Whitewater Draw Field Trip

Submitted by Deb Petrich, Cohort 1

On Sunday March 8, 2020, nine (9) PCMN members from Cohorts 1-4 participated in an Advanced Training Skills-Based Field Trip with noted Pima County Natural Resources & Parks and Recreation, Wildlife Viewing Program Specialist, Jeff Babson, to Whitewater Draw in the Sulphur Springs Valley, located east of Tucson and South of Willcox.  We were all there to view the memorable sights and sounds of the Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife.  More than 20,000 cranes winter here from October through the end of March.  The cranes are grayish with black feet and legs and you’ll never forget the sound of hundreds of them flying in and landing.  There are several subspecies of Sandhill cranes that visit this area – 1) a Rocky Mountain population that come down from nesting areas in Idaho, Wyoming and Southern Canada and 2) a Mid-Continent population from Northern Canada and Alaska.  Other bird-life spotted were Red Tailed Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Eastern Meadowlark, Great Horned Owls, Green Winged and Cinnamon Teals, Pintails, Songbird sparrow, Snow geese, Long-billed Dowitchers and, after further research on my photos, a Bald Eagle.  Bobcat tracks and scat by a big old Cottonwood South of the main birding area were spotted as well. A great learning and viewing experience was had by all.


[Photos by Deb Petrich]

Community Science Research Along I-10

On April 12th Pima County Master Naturalists Josh Skattum (Cohort 3) and Sam Wilber (Cohort 4) spent a day volunteering for the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection doing field work by checking wildlife cameras. 

Sam and I have been volunteering for CSDP for over a year and a half now! Our first project involved checking wildlife cameras located near the wildlife overpass along Oracle Road. Starting this past February we have began working on a new project along I-10 near Cienega Creek and Davidson Canyon. This highway has minimal wildlife exclusion fence lines and bisects wildlife corridors between wildlife preserves and possible migration routes between the Rincons and the Santa Ritas. Helping with this project has been a fun learning experience! We have had the opportunity to explore new sites for setting up cameras and we’ve helped with brainstorming methods and ideas for camera placement and attachment! This study will give us a better understanding on wildlife navigating near highways while using the man-made structures put into place. This has included bridges and drainage pipes! 

This last outing on April 12th was exciting since it was the first time in which we got to follow up with our camera placements and settings! Cool in-person finds included spotting two horned lizards and master blister beetles!

Each time we check our cameras there’s anticipation for what might be captured! Some exciting shots included coyotes, fox, skunk, javelina, deer, a friendly dog, and bats! We’re excited to see how our sites change as we head into our dry summer months followed by monsoon season!

 Despite the Covid-19 outbreak Sam and I felt comfortable checking cameras while social distancing from each other and other hikers. We also picked up this camera check outing since we are a lower risk in comparison to some of our other volunteers. We both maintained 6 feet distance between each other and sanitized between touching all equipment! 

Sonoran Desert HOA Stewardship Project

Stewardship – From Dream to Reality
By Andrea Hoerr, Cohort 3

Ever since we bought our townhouse in the Foothills, I’ve dreamed about adding native flowers to the common property. With the support and challenge of the Capstone project, I knew that I had a chance to transform vague ideas into reality.

Using the project framework we learned, I put together a plan and a presentation for our HOA Board. The approach I took was to look at from a ‘what’s in it for me’ perspective of the homeowner. Why should the average non-Master Naturalist care? Several factors were identified: aesthetic improvement, butterfly habitat, reduction in fire risk by managing our common property more intentionally, and improving community cohesiveness.

Over the months of the Master Naturalist training, I continued to hone the message. Once I was able to get in front of the Board in late May 2019, the presentation and message were significantly improved from the original. By the end of October, the Board’s concerns were addressed, the scope was slightly modified, and I had full consensus from all parties.

The next goal was to get support from my neighbors. I put flyers inviting neighbors to two ‘Enthusiasm Parties’ at our house in November. Out of 137 homes, I had 20 people interested. These formed my core team, and donated $260 which was enough to get the project started. A mix of 13 different flowers were identified and ordered from Borderlands Restoration Network.

In early December, we spent a lovely morning at the Native Plant Nursery making seed balls. It was a joyful, fun experience that was enhanced by Jessie Byrd’s enthusiasm and support. When’s the last time you saw adults playing in the mud?

By Dec 15 the seed balls were dry, and a group of 10 scattered the marble sized seed balls in 5 different locations. We talked about the vision, and the challenges of not being in control of the weather, the germination rate, and all the factors that go into stewardship.

This was a wet winter so I had high hopes for a Super Bloom in our community.  So far, I have found 1 flowering plant – a mighty Penstemon!


What constitutes success in this case? I consider this to be a successful project and one that I will continue to press forward with. The community was engaged, the HOA board was supportive, and we got people talking about the possibilities! Many of our native plants take 2+ years to flower, so perhaps we will see the Super Bloom in 2021! For 2020, I will continue to look for donations and repeat the seed ordering, seed ball making and scattering activities.

