June 2002: Volume 44, Number 6
The Cells are Alive with the Image of Bacteria -- Waterborne Topics Go Under the Microscope
by Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor
Immunocompromised. Heterotrophic plate counts. Trihalomethanes. Regular readers of our magazine are familiar with these terms usually through our On Tap column and assorted articles relating to waterborne contaminants. Yes, we know there are things in water that are bad for us. In turn, there are scientific names for such undesirables. A good tip to learn as you read through any monthly issue of WC&P is to look for disease names that are italicized. These are bad news altogether, i.e, Cryptosporidium, Giardia and E. coli, just a few that come to mind.
As such, we have decided to cover a few websites to better acquaint you with some of these technical terms and where you can obtain additional information on matters that may need further explanation. Sure, you could grab the Webster’s Dictionary but these sites bring the concepts closer to home for those in the water treatment industry.
With quite the scholarly presentation, this site makes me feel like I’m back in sixth grade priming for my obligatory science project. I could have used the Internet back then. My project still would have gotten a C, but at least I could add the Internet to my list of excuses.
The first thing that catches your eye is the image shown near the middle of the home page. It’s continually changing as well. At first, a photo of Helicobacter pylori (yep, another italicized term) was on the screen. About 15 minutes later, the aforementioned Escherichia coli takes the spotlight. In all, literally hundreds of images are available to visitors along with descriptions. We’ll focus on those related to waterborne issues. Of course, if you should be a teacher or need to download video images for a presentation, there is a fee. (Still, several images are available free to “microgram” to a friend via an e-cards function. Impress your dad for Father’s Day. Who needs Hallmark?)
To the left of the home page, the main buttons are broken down in categories. They include Cell Biology, Microbiology, Immunology, Microscopy, Cell Models, Cell Gallery and Crystal Gallery. Additional buttons are Catalog, Activities, Tools-Links and Info. Cell Biology addresses some various issues such as size, models, cell cycles and apoptosis -- when a cell “commits suicide” -- slightly macabre but it gets your attention, I suppose. Plus, to keep with the schoolwork mode, there’s even a quiz provided at the end for those interested in seeing how much information you can retain. Relax, it’s multiple choice.
Under Microbiology (viruses, bacteria and parasites), we have several buttons including noteworthy ones such as “Bacteriophage,” “Helicobacter pylori” and our good friend, “Parasites,” which include Crypto, Giardia and Entamoeba. The other buttons, though interesting, don’t apply to the water side of things as much. Cell Gallery, on the other hand, does have nice images of various cells with an accompanying description. The same can be said for Crystal Gallery, though it skips the description and instead invites you to search Google for appropriate subject matter. The remaining buttons serve as more of a teaching tool than anything else.
Whereas Cells alive! is filled with eye-catching photos, this site relies more heavily on text and search functions. Described as “a site dedicated to providing information and resources to citizens, policy makers, the media, activist and movements working locally and globally on the right to water,” the main buttons are located near the top and middle of the home page. They are Headlines, Document Center, Event Calendar, Organizations, Related Sites, News Bulletins, About, Multimedia, What’s New and Fast Facts.
Headlines looked better than expected. Nine items popped up on the screen; each had been dated less than one month prior to my visit. In short, the observatory is up on things. In addition, the topics ranged from the California water issues (availability, in particular) to Uruguay to waterborne pathogens. There’s also an archives feature. Document Center gives a more in-depth look at water matters in a research-style format. Most of the pieces displayed were authored by the staff at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the organization that runs the site. Still, visitors are able to use the search function to investigate other topics written by non-staff. Other than English, the articles are available in French, Spanish and German. The Event Calendar is definitely usable and provides locations and dates and a link to each conference.
Organizations was a disappointment as, armed with a U.S. map divided into several sections, I clicked on the southwest and the block of states to the east of it, and the site said no water organizations existed there. To be fair, the Midwest had about 15 organizations listed such as the Freshwater Society and the Great Lakes Protection Fund. Related Sites allows visitors to add their link to the mix. News Bulletins works well and pulls news stories from reputable sources like the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Moreover, Multimedia and Fast Facts are under construction, while What’s New keeps visitors abreast of breaking news or other important items. When I last checked, nothing new had been added in the last three days. It was either a lack of interest or a slow news week.
In keeping with the theme of the review, I searched for “Giardia,” “E. coli” and “Crypto.” The first search had zero hits, the second had four hits and the third had one hit.
A subset of a larger website, Geography Exchange (billed as “Geography Resources for Teachers and Students”), this portion grants the visitor an alphabetical listing of numerous health related links under the heading “Medical Geography,” a subset of a larger links page. Anything from “asthma” to “vaccines” may well be found here. Because it’s a small cog in a large wheel, this review should be taken as such and not seen as indicative of the entire site.
In fact, a couple of the listed links are tied to other websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Nevertheless, this site shouldn’t be dismissed as a portal for a links-like heaven. Other notable links to check out are “Cholera in Peru” and “Lung Disease A-Z.” A couple of atlas listings may also help in possible research as well. They are the “Atlas of Health Care in the United States, 1999” and the “Atlas of United States Mortality.”
As for the larger website, water topics are few and mostly unrelated to the POU/POE industry. There is a “Water Quiz” under Quizzes & Jokes that offers a bit of fun. “Water Pollution” is listed under the Environment folder. Plus, an explanation of river geography and water friction is listed under “Field Work.”
We have selected only three of the thousands of sites available on the Internet for those seeking more information about waterborne terminology and how it fits in with water quality. This, without an intentional attempt, happened to work out as a review of one site that used images to describe the actions of organisms, another site that spelled it out using text documents and another site that relied on links and a listing of medical-like terms and subjects. Whichever route sounds best for your purposes, you are sure to find a site that enhances your knowledge of some of the more obscure terms in the vocabulary of microbial issues.
The lowdown on the soft cell
Both written and visually effective, this site is geared toward the student of all ages and teachers alike. Yet, it doesn’t come off as condescending. In a word, educational. Instead of commercializing things, it would do well to provide some related links.
So, you’re looking for long articles on water projects of all types? Welcome to the Land of Text. A couple of buttons weren’t currently working. The good news is that they aren’t any of the more important buttons. Search function also comes handy.
Straightforward and listed alphabetically for a direct path to the medical component of this site. Nice statistics if that’s what you seek. No visual effects; no need to waste time thinking of downloading images. Lots of talk of mortality.