Where can I find information about biology?

Senior Secondary

(Years 11-13)

Model interpretation of DNA showing a series of bases connected between 2 spiral strands shaped like a double helix.

Image: DNA by Caroline Davis2010 on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 25/05/22


Biology is the natural science that involves the study of life and living organisms from one-celled creatures to the most complex living organism of all - the human being. Biologists study the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution and distribution of living organisms. This entry shows where to look for reliable information about biology topics.

Cells and Microorganisms

A cell is the smallest unit of life that can replicate independently, and cells are often called the "building blocks of life". Some organisms, such as most bacteria, consist of a single cell. Humans typically consist of around 100 trillion cells. A microorganism is an organism that can be seen only with the aid of a microscope and that typically consists of only a single cell. Microorganisms include bacteria, protozoans, and certain algae and fungi.


If you are looking for basic biology help and information, Biology4kids is an excellent website to investigate.

There are a few ways to search this site:

  1. Try selecting Cells from the list of topics.

  2. Select Microbes for information on microorganisms.

  3. You can also search using keywords like 'cell structure' to explore the website.

Tips: Often the articles we find will go over multiple pages, so we need to click on the next page prompt to find more information.


Pathwayz is a website created by a community of Science teachers. It has useful information on many biology topics including cells and microorganisms.

  • Select Biology in the Learn by Topic section.

  • Choose Cells or _ Microbiology _ from the list.

  • From the tree diagram chose the topic you are looking for, such as Cell Transport or vaccination.

DNA and genetics

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a self-replicating material which is present in nearly all living organisms as the main part of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information. Genetics is the study of heredity, or how the characteristics of living things are transmitted from one generation to the next.


The Pass Biology Learning Hub mixes NCEA language and examples with online interactive resources. It is a great website to explore for information on Biology tailored to NCEA internal and external examinations.

  • Select the tab for the NCEA level you are studying, for example Biology L2.

  • Choose the relevant internal or external exam topic, such as Gene Expression, and explore the topic.

  • Otherwise, search using keywords like 'alleles'.

BBC Bitesize

BBC Bitesize is a website set up to help British students with school work and exam revision. This is a very useful website to explore if you want to know more about biology, as many of the same topics are studied here. (note that most of the videos won't work here in New Zealand, but you can still use the articles and revision information).

  • Select by level - Secondary, then select England GCSE (the equivalent of NCEA).

  • Select Biology and explore the different exam specifications that come up to find your topic.

  • We found this information on Inheritance and genetics.

Human Evolution

Evolution is the gradual change in the characteristics of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.

DNA Interactive

If you want to know about human evolution, DNA Interactive has some fun, interactive coverage of the topic.

  • On the menu bar at the top, select Applications.

  • Then select the module Human Origins.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

No Brain Too Small

If you are doing NCEA and want to brush up on, or revise your biology skills, this is a great place to go. This site is run by New Zealand science teachers, and the content is aligned to NCEA.

  • Choose Biology level 1, 2 or 3 from the top of the page (if you hover your mouse over the word Biology the levels will show up).

  • We found Human Evolution under Biology level 3.

Explore the site to find more information.


Adaptation is any alteration in the structure or function of an organism, or any of its parts that results from natural selection. Because of this the organism becomes better suited to survive and multiply in its environment.

Science Learning Hub

This website gives a good explanation of adaptation, with helpful definitions of related keywords like 'natural selection' and 'habitat'.

  • Select Explore__Topics at the top of the page.

  • Choose Animal behaviour from the topic list and explore articles such as Native bird adaptations.

  • You can also search using a keyword such as 'adaptation'.

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, e.g. 'adaptation'. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.


Biotechnology is the manipulation of living organisms or their componentsto produce useful, usually commercial, products. It includes a broad range of technologies from genetic engineering to animal breeding and industrial fermentation.

Science in context

A good place to look for scientific information is EPIC. EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics, and it's put together especially for New Zealand school students. You may need a password from your school or local library to access it.

Science in context has lots of articles from encyclopedias, magazines and journals.

  • Login using your school password (or ask a librarian on AnyQuestions).

  • Search using keywords such as 'biotechnology'.

  • Alternatively, halfway down the page, select View All in the Biology topic box.

  • You can then select Biotechnology from the topic list.

Tips: To get to the EPICresources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Socio-scientific Issues

Socio-scientific issues are controversial social issues which relate to science. They have both biological and social implications and are topics on which people hold different opinions or viewpoints. Social implications may be economic, ethical, cultural, or environmental. Examples of socio-scientific issues include global warming, genetic manipulation and the use of 1080 poison.

Opposing viewpoints in context

This EPIC database is a great site which develops critical thinking, allowing students to explore both sides of an issue and draw their own conclusions. You may need a password from your school or local library to access it.

  • Login using your school password (or ask a librarian on AnyQuestions).

  • Halfway down the page, select View All in the Science, Technology and Ethics topic box.

  • Explore the topic list which includes Animal experimentation, Cloning and Medical Ethics.

Science Media Centre

This website is a fantastic source of opinions from local experts on topical science-related issues. It is aimed at journalists and media, and is maintained by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Tips: Sometimes Advertisement websites will appear at the top of your search list. These sites may lead you away from reliable information. It’s best to ignore these adds and focus on the information we’re looking for.

Human Anatomy

Human anatomy is the study of the structure of the human body and how the parts of the body interact.

Gale Interactive: Science

Gale Interactive: Science is a highly visual, online tool that helps teach complex topics in biology. You can access and manipulate interactive 3D models, zooming, rotating and exploring. It is part of the EPIC collection of databases put together especially for New Zealand school students.

  • Login using your school password (or ask a librarian on AnyQuestions).

  • Select the Human anatomy topic box near the bottom of the page.

  • Explore the topic list which includes Blood Circulation, Brain and Digestive System.

Khan Academy

This is a great place to find out more about human anatomy. It's a free website filled with educational videos on a range of topics, including science.

  • From the list of topics on the home page select Science & engineering.

  • Choose Biology.

  • Select Human biology to bring up a list topics on Human Anatomy.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are. For example the About link on the Khan Academy page shows us that Khan Academy is partnered with lots of other reliable organisations, like NASA and MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a very prestigious university).


There are several useful websites which can help you to understand what you need to know for any NCEA exam.


The website Studyit provides information for all levels of NCEA. It is an online learning environment for NCEA science, maths and English students, and includes content written by subject specialists and checked by student editors to make sure that it is relevant.

Under the heading Find what you need to know you can choose your subject, level and assessment standard. For example:

  • Try the subject, level and assessment standard of Biology, Level 2, 2.4 Cell Biology_._

  • Select Subject content to view the topic.

  • Or select Standards and go to Samples, exemplars and past exams to find example answers on the NZQA website.

  • Or go to Other resources to explore links to websites that can help to explain the topic.

Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!


The NZQA website has past examination papers and exemplars to check out. Example answers for NCEA papers have answers marked from 'not achieved' up to a 'low excellence'.

  • Search on the relevant achievement standard number, for example 90928 (Demonstrate understanding of biological ideas relating to the life cycle of flowering plants, Level 1).

  • Alternatively, go to the NCEA subject resources page.

  • Then select Biology.

  • Select the Examination papers and exemplars for the level you are studying.

  • Find the correct achievement standard number and open exam papers and exemplars for that standard.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.


There are many books available on Biology. Some recommended titles are:

SCIS no: 1873816

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