Previous Lectures

Spring 2019 Lecture Series

La Vaquita Marina: Where do we go from here?

In Collaboration with CEDO, Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans celebrating their 40th anniversary

La Vaquita Marina, a small porpoise endemic to the upper Gulf of California, is on the precipice of extinction. Global scale economic pressure fuels local gill-net fishing that ensnare the vaquita, driving their numbers down to as few as a dozen individuals remaining. This lecture series with experts from Mexico and the United States will explore what lessons we can learn from an intertwined web of science, local and global economics, politics, black markets, and conservation. What can be taken from this dire situation for future conservation? Where does the middle ground exist and how do we get there?

Videos of Lectures:

1) Vanishing Vaquitas

     Dr. Barbara Taylor:

2) Stories from the Field

     Brooke Bessesen:

3) Local Livelihoods 

     Dr. Marrcela Vasquez Leon:

     Osmar Xavier Villalobos Cristerna:

4) Operation Milagro

     Eva Hidalgo

Fall 2018 Lecture Scedule

Campos de Fuego: Explorations of the Pinacate 

Since the Hornaday expedition set off from the Desert Laboratory in 1907, captured in the book Camp fires on Desert and Lava, there has been a unique connection between Tumamoc Hill and this enigmatic volcanic range in NW Mexico. Recognized by many as the desert’s heart, the Pinacate has captivated and inspired those who have traversed its rugged slopes, peaks, and dunes. Please join four of those individuals as they connect you to this special region of our desert and in celebration of the first bilingual publication of the 1928 novel Campos de Fuego: A Brief and Fantastic History of an Expedition into the Volcanic Regions of the Pinacate by Gumersindo Esquer, Contribution 2 of the Proceedings of the Desert Laboratory.

The Pinacate Volcanoes

September 5, 2018  6:00 pm

Dan Lynch


The Pinacate Volcanic Field comprises nearly five hundred cinder cone volcanoes scattered across a distinctive gray landscape of their own creation. Eruptive activity ceased just over 10,000 years ago and Pinacate Peak is an oceanic-island volcano on continental crust with a unique cinder cone that melted inside. The field is most famous for its giant steam explosion craters. Come to learn about the inner secrets of the desert’s volcano.

Video of the Presentation:

***Mesquite: An Evening of Appreciation***

September 19, 2018 6:00 pm

Gary Paul Nabhan, Brad Lancaster, Esperanza Arevalo, Petey Mesquitey, Muffin Burgess, Barbara Rose, and more! 

Join an amazing group of people at the center of the Mesquite and native foods revolution. The evening will honor and look into the future of the local food movement with Gary Nabhan, Desert Harvesters, Muffin Burgess, and more!

 Video of Presentation:

Time Frame: An Artist’s Long-Term Relationship with Pinacate

October 3, 2018  6:00 pm

Richard Laugharn


Richard Laugharn is an artist whose current long term project involves photographing individual desert plants over time. From an early age, he has had a compulsion to honor – through repeated visits – a particular patch of land. For over thirty years, the place that he has returned to most avidly is the Pinacate region of Sonora, Mexico. In his lecture, illustrated by his stunning work, he will tell you why.

Video of Presentation:

Sonoran Pronghorn in the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, a Story of Challenges and Adaptations

November 7, 2018  6:00 pm

Miguel Angel Grageda Garcia

Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar, Sonora, Mexico

Sonoran pronghorn antelope are a subspecies adapted to the harsh environment of the Sonoran Desert. This species original range goes from southern Arizona to northwestern Sonora, including the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve where a subpopulation has been roaming freely without human intervention for centuries. Now they are increasingly isolated by highways, fences, the US-Mexico border, and human development. Fortunately, the number of Sonoran pronghorn within the Reserve has been increasing in recent years, but solving connectivity problems and ensuring the conservation of large continuous areas of habitat are key in preserving these incredible animals for the future.

Video of Presentation:

The Ties That Bind: Natural History of Plant and Animal Interactions in El Pinacate

December 5, 2018  6:00 pm

Paul Dayton

Professor, Integrative Oceanography Division at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Why is a world renowned marine ecologist studying cactus and jackrabbits in the middle of the desert? Born and raised in Tucson with a childhood full of flying to remote corners of the desert with back country pilot Ike Russell and scuba diving off San Carlos as a teenager with home-made regulators, Paul is first and foremost a desert rat. His career has been driven by the belief that one must understand nature to protect it. Focused in the Antarctic, California kelp forests, and as you will hear, in the Pinacate, he has attempted to use analytical techniques of simplification, testing, and synthesis as an approach to understand community organization.

Video of Presentation:

Winter/Spring 2018 Lecture Scedule

Tuesday, February 13, 6:00 p.m.

