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!
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?
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!
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
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.
What did we do?
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.
Some facts that we learned:
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/
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
On Saturday, December 7th, Deb Petrich (C1) and Kathy Carter-McLin (C3) participated in a PCNRPR interpretative (?) hike, led by Sandy Reith, Program Specialist with the Environmental Education Team, on part of the Arizona Trail located in Colossal Cave Park. Did you know that the Hohokam, primarily hunter/gatherers and occasional farmers, used this area from 800-1450 AD. Eventually they moved towards advanced agriculture and began settling in more permanent, larger villages, or “Plazas”. The actual cave was used as a seasonal shelter and storage facility.
December in the Park area is usually mild with an average high of 65 degrees, low of 39 degrees and average rainfall of almost 1″ We used the Seek app on our hike to identify such flora as Christmas Cholla, Berlandier’s Wolfberry, Wheeler Sotol, Mariola, Brownfoot, various types of Agaves plus much more. In addition, we spotted and heard a mockingbird, curve-billed thrasher and cactus wren. Kathy was inspired to compose this poem after our walk. In addition, please see our photos after reading.
Come walk with me
Upon this land where ancients farmed and prayed for rain.
Where spirit gods kiss desert and plain
Whence from it springs the seeds of life.
That I can see this life and bathe in the sun’s warm blanket
To watch and record her mysteries
As they change from month to month
A pleasant task filled with beauty and unexpected surprises.
Rejoice that we are here
And now to see it and do what we can to protect
And nurture in ourselves and others
Such a love that we preserve it
For those yet to come for eternity.
Photos: Deb Petrich (C1) and Kathleen Mclin-Carter (C3)
Hi all! My name is Jessie Rack, and I’m excited to be the featured Master Naturalist for this newsletter! I am a relatively new transplant to Arizona. I grew up in New York and West Virginia and lived on the east coast until moving to Tucson in 2018. I have always been deeply interested in the natural world – the only family vacations we ever took were camping trips. I first studied music and creative writing, and then earned degree in biology from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania (yes, really). In 2016, I received a PhD in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut. For my dissertation, I studied larval spotted salamanders and their responses to predator chemical cues. I began working as a naturalist in the summers in New England, first at a nonprofit land trust in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, then for two summers at a family summer camp in Maine. Meanwhile, during the school year, I taught college freshmen writing in New Jersey. I moved to Arizona for a job with the University of Arizona – I am an environmental educator with the nonprofit outreach Community and School Garden Program. Each week, I travel to multiple schools around Tucson and teach science, using school gardens and outdoor spaces to get kids to do hands-on investigations.
When I’m not working, I’m usually found outside anyway. I love to run, hike, bike, and explore new areas in Arizona. My greatest interest is in herpetology – reptiles and amphibians – but I have been loving learning about mammals, insects, plants, and all other denizens of the desert.
I wanted to become a Master Naturalist to get myself up to speed on the ecology of the Sonoran Desert. The diversity of things here is incredible! I’ve been so delighted to learn to put names to the things I see. My favorite naturalists are naturalist-writers – Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, Berndt Heinrich, Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abbey – anyone with the patience to sit quietly and observe and then to translate nature onto the page, with lyricism and poetry and wit.
My volunteering strategy is to help out with a lot of one-off projects; because my schedule is so packed, it’s hard to have a regular volunteering commitment. I have helped Pima County Parks and Rec with environmental education outreach events, have sent emails to schedule Buffelgrass talks for the Desert Museum, have helped out with a Sky Island Alliance spring survey, and have led my own BioBlitz team in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. This fall, I have begun doing library talks, and my first program, “Sickening Superheroes of the Sonoran Desert: Gross Animal Adaptations and why they’re Actually Amazing” premiered in early October. To me, being a good Master Naturalist is all about being eager to learn, eager to collaborate, and eager to share what you know. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to share my newfound love and knowledge of the Sonoran Desert.
Congratulations to Jessie as she was voted the new PCMN Chapter President-Elect for 2020.
Olivia Carey (C3), Deb Huie (C1), Penny Miller (C2) and Michelle Kostuk (C1), attended the ‘Nature Journaling: Learn the art of seeing and recording the world around you’ workshop at the Desert Laboratory up on Tumamoc Hill, November 15-17, 2019. The instructor was Roseann Hanson with guest instructor Paul Mirocha. Deb and Olivia have providing writing samples from this workshop. Please see their writings after Olivia’s write-up on her experience.
I took both workshops – sketching in Nov and writing in Dec. The Hansons are excellent instructors as well as amazing naturalists and authors. For me the sketching was more fun, mainly because when I try to write, I tend to get impatient with all those words! Drawing, on the other hand, is more natural and more relaxing, a meditation. Both workshops really helped me with focusing on and seeing things deeply and how to practice “intentional curiosity”. The sketching class included good info on materials and tools that are inexpensive and easy to use in the field. RoseAnn explained about using archival paper and ink for journals that will endure. Jonathan brought examples of “good” and “bad” nature writing that I found super helpful. I came away inspired to use more words in my journals, and challenged to explore my ideas from multiple angles. These workshops are great for anyone wanting to learn about nature journaling at any level – beginner or experienced. (And they are approved for advanced skills training credit!)
The sketching class is being offered again in the spring at Tohono Chul.
Please see below for my “dense prose” piece. The blog post picture is an ink sketch from my journal. PCMN has my permission to reproduce without restrictions.
Sunday, 15 December 2019
Workshop exercise: Writing the Lives of the Sonoran Desert at the UA Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill
The slender silver-grey line ends in a clean point, so delicate and fragile, almost innocent. It joins with dozens of its brothers and they surround the tough, flexible stem, creating a phalanx of spear points. For now, in the rainy season, each spine has a feathery garland of tiny leaves, so the menace is disguised, and the branch appears plush and inviting.
The unsuspecting visitor reaches out to stroke the soft foliage. He jerks back quickly. He cries out in pain. He curses. Muttering and nursing his wounded finger, he retreats down the trail, now thoroughly convinced that everything in this strange, arid land is hostile to human occupation.
The visitor is gone. The ocotillo remains, oblivious to the comings and goings of humans. Her long, elegant branches stretch up into the blue ocean of sky and out to the drifting breeze. Within days, she will encase her fingers in garnet and ruby blossoms.
If she were aware, would she note the visitor’s pain, his instant dismissal of her potential? Would she want him to stay a little longer? Would she plead with him to look again to see her at her finest?
Writing the Lives of the Sonoron Desert Workshop
Writing Assignment: Luminous Mother of Tumamoc
By: Deborah Huie
Anchoring souls like mooring vessels to a buoy, Luminous Mother is protector and patroness of Tumamoc Hill. Laden with rosaries she stands centered, sentinel to all things celestial and terrestrial.
She watches over her fellowship. Holding space and accepting the tokens, prayers, grief bestowed upon her. Their walk up the hill now a pilgrimage. Humans need places like this. Hills, shrines which exist in nature and allow us to unburden ourselves and move freely, unencumbered
Luminous Mother, divine guardian, is everyone’s mother. Earth Mother, Virgin of Guadalupe, Virgin Mary, Madonna, Black Madonna, Chomolungma. A creator of beings performing her duty as benevolent protector of her children. Taking on their suffering so they don’t have to bear the burden.
Her devotees amass receiving spiritual sustenance from her. They are fiercely attached to the gatekeeper of Tumamoc, mingling in sacred space sharing borders, knowing their need for her primordial.