Staff Highlight: Emily Burns

Emily Burns: Program Director

Favorite place in Sky Islands? The view from Montezuma Pass in the Huachuca Mountains is spectacular. Looking south you can see the amazing sky islands of Sonora, Mexico and to the north the mountains of Arizona. In September, I stood at the overlook fascinated by the political, social, and ecological divide visible along the U.S.-Mexico border in the valley below and watched a monsoon rainstorm approach from the north until it drenched me.

Emily and one of her tortoises

What is your favorite animal? I am a tortoise lover through and through. I have four rescued tortoises at home in Tucson. I’ve had one of them since I was 4 years old. They have more personality than people typically realize. They often follow me around—wanting food I’m sure, but I think companionship too.

What is your favorite plant? Ferns are botanical wonders—the oldest vascular plants on the Earth and remarkably tolerant of so many climate extremes. Before coming to Sky Island Alliance, I spent more than a decade studying the ferns of the coast redwood forest where I learned so much about their surprisingly drought tolerance. Just this week in Saguaro National Park, I found two species of fern growing next to a saguaro which made me feel right at home.

What is your favorite part of your job? I love learning more about the tremendous biodiversity in the Sky Island region —this ecosystem is incredible. Did you know the Sky Islands region has more species of native bees than anywhere else in the world?

Describe a cool wildlife encounter?In Northern California many years ago, I stood quietly collecting field data on the banks of the South Fork Eel River. Suddenly, I heard loud crashing in the huckleberry shrubs across the river and saw a family of river otters tumble down into the water followed quickly by a young black bear. Once in the water, the otters quickly outmaneuvered the bear but I watched the bear chase the family for 30 minutes before he finally gave up and sauntered back into the woods.

EMAIL: [email protected]
WORK PHONE: (520)624-7080 EXT. 14

To learn more about Emily, read about her in the Field Guide to Staff page.