Lecture Series

The Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill hosts a series of lectures focused on topics that relate to the science, ecology, history, and culture of the Sonoran Desert. All talks are open to the public.

Talks are presented in thematic series format in the fall and spring. We are planning to host the series in Fall of 2021 via Zoom. Please direct any questions to desertlaboratory@gmail.com or (520) 621-6945.

Current Lecture Series

 

Health is strongly connected to our interactions with the spaces around us. Tumamoc Hill is emblematic of this relationship, a place where many experience a connection to nature, health, community, self, and others. The importance of these relationships have all been accentuated and challenged in the last year and half. A conscious relationship with the natural world, a critical factor in health, can help alleviate “nature deficit disorder” and help us find balance. Join us for a four-part lecture series that brings together voices in health, environment, community, and food to share emerging perspectives and practical suggestions about the critical role of natural spaces in health and healing.

All presentations are free to attend and open to the public. Registration is required to access the Zoom webinars; please see registration links for each presentation on the series page. All presentations start at 6 pm.

Learn more and register today


 

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Previous Lecture Series

Spring 2021, Agave Renaissance

Agave has been a mainstay of culture in the Americas for millenia: food, drink, tool, spirit, utilitarian, sacred. Adaptations to aridity represented by both agave and people hold critical insights into how to live in the desert. This lecture series looked closely at these adaptations and the reciprocal relationship between this desert plant and people. Through presentations, roundtable discussions, tastings, and art we collectively reconnected to the importance of agave, how this relationship is threatened by climate change and our actions, and also how a resilient future is embedded in the heart of a plant.

For this series, Club Congress and El Crisol offered tastings of agave spirits.

See the full listing of lectures


Fall 2020, Past Present and Future of the Santa Cruz River Heritage Reach

The Santa Cruz River was the life blood of the earliest human settlements in Tucson (Chukshon, O'odham, Black Base) but today has been downcut, drained, channelized, cemented, and ignored. Yet, innovative thinking and actions are working to reverse this trend and revitalize the Santa Cruz river where it once flowed perennially at the base of Tumamoc Hill, reinvigorating a lush ecosystem, the local watershed, and sense of place. This four-part lecture series explored how the river has coursed through the history of people in this region and how it can continue to do so into the future.

See the full listing of lectures


Spring 2020, The Cultural Landscape of Cemamagi Du’ag

Tumamoc Hill | Cemamagi Du’ag has been a site of culture and gathering for thousands of years. In this lecture series we collectively learned from key voices about the vibrancy and essential connection between people and place. We now see the Hill of the Horned Lizard in a different way and appreciate its meaning through the millennia and into the future.

See the full listing of lectures


Fall 2019, New Explorations on the Río Mayo

Did you know that the Sonoran Desert originated in part from the tropics? The Río Mayo drainage of the Sierra Madre mountains near Álamos, Sonora, Mexico, is a convergence zone of astonishing biological and cultural diversity. Research into this unique and imperiled ecosystem at the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill extends back to the 1940s. The Desert Laboratory and The Southwest Center hosted this series, ventured back to the Río Mayo, and heard from a diversity of researchers and community members who highlighted new explorations, biocultural understandings, and efforts to preserve the tropics next door.

See the full listing of lectures


Spring 2019, La Vaquita Marina: Where do we go from here?

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 explored 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?

See the full listing of lectures


Fall 2018, 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. Four individuals connected the audience to this special region of our desert 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.

See the full listing of lectures

Interested in previous one-time lectures given at the Desert Laboratory? Check out our full archive of previous lectures!

See the archive