An Evolving Tradition

For almost 70 years, the Desert Museum has been a leader in the industry. Known for its natural habitat exhibits and critical conservation work, the Museum has weathered these challenging few years, thanks to our generous community of volunteers, donors, members, visitors, social media fans, and readers like you! As the COVID-19 pandemic caused upheavals at every level of business and society, the Museum successfully pivoted to offer virtual learning options for families and classrooms, while continuing to provide safe in-person outdoor programs as well. From herpetology and botany hikes among the saguaros of the Tucson Mountains, to high school Earth Camps that take kids on a journey from the Museum to the pine-studded tip of Mt. Lemmon, our mission to inspire appreciation and understanding of the Sonoran Desert continued unabated.

Just as we look ahead to the future and shape the Museum’s programs and offerings to fit a continually evolving world, we also recognize the many successes of the past year. Even in tough times, staff and volunteers worked together to continue the Museum’s longstanding tradition. We’re excited to share a few highlights from another year of inspiring love and appreciation of the Sonoran Desert!

We introduced conservation to over 250,000 guests through a unique Sonoran Desert experience right here at the Desert Museum. As the Museum is 85% outdoors, local members and out-of-town travelers alike found a natural sanctuary in the meandering paths of the Desert Museum.

It’s always a beautiful day in the Cactus Garden!

We supported 9,000 children in virtual and in-person environmental education programs. Whether it was virtual backyard exploration camps for young children or multi-day in-person Earth Camps that introduced high school students to themes like ethnobotany and biomimicry, our expert educators continued offering engaging educational programs through a year that’s been difficult on teachers everywhere.

Students participating in the Biomimicry Earth Camp take a break to splash in the pools at Molino Canyon.

We released 52 threatened Mexican Garter snakes into wild habitat in the San Rafael Valley. These snakes are both predator and prey in riparian areas, many of which are threatened in our region. Nature is all about balance, and ALL species play a role in keeping the entire ecosystem balanced and healthy, including our snake friends. These efforts are made possible only with the combined, concerted efforts of state and federal agencies like the Arizona Game and Fish Department and US Fish and Wildlife Service, so we thank our conservation partners for continued collaboration!

A neonate Mexican garter snake. Photo by Kenny Don.

We celebrated the birth of 9 additional Sonoyta mud turtles, an endangered species, right here at the Museum! These critically endangered turtles face threats from habitat loss, groundwater pumping, and continued drought in the region, and the Desert Museum is committed to raising an assurance population of these precious turtles.

A weeks-old Sonoyta mud turtle next to a four-year-old.

We have been awarded $225,000 from the Institute for Museum and Library Services for the project, We Bee Scientists. We Bee Scientists is a collaboration with the Flowing Wells Unified School District, University of Arizona, and Pima Community College to create a K-6 curriculum and related activities focused on the relationship between people and pollinators, and aligned with the Arizona science standards. The program is an expansion of the Tucson Bee Collaborative, which empowers community scientists from “K to grey” to contribute to ecosystem health and understanding through the study of native bees. The program also involves community volunteers and high school, college, and university students in documenting the abundance and diversity of some of our most important pollinators.

A cloudless sulphur butterfly stops at a flower in the Pollinator Garden.

The Museum continues these programs with support from our amazing community, and we truly couldn’t do it without you all. As we look ahead, we reflect on the important lessons these past years have taught all of us: cherish the people and places we love, practice flexibility in the face of unpredictability and change, and support each other through it all. Thank YOU for being a part of the Desert Museum community!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Alan Conrad says:

    Thanks for the photos and news – the one of the cactus garden was like an instant memory, for I once stood in that very spot.


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