Oasis: Biodiversity Gems in the Southern Sonoran Desert

David Brown PhotoPresenter: Michael Bogan, Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment

In the arid southern Sonoran Desert, the rugged canyons of the Sierra El Aguaje contain a surprising number of freshwater oases fed by groundwater that rises through geologic faults. At least 220 species of aquatic animals, including six undescribed species, have been documented from the oases in recent years. Genetic evidence from fish and frogs suggests that these or similar spring-fed habitats have persisted in the mountain range for thousands to millions of years. Groundwater pumping, the introduction of non-native species, and unmanaged human recreation all pose threats to the biodiversity of these unique desert oases.


***Thursday, March 8th, 6:00 p.m.***

Border | Boundary | Frontier

Readings by Francisco Cantú and David Taylor

As a prelude to the Tucson Festival of Books, join authors Francisco Cantú and David Taylor for a special evening of readings and visual presentations that will yield insights into the complexity of the borderlands.

Listen to the transcript: 

Wednesday, March 14, 6:00 p.m.

The Multiple Forces of Natural Selection on Seed Size in a Desert Annual Plant

America Lutz Ley PhotoPresenter: Eugenio Larios, Postodoctoral Fellow, Instituto de Ecologia, UNAM

Seed size is a key plant functional trait that has fitness consequences through the life cycle and therefore under selective pressure. While seed size has been of general interest to ecologists and evolutionary biologists, selection on seed size has proven to be difficult to measure in the wild. The speaker will show how selection on seed size in Dithyrea californica is influenced by three environmental; forces in the wild: water availability, intraspecific competition, and selective predation by ants and rodents





***Wednesday, April 4, 6:00 p.m.

Book Presentation: Rattlesnakes Between Danger and Conservation / Presentación del Libro: Serpiente de Cascabel Entre Peligro y la Conservación 

Presenter: Hector Avila

Video of the presentation can be seen here:


Wednesday, April 11, 6:00 p.m.

No Species is an Island: A Science-Art Collaboration

Ron Pulliam PhotoPresenter: Ted Fleming, Emiritus Professor of Biology, University of Miami

Dr. Fleming will talk about the novel discoveries that he and his research team made during an 11-year study of the pollination biology of four species of Sonoran Desert columnar cacti. These discoveries are described in the book, “No Species is an Island: Bats, Cacti, and Sonoran Desert Secrets” recently published by the University of Arizona Press. They include the odd breeding system of the cardon cactus; the highly specialized pollination system of the senita cactus; and the amazing life-history of the nectar feeding bat, Leptonycteris yerbabuenae, an important pollinator of cardon, saguaro, and organ pipe cacti. The book’s illustrator, Kim Kanoa Duffek, and Dr. Fleming will also discuss how they came to collaborate on this book. 

Presenter: Kim Kanoa Duffek,

Nature Artist & Illustrator, Botany Department, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum



Video of the presentation can be seen here:

No species is an island poster

Fall 2017 Lecture Scedule

Lepus alleni – Arizona’s Super Hare

     Wednesday, October 11 6:00 p.m.

David Brown, Adjunct Faculty, UA Natural Resources Studies and ASU School of Life Sciences

This talk will summarize the natural history and habitats of the antelope jackrabbit. Past and recent studies into its ecology and biology will be presented along with some of its more interesting behaviors. We will also present what is know about the animal’s status and its successful competition with the closely related black-tailed jackrabbit.

***Nature, Love, Medicine – In celebration of Natural History***

     Wednesday, October 18 6:00 p.m.

Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D., Executive Director, Natural History Institute with special guest readings by Alberto Burquez and Gary Nabhan

Join three veteran Southwest naturalists for this celebration of the healing power of natural history. Tom Fleischner is the editor, and Gary Paul Nabhan and Alberto Búrquez are contributors to the new anthology, Nature, Love, Medicine: Essays On Wildness and Wellness. All three will read excerpts from their essays, and then will engage in an open discussion with the audience.

Beyond Cattle and Grains: Adaptation to Global Change in Arid Rural Communities

     Wednesday, November 8 6:00 p.m.

America Lutz Ley, Assistant Professor, Center for Development Studies, El Colegio de Sonora

People in rural Sonoran communities, as in other places of the world, adjust their behaviors not only in face of climate change, but in response to the combination of multiple types of stressors. This research shows that the livelihood profile -or what people do for a living- in the rural communities, importantly influences the type of stressors they perceive as a priority for adaptation. In general, modifications in the environment and climate events are perceived widely, but climate change as a large scale process is under-recognized in the Sonoran communities analyzed.

***10,000 years of Field Notes– A reading by Richard Felger***

      Monday, Decembre 4th, 6:00pm

Join us for this special evening reading that highlights Richard's explorations and experiences of a life of adventure and miscief.

Borderlands Restoration: Bringing back Water and Wildlife to Foster a Restoration Economy along the US-Mexico Border

     Wednesday, December 13 6:00 p.m.

Ron Pulliam, Founder and Science Advisor, Borderlands Restoration