California State University, Northridge

Using the World Wide Web
for Zoological Research

Donna FitzRoy Hardy, Ph.D.
Network Coordinator, C.A.U.Z.
California State University, Northridge


The ease with which the user can access information over the Internet has undergone a revolutionary change in the past two years. While e-mail, Usenet News Groups and Internet Relay Chat continue to gain popularity, the recent increase in interest in the Internet is attributed to the use of World Wide Web (Hardy 1994, 1996, 1997). The popularity of the Web is due to its hypertext orientation and ability to support graphics, color, sound, and motion (known as hypermedia). Nearly all Web documents include links to other documents that automatically locate information in computers (called Web servers) anywhere in the world (Wiggins, 1995).

The widespread use of the World Wide Web is a direct result of the development of computer programs called 'browsers.' The most widely used browser today is Netscape Navigator, for which excellent guides are available (e.g., Minatel, 1995). Browsers can retrieve information from anywhere on the Internet by using the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for each computer file, and a URL beginning with http:// tells the browser to look for the file on the World Wide Web. The URL tells the browser exactly where the file is located: the name of the server (domain), where in that computer the file is stored, and the name of the file to be retrieved.

One gains access to the World Wide Web by using a PC with a modem and a communications program that can connect the PC to a Web server at an online service (e.g., America OnLine, CompuServe, Prodigy) or an ISP or Internet service provider (e.g., Netcom, PSINet, UUNet). Once connected to the online service or ISP, the user has access to files located in that particular server or in other Web servers anywhere on the Internet, although the actual speed of this access depends upon the speed of the modem and the type of connection.

Using Netscape Navigator

If one's PC is operating in a Windows environment or is a Macintosh, a graphical Web browser program like Netscape Navigator can be used to access files on the World Wide Web. [Otherwise, the text-only Web browser DOS-Lynx must be used.] Once Netscape Navigator has been successfully installed in one's PC, the mouse can be used to double-click on the Netscape icon to start the program. The first time one starts the program, the Home Page for the Netscape Corporation will appear on the screen. It is a good idea to change this "start-up" Home Page to a site that will be more useful. Many zoo and aquarium professionals have replaced the Netscape Corporation's default setting to the Web Site for the Consortium of Aquariums, Universities and Zoos (C.A.U.Z.):

One can specify a new default Home Page by clicking on options on the Menu Bar and selecting General Preferences. Click the Appearancetab and change the "Home Page Location" designation with the above URL, then save this new Home Page by clicking on "OK." In the future, the C.A.U.Z. Web Site will appear each time one opens Netscape Navigator - and one can always return this site clicking the Home button on the Tool Bar (see below).

Before beginning to use Netscape Navigator, it is a good idea to become oriented to its features. [Note: although this paper refers to Netscape Navigator Version 3.1, much of this information applies to previous versions of the program.] Along the top of the screen is the Title Bar or the title given to the current document. Beneath the Title Bar is the Menu Bar. [Note: the positions of these two items may be reversed in some versions of this program.] Below the Title Bar and Menu Bar you will find the Tool Bar, the Location, the Directory Buttons, and the Document Screen. The Status Bar at the very bottom of the screen indicates how the downloading of the current document is progressing. When all of the information has been received, the status line will display the message "document done." [A colored bar at the right hand side of the Status Bar shows the progress graphically.] The Document Security Indicator (door key) is in the left bottom corner of the screen and the Mail Icon is in the right corner. The Vertical Scroll Bar will appear on the right side of the screen once the document has been downloaded. [One can scroll up or down in the current document by using the mouse to click the arrows or drag the little box.]

Sometimes it is important to increase the proportion of a Web document that can be viewed at one time. This can be accomplished by changing some settings at the top of the screen. To devote a greater proportion of the monitor to the Document Screen, remove the Toolbar, Location Box and/or the Directory Buttons by clicking on Options in the Menu Bar, then "uncheck" one or more of these items. All of the functions of performed by these three items can later be performed by rechecking these choices. [The Menu Bar and Title Bar are permanent parts of the screen.] The Menu Bar offers these selections:
  1. File - to exit Netscape Navigator, for selecting "Open Location" without having to use the Tool Bar
  2. Edit - to find specific words in a document when Menu Bar is "unchecked" in Options
  3. View - to see the html (hypertext markup language) coding in the "Document Source"
  4. Go - for a list of the sites your have visited during the current session and a quick return to a document already retrieved or to your "Home" location
  5. Bookmarks - for recording a useful Web site so that you can always return to it in another Web session. You can bookmark an active document or later select a site by clicking on Window to find it in your History list (see below).
  6. Options - to set preferences as to how documents are displayed, whether the Tool Bar, Location Box and Directory Buttons appear on the screen, whether or not graphics will be downloaded, etc.
  7. Directory - to access choices (like "What's New") if the Directory Buttons are "unchecked" in Options
  8. Window - for an expanded listing of your browsing session that shows the location addresses, to return to a document previously viewed in the current session [click on History], and to access Address Book, Netscape Mail, Bookmarks
  9. Help - to access the online Netscape Handbook Tutorial and other reference material [This selection may not be in all versions of this program.]
Beneath the Menu Bar is a row of buttons called the Tool Bar. These buttons are the most commonly used part of this browser program:
  1. Back and Forward - for moving between documents already retrieved
  2. Home - to return to your "start-up" Home location
  3. Reload - to reload the current document
  4. Images - to display images if Autoload Images is "unchecked" in Options
  5. Open - to access a document by entering its URL into the "Open Location Dialog Box"
  6. Print - to print a standard Web document [Note: while you can print only the first page or two (enter 1 or 2 in the empty box), you can't necessarily tell how big a document is or what page number is the correct one to specify for the information located somewhere in the middle of the document.]
  7. Find - to find specific words or phrases in a current document
  8. Stop - to stop the downloading of a large document if it is taking too long
Immediately below the Menu Bar is the Location (or Go To) Text Box, which contains the address of the current document, and below this box are the Directory Buttons. These are quick ways to access information provided by Netscape Corporation:
  1. What's New? - new sites on the Web (selected by Netscape Corporation)
  2. What's Cool? - some popular sites on the Web (selected by Netscape Corporation)
  3. Destinations - categories for selected sites to visit (selected by Netscape Corporation)
  4. Net Search - for quick access to a Search Engine (Yahoo!, InfoSeek, Lycos, Magellan, Excite). Type the topic of interest into the space provided and click the bottom which initiates your search of the Internet.
  5. People - for accessing online "white pages." Various search engines (Bigfoot, Four11, IAF, InfoSpace, Switchboard) can find e-mail addresses or phone numbers for individuals around the world.
  6. Software - to purchase software from Netscape Corporation
[As mentioned above, if you do not find these Directory Buttons to be useful, you can remove them from the screen by clicking first on Options on the Menu Bar, then on "Show Directory Buttons." Of course, you can always reverse this process later and these buttons will reappear. Likewise, you can remove (or restore) the Location Text Box by clicking on "Show location." The Toolbar is very useful and probably should not be removed.]