I invite you to consider joining the Local Stewardship project team! It is an approved volunteer job, and there are so many possibilities to engage with our neighborhoods in a similar fashion. And it has been a BLAST!

Tap & Bottle Fun(d)raiser for PCMN

AZMN-Pima County Chapter had our first fun(d)raiser @ Tap&Bottle on S. 6th Ave on Friday, January 24, 2020 from 5-8PM. It was attended by members of all 4 MN Tucson cohorts and many of their family and guests. Rebecca, owner of the venue, donated $350 worth of proceeds and items for the raffle generated another $500. A big shout out to the following folks for their generosity: Pete Pfeiffer, Carrie Barcom, Native Plant Nursery and Jessie Byrd (Nursery Manager), Kathy Mclin and Reid Park Zoo. The evening was both successful and fun! Kudos to the fundraising team (Josh Skattum, Peggy Ollerhead, Kathe Sudano and Jenna Marvin) and all who attended.

Submitted by Kathe Sudano with photos by Josh Skattum



Saguaro Census 2020

Blog Post by Andrea Hoerr, Cohort 3

On Feb 18 2020, several Pima County Master Naturalists volunteered for the 2020 Saguaro Census. This survey was coordinated by the National Park Service and held at Saguaro National Park West (SAGU) with Don Swann, SAGU Wildlife Biologist, leading the way.

The Saguaro Census is held every 10 years, in concordance with the Federal census. The goal is to survey saguaros in the measurement plot and has been held since 1990. It is a large effort, with an estimated 500 Citizen Scientists participating in the survey. This day, we had 12 Pima County Master Naturalists representing various cohorts. We met at the Visitor Center at 7:45am and carpooled to the location. The participants were broken into groups of 4 and set out to methodically count and measure saguaros.

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What did we do?

  • There was some slow walking involved over the course of 4.5 hours. We took a lunch break around 11
  • The National Park Service staff marked the survey plot before we arrived. Don Swann, Kara O’Brien and Martha were our leaders and knew how to make tromping through the desert fun!
  • Each cactus had a temporary flag attached with a number that was recorded. The names ranged from numbers+letters to names like “Yoda” and “Pretty”
  • The metrics collected were:
    • UTM location – UTM is similar to GPS, but provides more accuracy
    • Height of the cactus. For cactus 6’ and shorter, we used measuring sticks. For taller cactus we learned how to use a tool called the clinometer. The clinometer demanded patience and a certain amount of skill to use effectively. It uses trigonometry to determine the height using a point 10 meters from the cactus, then measuring 2 points on the cactus – the top and bottom. Because it is somewhat fiddley, 2 people measured the height and then averaged the results
    • Number of arms
    • Number of bird holes
    • Any constriction noted which could have been caused by an injury or frost sometime in the history of the saguaro
    • In some cases, the cactus had a permanent tag that was recorded as well as the UTM location
  • Each team of 4 did 3 passes for their section. This was to ensure that no saguaro was missed
  • Laughed and told plant-geek appropriate stories

Overall, it was an excellent volunteer experience which was amazing to share with our fellow Master Naturalists! We each got a 2020 Saguaro Census Survey sticker and bandana which is a fantastic way to acknowledge our contribution.

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Some facts that we learned:

  • Saguaro National Park is around 140 square miles
  • The National Park Service estimates that there are upwards of 20,000 latex balloons littering Saguaro National Park! There’s a scientific journal that was published about this topic. Extract and full article here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2012.10.004
  • Weddellite is a mineral found in dead saguaro skeletons. It is comprised largely of calcite and is a key ingredient of caliche. Fascinating U of A article linked here: https://rruff-2.geo.arizona.edu/uploads/AM88_1879.pdf
  • We saw a large amount of Merriams kangaroo rat burrows centered around creosote. Sand is blown into creosote and collects into mounds. This provides an excellent opportunity for the kangaroo rat to form burrows. https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/krat.php

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Catalina State Park Remote Wildlife Camera


Submitted by Diana Holmes, Pima County Certified Master Naturalist, Cohort 2

Shortly after moving to Oro Valley from Sonoita in 2012, my husband and I volunteered to monitor a remote wildlife camera in Catalina State Park.  The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection sponsors an opportunity for citizen (community) scientists to be involved in a valuable effort to record animal (and human) activity in the park.  A Coalition staff member guided us to predetermined coordinates in a small wash not far from the equestrian center in the park where we set up the camera. A month later, we were excited to see what was captured on film.  We’ve seen coyotes, bobcats, skunks, foxes, javelinas, many bird species, and lots of rabbits and deer.  One especially interesting photo was a badger and coyote encounter.  People hiking and on horseback appear now and then.  Neighbors (now good friends) became involved and as a team, we began monthly visits to check the equipment, replace batteries, change the memory card, and to note any unusual activities (one camera was stolen). An added benefit is the opportunity to hike in the park and observe seasonal changes, plant life, and other animals (two close calls with rattlesnakes).  One time we found a small shredded parachute and weather capsule that we sent back to NOAA.

