Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill in twilight

Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill

Building resiliency in arid lands through science-based solutions

A unique combination of culture, science, and community, Tumamoc Hill is an 860-acre ecological preserve in the heart of Tucson, home to the Desert Laboratory since 1903. The Hill's name derives from the Tohono O'odham place-name Chemamagi Du’ag—Horned Lizard Mountain— which signifies the profound cultural importance of this site. A 2,500-year-old village sits atop Tumamoc Hill and the entire preserve is a rich cultural landscape reflecting four millennia of significance to the communities that have known the hill. Accordingly, Tumamoc Hill is a US National Historical Landmark, the highest designation by the United States government for a site with outstanding historical significance.

In 2020, the Desert Laboratory completed a focused strategic plan—The Future of Life in the Desert—with the support of the Tumamoc Hill Advisory Council. The plan provides an overview and framework for the Lab's role rooted at Tumamoc Hill and the larger Sonoran Desert to become an integrative hub of novel research, education, and outreach focused on the future of life in the desert. Grounded in community needs and solution-driven, the work of the Desert Laboratory will involve diverse stakeholders to collaboratively meet challenges that affect all life in the desert.

To achieve this vision, the Lab will conduct and facilitate research and outreach through four complementary mechanisms.

  1. Increase support for place-based field research that integrates long-term data with novel research questions at Tumamoc Hill and, more broadly, the Sonoran Desert and arid lands. This work will be conducted by a community of researchers anchored at the Desert Laboratory with diverse funding bases and home units.
  2. Convene transdisciplinary working groups to address priority issues facing the future of life in arid environments. The Desert Laboratory will solicit proposals for new collaborations with diverse stakeholders that will accelerate innovative solutions to the challenges of future life in the desert while building on the Desert Lab’s core strengths. The University of Arizona through the Desert Laboratory will provide resources and space for concentrated collaboration on specific issues in the form of multiple intensive meetings over a period of six months to two years.
  3. Establish the Tumamoc Institute of Science, Culture, and Art. The public prominence of Tumamoc Hill affords the Desert Laboratory a remarkable opportunity to communicate the results of its research, as well as involve the public. The Tumamoc Institute coalesces the Lab’s suite of public programs into a self-sustaining financial model.
  4. Offer undergraduate and graduate education courses on the future of life in the desert. Training the next generation of researchers and thinkers is fundamental to the University and the Desert Laboratory. Undergraduate and graduate experiential courses will root students in a sense of place and help develop core competency in resilience thinking and science.

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