101 and Influenza 101 pages as well.

Organismal Biology

Creaturecast – a series of colored line-drawing animations about the marvels of various creatures. by the Dunn lab at Brown University.


Huge list of interactive animations http://mrsebiology.visibli.com/share/eZ6jRC

Hank Green doesn’t forget to be awesome in his new series of YouTube videos called Crash Course Biology. These are snappy, entertaining, 10-15 minute talks on topics in Intro Biology. New videos are being added weekly as of March 2012.

TED-Ed Awesome Nature Playlist 5-10 minute talks tightly produced with slick videos and animations. Only 3 as of March 2012, but promise of more forthcoming. Videos on evolution in the city, neurobiology with a cockroach leg, and life in the deep ocean. Good for capturing student interest before introducing the actual science.

HHMI’s Biointeractive Gateway to a wealth of animations, video clips, video lectures and virtual labs. You can order DVDs of the video lectures for free.

iBioSeminars: Free biology videos online  A collection of longer video seminars (30-60 min) by HHMI Investigators for undergraduate audiences. Each speaker generally gives 2 or 3 seminars; the first discusses the overall topic and are usually suitable for freshmen. The later seminars are more specialized and more advanced.

http://www.johnkyrk.com/index.html John Kyrk’s web site has a growing list of animations, mostly of cell/molecular biology topics, although his evolution page presents a wonderful visual timeline from the Big Bang to modern day, with an accompanying chart of atmospheric oxygen, a globe showing continental movements, and animations of flora and fauna that emerged at each time period.

Khan Academy If you have not yet viewed any of these videos, you have been missing a huge trove of resources for students. Simple, but very well-presented chalk-talks that span numerous college-level subjects. The biology collection pretty much covers a freshman introductory biology course. The challenge for college faculty: what can you do in your classes that’s better than these videos? Students can view these videos to review, or learn basic concepts in advance of classes where they explore the concepts and their applications in greater depth.

Powers of 10 From 10 exp(23) meters 10 million light years from the Milky way to 10 exp(-16) meters a quark in a leaf cell.

Rediscovering Biology A collection of 13 units on various aspects of modern biology, with downloadable pdf text chapters, case studies, and a nice 35-min video-on-demand. Intended for teachers, but the texts and videos are just as good for students!

Sci-ence.org – “A Skeptical Comic and Blog”. Wonderfully illustrated comic strips about all areas of science. Unfortunately, no list of topics that I could find; just a very crude search tool that is not very useful.

A big caveat on videos:

One Response to Learning Resources for Biology

  1. Hi Jung! This is a fantastic list of videos, and we found several that we liked! We were wondering if you might consider putting ours up, as well. My sister (a high school biology teacher) and I recently started making biology videos that use real world examples in a funny context for some of the concepts her students have a hard time understanding. We’re trying to find a way to share them with other biology teachers because we thought they might benefit them as well.

    Thanks for making such a helpful site!

    Our YouTube Page: http://www.youtube.com/user/AmoebaSisters

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