2020 still looms large, and though we are looking forward to what 2021 will bring, we must acknowledge that the pandemic continues, too many individuals and families are still struggling to meet their basic needs, and businesses and organizations the world over have suffered severe and unprecedented financial loss.
Thanks to the generous support of our Desert Museum family near and far, we were able to keep over 100 Museum staff employed in a period of sharp revenue decline. We continued providing the best care possible to 55,000 plants and 4,180 animals. We even set a record on #GivingTuesday, raising nearly $17,000 from 177 donors, almost five times more than in previous years. It costs nearly $29,000 every day to run the Museum, which is why support from our community makes such a big difference!
Though 2020 was undoubtedly a challenging year for us as an organization, having lost nearly $3.1 million in revenue during our Spring 2020 closure, the Desert Museum had many great accomplishments, all made possible by our dedicated staff, volunteers, and supportive community!
Our newest bird program, Raptor Free Flight Presents: Avian Adventures, has soared with the public, allowing participants to get up close and personal with some of our raptors in a safe, socially distant setting. Participants get to ask as many questions as they want to our incredible bird trainers, and even get to put on the glove as our newest avian resident Eurasian Eagle Owl, Klaus, flies directly to them! Interested in booking your adventure? Reserve your spot now!
Our crucial conservation work continued, with particularly exciting wins for our HIIZ (Herpetology, Ichthyology, and Invertebrate Zoology) department: 10 healthy Sonoyta mud turtles hatched at the Museum in the summer of 2020, and we released 30 Mexican Garter Snakes into the wild in partnership with Arizona Game and Fish. Overall, we invested $131,500 in saving species projects this year!
Our research into the Bighorn fire continues in partnership with Ben Wilder and Jim Malusa of UArizona and Perry Grissom at Saguaro National Park. The team has been able to do preliminary assessments of the role of buffelgrass in the Bighorn Fire, and has discovered a number of characteristics that may help us mitigate fire damage in the future. The team also organized a large buffelgrass cleanup on Tumamoc Hill, removing 100 acres of this invasive grass! As we look forward to Save Our Saguaros month in February 2021, stay tuned for more updates on this crucial research to develop resilience in our Sonoran Desert ecosystem.
Desert Museum volunteers carry on work with the Tucson Bee Collaborative, sampling bees bimonthly and creating a comprehensive photographic atlas of the species within our collection that will be an incredible resource to the broader community of bee lovers in Tucson, including teachers, students, and bee-curious citizens.
It’s a Virtual World
While we dearly miss teaching in-person on our grounds, one advantage of shifting to virtual educational programming is the ability to reach people far beyond Arizona! Our virtual programs reached all 50 states and even 25 countries. In October and November alone, our expert educators taught almost 4000 kids and 800 adults from all different climates and cultures about the wonders of the Sonoran Desert!
Despite pausing volunteer work on grounds, we’ve been able to continue working with our latest cohort of Junior Docents through the Earth Camp Conservation Stewards program, led by Amy Orchard and Jesús García. This program introduces Tucson high school students to the core concepts of biosciences and the conservation and stewardship of public lands. Read more about our work with these incredible young adults in our previous blog post.
Cheers to a New Year
It may be that more difficult times lie ahead, but 2020 has proven that together, we can get through anything. As we head into the weekend, we hope you and yours had a healthy and joyous holiday season and that you enjoy a positive start to the new year. Remember to take time to get outdoors and enjoy the restorative and healing properties of nature. The Desert Museum is 85% outdoors, making it a safe adventure for the whole family – reserve your next visit here!
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Written by Elena Makansi.