Field Notes

Microscopic View of a Hedgehog Cactus Fruit

November 23, 2020

Hedgehog cacti of the Echinocereus genus are relatively small-stature cactus plants with multiple cylindrical stems. In eastern Arizona, Fendler hedgehog (Echinocereus fendleri) may go unnoticed for much of the year until its brilliant pink blooms open in April-May. The large round fruits are bright red and ripe, attractive to many wildlife species that help disperse the hedgehog cactus seeds after…
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Friday Creature Feature: Gould’s Turkey

November 20, 2020

For today’s Friday Creature Feature, we’re highlighting the Gould’s turkey, a subspecies of wild turkey that is native to Arizona and slowly returning to our mountain ecosystems after being overhunted. So instead of eating this turkey for Thanksgiving, let’s marvel at these fun facts—a friendlier way to celebrate the upcoming holiday season and this endemic Sky Island species.  Description:  The Gould’s turkey (Meleagris gallopavo mexicana) is the largest of the…
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Celebrating LGBTQ Environmentalists for LGBTQ STEM Day

November 18, 2020

As a queer science writer working in environmental science and conservation, I both recognize and resonate with the profound ideas and inner strength the LGBTQ+ community brings to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Awareness and LGBTQ+ pride in our society has introduced a sense of confidence and joy to the lives of many LGBTQ+ scientists around the world.  I am often hopeful when I see how far…
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Recapping the First 30 Days of Sky Island FotoFauna

November 17, 2020

With October now complete, we are excited to look back on the first month of Sky Island FotoFauna, a wildlife monitoring network powered by many organizations and individuals that call the Sky Islands their home. We are thrilled at the turnout of the first month—a big thanks to everyone who jumped on FotoFauna right as it launched and helped the network…
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Friday Flora Feature: Canyon Grape

November 12, 2020

For this week’s Friday Flora Feature, we’re spotlighting Vitis arizonica, a grape species we often see while seeking water resources in the Sky Island region. Keep reading to learn how to identify this species when you’re out hiking, camping, or helping us monitoring our springs.  Description:  Vitis arizonica, commonly called canyon grape, Arizona grape, or Jiragui in Spanish, is a wetland plant that flowers between April and…
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Meet Profauna: an organization turning the tables in favor of conservation in Northern Mexico

November 11, 2020

Northern Mexico has had a tragic history of iconic wildlife extinctions due to hunting and persecution by government agencies and landowners. The Mexican Grizzly Bear or Mexican Silvery Bear (Ursus arctos nelson), for example, was a subspecies of the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos) that used to roam across Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora, and Durango and was gradually hunted down so that in 1960 there were only 30 specimens reported. In 1976, after…
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Microscopic View of a Desert Cardinal Feather

November 9, 2020

  We have two lovely cardinal species that reside in the Sky Island region, the Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and Pyrrhuloxia (Cadinalis sinuatus), also known as the desert cardinal. Pyrrhuloxia has a prominent crest on its head, distinctive yellow bill (in contrast to the darker reddish-orange bill of the Northern cardinal), and gray feathers tinged with light red. When in flight, the…
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Friday Creature Feature: Gray Fox

November 6, 2020

Two fox species have been detected in the Sky Islands. One of these—the gray fox—is this week’s Friday creature feature! The gray fox is considered an urban-adapted species and is one of the animals listed on our FotoFauna checklist. So, grab a cup of something good and let’s learn!  Description:  While the name “gray fox” (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) may conjure up visions of a small, all-gray canine, the gray fox is actually a lot more…
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A Quick Guide to Springs in the Sky Islands

November 3, 2020

If you’ve ever wondered what springs are, how they form, or why they’re important to the ecosystems and habitats found in the Sky Island region, go no further. In celebration of hitting three months of spring seeking—a community project that has allowed us to monitor the health of our springs in Arizona and Sonora—we’ve put together a quick guide to help you navigate the many…
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Microscopic View of a Cholla Fruit

November 1, 2020

When you zoom in closer and closer to living things you encounter in the Sky Island region, it’s amazing what you find! I was recently drawn to look more closely at the Desert Christmas Cholla (Cylindopuntia leptocaulis) growing in my yard. Its scientific name means cylindrical slender stem, a fitting name for this short and branching cactus abundant…
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