The main part of the screen contains the Web document. Although it may be merely a basic text, more likely it is a document containing links that will provide you with quick access to other information. This information may be located elsewhere in the same document, elsewhere at the same Web site, or somewhere else in the world. These links may be an underlined part of the text (hypertext link) or a picture, map, or diagram of some sort (graphical link) - or the Web document may even provide its own "buttons." [While a single click of the computer mouse on these links retrieves documents automatically, it is a good idea to check the Location Text Box to find out where the information is coming from!]

Occasionally, the information that you want cannot be downloaded. The site you are trying to access may be too busy to accept your request, access may be restricted (e.g., to subscribers only), or there may be a Domain Name Server (DNS) problem at the local or remote site you are trying to reach. Unless that site has restricted access, you can generally get through it you just try again later. [Just click on Stop on the Toolbar to stop the downloading process, then click on Back to return to the precious document.]


With the use of browser programs like Netscape Navigator, zoo and aquarium professionals now have easy access to a wealth of information needed for zoological research. And Web resources like the C.A.U.Z. Web Site provide convenient "launching pads" into relevant information sources on the Internet; careful and diligent use of Search Engines can provide additional Web resources. But today Computer-Mediated Communication is still in its infancy and the interactive capability of the Internet has not yet been fully explored. Only now are some of the more innovative means of communicating are now beginning to evolve, one of which is HyperNews, a means by which zoo and aquarium professionals can exchange information through Web pages. New applications of this technology are being used in conservation and science projects. For example, live images are being transmitted over the Internet from video cameras ("cams") that can be controlled remotely, and researchers can now monitor the activities of animals anywhere in the world. The recent commercial availability of relatively inexpensive hardware and software now makes it possible for people to utilize visual and voice communication via the Internet in "real time" - rather like a two- way Internet "video-phone" (or Internet phone). Video conferencing can now take place over the Internet. Only the future will tell how these extraordinary advances in communications technology will be used in zoological research.


Hardy, D.F. 1994. The International Zoo Community and Computer-Mediated Communication. International Zoo Yearbook, 33:283-293.

Hardy, D.F. 1996. International Conservation and the World Wide Web. International Zoo News, Vol. 43/8 (No.273):562-570.

Hardy, D.F. 1997. The Use of the World Wide Web by Zoo and Aquarium Professionals. Animal Keeper's Forum, 24(2):84-89.

Minatel, J. 1995. Easy World Wide Web with Netscape. Que Corporation: Indianapolis, Indiana.

Wiggins, R.W. 1995. Webolution: The Evolution of the Revolutionary World-Wide Web. Internet World, 6(4), pp. 32-38.


BROWSER - Software that allows a network-connected computer to connect to other networked or Internet sites.

DOMAIN NAME - Typically an alphabetic identification of your site. For example, the domain name part of my Internet e-mail address ( is that part that comes after the "@" sign.

DOWNLOAD - The transfer of information from a remote computer (e.g., a Web site) to your local computer.

GIF - A commonly used graphic file format for pictures. GIF stands for Graphic Interchange Format. [Another commonly used graphic file format (esp. for photographs) is JPEG (or JPG), which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.]

HOME PAGE - The opening web page displayed when first accessing a World Wide Web site.

HTML - Hypertext Markup Language allows all Web browsers to visual the same formatting when they display the pages of a Web document.

HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol, a communication procedure standard that allows a person' Web browser to connect to a World Wide Web server site.

HYPERTEXT - Data (text or images) that is specially encoded to contain links to other data. The links are activated by a mouse click.

INTERNET - A collection of many individual computer networks into one single network all sharing common protocols.

ISP - INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER - A commercial provider that furnishes access to the Internet via a computer connection.

NAVIGATE - The process of moving about purposefully within a virtual environment. For example, World Wide Web surfers click on links in pages to navigate from site to site.

PROTOCOL - A formal description of message formats and the rules two computers must follow to exchange those messages.

URL - Uniform Resource Locator, a term used to designate the address for a site located on the Internet.

WORLD WIDE WEB - A highly popular, hypertext-based, distributed, document delivery system. It allows users to create, edit or browse hypertext documents, which may include graphics, sounds video, etc.