The Oracle Road wildlife bridge and underpass were completed in March 2016 with the goal to ensure connectivity and unimpeded wildlife passage between the Catalina and Tortolita mountains. The project has been a success with over 4,400 animals documented using the bridge and underpass in the first two years.

Over the years we’ve learned about the purpose and goals of the Coalition. As they state:
The Coalition works to create a community where: ecosystem health is protected; nature and healthy wild animal populations are valued; and residents, visitors and future generations can all drink clean water, breathe clean air, and find wild places to roam.”

If interested in joining this effort, you can contact the Coalition at https://www.sonorandesert.org/

coyotes cspbobcat cspcoyote badge csp

PCMN 2019 General Membership Meeting

December 18, 2019

The Pima County – Master Naturalist Association (PCMN) bylaws require a general membership meeting in December of each year.  “The acts of the majority of the voting members present at each duly called and convened meeting shall be the acts of the General Membership” (5-E-Vlll).

Voting members include those individuals ‘in good standing” who meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Member in Training: Participating in a current PCMN class.
  2. Member Intern: Completed class but not yet completed service hours for full certification.
  3. Certified Member: Completed official class of (60) hours and have accumulated (60) hours of volunteer service and (20) hours of advanced training, (5) of which are skills based, on an annual basis.
  4. General Member: Previously certified but not current on required annual service hours.

The meeting this year was held on December 8, at the group campsite of the Molino Basin Campground in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  Members enjoyed the option of camping the evening before the meeting and a potluck picnic lunch afterwards.

Picnic under the Molina Basin campsite Ramada, Photo: F. Lane

The meeting was convened by 2019 Chapter President Cameron Becker (Cohort2).  In 2020, as Past President, Cameron will serve the second year of his term in an advisory capacity to the Board of Directors and chair the nominating committee for next year’s election cycle.  Cameron and an ad hoc committee (TBD) will solicit nominees for 2021 President Elect as well as Chapter Treasurer and Secretary.  Jean Boris (C2) and Carrie Barcom (C2) were unanimously re-elected to serve a second year.

cam am
Cameron Becker (C2) holding forth around the fire, Photo: K. Sudano

Dr. Jessie Rack (C3) was selected by the membership as President elect for 2020.  She, in turn, will succeed new Chapter President Franklin Lane (C1) at next year’s membership meeting.  It was generally agreed that the outdoor venue/potluck protocol was both inexpensive and appropriate.  Jessie will be looking for a similar situation for next year, perhaps central or on the West side of town.  Suggestions are welcomed. There was also enthusiasm expressed for inviting a keynote speaker in the future.  Perhaps add some gravitas and ‘advanced training’ to the occasion!  Not too early to pencil in the weekend of 12/6/2020.

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President Elect Jessie rack at Molina Falls earlier in the day. Photo: F. Lane

In addition to the Executive elections, other agenda items included approval of Kathe Sudano (C3) as a Board of Directors, Member at Large.  The only position left to fill on the 2020 Board is that of Curriculum Committee Chair.  This position is currently being filled “by committee” for Cohort 4, which begins in January 2020.  Ideally, we can identify a person to learn the process this year and assume oversight for 2021.  All members should consider this opportunity, LoriAnne has truly refined it to a “Cut And Paste!”

LoriAnne and Meck Slagle (C3) also successfully applied for a UofA Green Fund grant of $1600.  This is an incredible gift to the Chapter.  It is the intention to use a portion of the monies to purchase a Chapter computer (for official classes) and dedicate the remainder toward scholarships.  Well done amigas!

The following members were awarded service pins:
– 250 hours:  Deb Petrich (C1), Kathy Mclin Carter (C3), Dan Collins (C2), Jean Boris (C2), Michelle Kostuk (C1) and Don Eagle (C1)
– 500 hours:  Janel Feierabend (C1) and Hank Verbais (C1)
– 1,000 hours:  Hank Verbais (C1)

Finally, a note from Josh Skattum (C3) and Jenna Marvin (C3) on future Chapter fund raisers. Please consider joining us at:

Tap & Bottle on Saturday, 1/25/2020, Time: 5-8pm
403 N. 6th Ave.
3 % sales to Chapter

Borderlands Brewing, Friday, 3/13/20, Time: 5-8pm
119 E. Toole
X % sales to Chapter

Other photos from Deb Petrich:

New Executive Team
New Executive Team: Franklin Lane and Jessie Rack

Dre Hoerr (C3) and Jessie Rack (C3) with Queen and Luna

Picking our PCMN t-shirt to sell for fundraisers. Kathe Sudano is presenting 1 option.

What a nice location!

2019 President Cameron Becker (C2) with new 2020 President Franklin Lane (C1)