Insights to the Outdoors

Insights to the Outdoors is offered once a month on Tuesday mornings, March through November. Classes are held outdoors in our covered ramada in the James Family Discovery Gardens, weather permitting, and include a hands-on field and/or lab component. The number of participants per class is limited to ensure low student-teacher ratio.

Grasses 101: Earth’s most versatile and dominant flowering plant

with Liz Making

If you close your eyes and imagine a flowering plant, chances are you won’t picture grass. However, grasses are one of the most bountiful, adaptable, and – dare we say – beautiful of all the flowering plants. Learn all you need to know about these astonishing organisms in this program!  In this workshop, attendees will learn about Poaceae (the grass family) and everything that makes it unique.  There will be three tiers to this program: an oral presentation, microscopic examination, and a field outing. Attendees will learn why grasses are so important to modern civilizations and our everyday life, followed by a chance to view these fascinating flowering plant under microscopes to study their unique morphology (plant parts). A short field expedition will conclude the class to discover and examine our regional species.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History (1375 South Walker Road)

When: September 24, 2019 : 9am – 12pm

Cost: $30 for class, 10% discount for members

Healing Oceans: Tackling Plastic Pollution in Marine Ecosystems

with Charles Rolsky

Microplastics have pervasive effects both in marine and freshwater ecosystems. This interactive workshop includes demonstrations on ocean studies and how microplastics travel up the food chain in such an efficient manner. In the second half of the program, attendees will extract microplastics from actual ocean samples. Discussions will include how to avoid certain plastics and how essential some plastics are.
This program will be instructed by Ph.D candidate Charles Rolsky, who conducts research in Rolf Halden’s lab, within Biodesign’s Center for Environmental Health Engineering.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History (1375 South Walker Road)

When: October 22, 2019

Cost: $30 for class, 10% discount for members

Surviving in the desert – a Gila monster’s perspective

with Dale DeNardo

For this month’s Insights to the Outdoors, Zoologist and Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine Dale DeNardo will present research on the strategies Gila monsters use to survive in the harsh desert environment.The talk will be followed by a demonstration with a live Gila monster where participants can get a close look at how Gila monsters walk and be able to safely touch a Gila monster. The presentation will end with a question and answer session.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History (1375 South Walker Road)

When: November 18, 2019

Cost: $30 for class, 10% discount for members

Past Programs

Insects of Death: The Science of Forensic Entomology

Derek Uhey dove into the world of forensic entomology and learn about how insects can play an important role in solving complex murder mysteries.

Language, Culture, and Climate

Nikki Cooley discussed the impacts of climate change on natural and cultural resources in some of the country’s most vulnerable indigenous communities.

The Verde: Exploring Arizona's Last Wild & Scenic River

Dr. Nancy Steele and Dr. Maxwell Wilson focused on the Verde River, Arizona’s last free flowing waterway, and the dramatic contrast it has to Arizona’s rocky and dry expanses. 

Spider Pharm

Spider Pharm founder, Chuck Kristensen, focused on on collecting, breeding, and harvesting venom from spiders and scorpions for antivenin. 

Volcanoes in Action

 Dr. Beth Boyd invited participants on a journey through time with discussions of volcanism and the ways it has transformed the landscape of Central Arizona.


Ethnomycology Happy Hour

This interactive workshop with Aimee Novak and Bob Gessner focused on the role of fungi in everyday cuisine.