AZMNA Annual Conference: January 27-28, 2023

Main Blog Written by Jessica Paul, Cohort 4 with design/layout by Deb Petrich, Cohort 1
Photos: Izetta Feeny, Chris Robie, Franklin Lane, Linda Doughty, Deb Petrich
, Peggy Ollerhead, Dana Hook

What does a naturalist have to look forward to when attending an annual conference in Arizona? If you said inspiration, community, and fun, you would be right! We enjoyed all of that and more at our 2023 Arizona Master Naturalist Conference held in January and hosted by the Pima County Chapter at the Donna R. Liggins Recreation Center in Tucson, AZ. Not only was this our largest attended conference (61 attendees) since the Arizona Master Naturalist program was created in Tucson, but we also had representatives from all 4 MN chapters!

We kicked off our event by attending a special pre-conference field trip through Mission Garden. If you haven’t visited this historic site, you should, and if you are lucky enough to be led through the garden by a Mission docent who is also a naturalist, you are in for a treat. Mission Garden is a place where archeologists have documented 4,100 years of continuous agriculture; it ‘is a living agricultural site of the Native American village of S-cuk Son, a place sacred to the Tohono O’odham.’  PCMNs provided docent-led tours of the gardens in three (3) groups and shared how to use Nature’s Notebook and the iNaturalist App in addition to other activities. Naturalist Chris Robie (C6) showed us how to dip net for macroinvertebrates in the acequia (canal), Linda Doughty (C6) led us on a tour of the grounds and provided us with information on timeline gardens and different plants, and Diane Taylor (C6) showed us the phenology trail she helps monitor.

What an incredible way to begin our weekend, connecting with the natural and cultural history of S-cuk Son and the folks who have been gardening this land for thousands of years. We were all thankful for the reminder and honoring of the folks whose land we inhabit. Learning about and honoring our land protectors is a huge part of what we do as naturalists, we strive to connect more deeply to the land and see the interconnectedness of all things throughout the cultures and nature that surround us.

A few of the naturalists further communed together at a dinner at the Coronet (see photo below). It was fun to share all the different projects and passions that keep us inspired to do this work.

Saturday was the big conference and long-haul day! We started early with coffee and getting to know some of our partners. Among the folks tabling to share their organizations were the Tucson Wildlife Center, Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation (PCNRPR), Wild Arizona, USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) and Nature’s Notebook, and the National Park Service.

Our fearless leader and AZMNA Executive Director, LoriAnne Barnett-Warren, began our conference and welcomed us all to a day of learning and inspiring each other. 

LoriAnne Barnett-Warren

Dave DeGroot inspired us all with his presentation, Lessons Learned from a BioBlitz, and his continued efforts to have the community recognize and preserve the Tortolita Preserve. Everyone in attendance couldn’t help but be amazed by the amount of work Dave, his grandson, the Tortolita Alliance, and the Marana Town Council, along with 40 other naturalists who participated in the BioBlitz, perform to document the biodiversity of the area. These efforts will continue to show the public how important this space is and to help protect it for future generations.

Dave DeGroot

Our keynote speaker, Jeff Simms, from the Bureau of Land Management, shared with us the importance of the ecological relationships of flora and fauna in different aquatic environments. He taught us about the different measures that have been taken to restore and preserve these locations. 

Jeff Simms, BLM

Naturalists were able to choose from two breakout sessions after our presentations. Melissa Mundt (C5) and Peggy Ollerhead (C3) from PCMN gave a discussion and workshop on ‘How to Deliver Inspiring, Participatory Workshops- Form a Master Naturalist Speakers Bureau’. In addition, Patrina Pellett (C5) from the Maricopa Chapter gave a presentation on Social Media for Master Naturalists with the Basics and Best Practices. 

We all enjoyed chatting and having an amazing lunch from Tumerico. Afterwards, Leadership for all 4 Chapters (Borderlands, Central Highlands, Maricopa and Pima) provided details on their Chapter’s highlights and to recognize and award their volunteers for milestone service hours and yearly certifications. It was great to see all the impactful work our volunteers have done this year.

The Pima Chapter planned some really great field labs for the MNs to participate in after the awards ceremony. The field labs included a Bird Walk in Sweetwater Wetlands, Growing as a Naturalist in the Garden: Education and Stewardship in the Sonoran Desert, an Interpretive Hike to the Stone House on the Yetman Trail, a Tohono Chul Saguaro Census lab, an AZ State Museum Tour and a Tree Ring Lab Tour. Please view photo collage below of our Master Naturalists at their field sites.

What a momentous and memorable experience we all had! We would love to hear from the Naturalists and Partners who attended to find out what they learned or loved about this year’s conference!

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