Community Nature Study Series

The Community Nature Study Series is offered Tuesdays and Thursdays in January and February. Classes are based in our indoor classroom in the James Learning Center and include a hands-on lab and/or field component. The number of participants per class is limited to ensure low student-teacher ratio.

Past Programs

2019’s Community Nature Study Series offered a wide range of topics from caves and black holes to rainforests! 
Stay tuned for our 2020 line-up.

March 5th – Severe & Hazardous Weather in Northern Arizona 

Dr. Curtis James, Professor of Meteorology, Embry-Riddle

In this workshop, participants will learn about atmospheric moisture and how rising air produces clouds and precipitation. Using hands-on demonstrations and visualizations, you will learn how the air becomes unstable and leads to thunderstorm development. You will also gain exposure to various online meteorological sources to help you observe and predict thunderstorms and anticipate their occurrence based on the profile of temperature, moisture, and wind in the atmosphere. Finally, you will learn what causes the hazardous weather conditions associated with thunderstorms in northern Arizona.

February 19 – Ants & Plants: Community Dynamics and Interactions

Kyle Gray & Jean-Philippe Solves, ASU

Ants and plants are often considered as separate entities, but there is a whole universe of interactions between them. These interactions are sometimes a vital part of community dynamics (pests, bodyguards, seed dispersal, etc), and can be as diverse as the groups they involve. This program will start with an introduction to the ecology and evolution of ant-plant interactions, followed by an hour long guided hike around the Highlands Center to look at ant and plant communities, and will conclude with a close look at various local ants and plants under microscopes.  

Class is full. Please call to be added to the waitlist.

February 14 – In Living Color: The Amazing World of Butterflies

Ron Rutowski, Professor Emeritus, Organismal, Integrative, and Systems Biology, ASU

“Nature always wears the color of the spirit.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ever wonder how butterflies are so iridescent and colorful?  Or why they have so many different patterns and variations? This program will explore multiple aspects of the diversity of color and pattern in butterflies.  After a brief introduction covering the basic biology of butterflies, participants will look at specimens in greater depth with microscopes. Given that the many of the bright colors of butterflies are signals for other butterflies, the final phase of the program will explore the structure and performance of their eyes.

January 22 – Have You Touched a Rain Forest Today?

Dr. David Pearson, Research Professor, ASU

The rain forest seems so far away from the deserts of Arizona, but it is in our lives every day. Learn about the products that you use that come from the rain forest and what your impact is on this delicate ecosystem. Dr. David Pearson is a Research Professor in the School of Life Sciences at ASU whose current research concentrates on birds and tiger beetles as bioindicators for conservation efforts in tropical lowland rain forests around the world.

January 24 – Climate Change & Solutions

Dr. Tom Whitham, Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, NAU

Climate change is happening.  The question is how the natural world will respond and what can we do to address its impact?  Dr. Tom Whitham and NAU’s Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA) are researching genetic-based solutions that can be applied at the local level.  Come to this workshop to learn more about how genetics enable certain plants to adapt to environmental changes and how this information can be incorporated into management practices.  

January 29 – Arthropods: Communities in Soil

Derek Uhey, Entomologist and Photographer, NAU

Insects are the most diverse and abundant organisms on the planet! Through macrophotography, specimen viewing, and live insect handling, participants will get a sense of the enormous insect world around us and learn to identify some common local species. This knowledge will help you identify both beneficial and potentially harmful insects in the area, and understand their roles in the ecosystem.

January 31 – Prescott Water Sources & Conservation

Leslie Graser, Water Resource Manager, City of Prescott

Do you know where your water comes from and how it gets to your home? Come to this interactive workshop with City of Prescott Water Resource Manager, Leslie Graser, to learn more about the allocation of water resources here in Yavapai County. We can all renew our understanding of ways to use water efficiently for the benefit of those here now, the flora and fauna, and those generations yet to come.

February 5 – Black Holes: Into the Abyss

Dr. David Cole, Principal Lecturer of Physics & Astronomy, NAU

This workshop will cover everything you want to know about Black Holes but were afraid to ask! It will start slowly and help you develop a basic understanding of a black hole’s size, energy, radiating power, and lifetime. Dr. David Cole will also share stories about meeting Stephen Hawking and discuss what mortals like us can understand about his work on black holes.

February 7 – Tree Stories-Reading the Rings

Dr. Kiona Ogle, Professor of Informatics and Ecology, NAU

In this workshop, Dr. Ogle will provide hands-on opportunities to look at the internal wood structure of trees and learn how climate can impact annual tree growth for 100’s of years.Tree rings can be used to understand climate variability, fire dynamics, settlement dates of indigenous people, and pest or pathogen outbreaks. Most of the workshop will be devoted to hands-on activities that allow participants to compare growth patterns of multiple tree species and to relate local tree growth to regional climate phenomena such as El Nino-La Nina cycles or multi-year droughts.

February 12 – Grand Canyon Cave Ecology

Dr. Jut Wynne, Dept of Biological Sciences, Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, NAU

Jut has studied cave ecosystems in the greater Grand Canyon Region for nearly a decade.  In this workshop, he will discuss how animals adapt to and use the cave environment, provide examples of cave-adapted arthropods from the North Rim, and cover some of the factors driving cave biological diversity in northern Arizona. He will also discuss some of the current efforts to protect and conserve caves in one of the world’s most rugged and unforgiving landscapes, the greater Grand Canyon region.