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.

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: July 30, 2019 : 9am – 12pm

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

Insects of Death: The Science of Forensic Entomology

with Derek Uhey

When any animal dies the remains become home to entire communities of organisms, many of which are insects. These insects specialize in finding and devouring carrion. The interactions between these insects and the environment allow the carrion to progress through the many stages of decomposition, eventually returning all organic material back to nature. Investigators have long used insect communities in human forensics to determine time of death, and when and where a death may have occurred. In this program, we will dive into the world of forensic entomology and learn about how insects can play an important role in solving complex murder mysteries.

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

When: August 20, 2019 : 9am – 12pm

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

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

Past Programs

Language, Culture, and Climate: How Indigenous Resources and Perspectives are Impacted by Climate Change

with Nikki Cooley

Culture and language are the foundation of our world view. In order to adapt to environmental changes, sometimes our culture and language have to change as well.  In this class, co-manager of NAU’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) and their Tribes & Climate Change Program, Nikki Cooley, discussed the impacts of climate change on natural and cultural resources in some of the country’s most vulnerable indigenous communities. Attendees had an opportunity to share their own experiences about how climate impacts them and their communities.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History                When: June 25, 2019 : 9am – 12pm

Predator Killing Contests: The Hidden War on Wildlife

with Joe Trudeau, Betsy Klein, Emily Renn, & Matt Francis

This informative panel about the controversial practice of predator-killing contests was cancelled. Recently, predator killing contests have made their way into Arizona news. This heated topic was to be presented by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Southwest Advocate, Joe Trudeau, by examining the impacts these contests have on wildlife populations and ecosystem health. Social and ecological risks that they pose to ethical hunting laws and why there is a drive to ban these contests nation-wide were to be highlighted.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History             When: May 14, 2019 : 9am – 12pm


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

with Dr. Nancy Steele and Dr. Maxwell Wilson

This presentation from 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. Its green channels support myriads of plants and animals, water farms, ranches, and vineyards, and increasingly attracts visitors to swim, fish, kayak, and play.  And yet, this water source is in danger. This interactive workshop highlighted the Verde River watershed and shared people’s stories about saving the Verde.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History            When: April 16, 2019 : 9am – 12pm

Spider Pharm: Harvesting Venom for Research and Education

with Chuck Kristensen

This special presentation from Spider Pharm founder, Chuck Kristensen, focused on on collecting, breeding, and harvesting venom from spiders and scorpions for antivenin. This process was discussed, along with the beneficial applications of these thrilling toxins. 

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History  When: March 26, 2019

Volcanoes in Action: Transforming the Landscape

with Beth Boyd

This interactive workshop with Dr. Beth Boyd, geology professor and discipline chair at Yavapai College, invited participants on a journey through time with discussions of volcanism and the ways it has transformed the landscape of Central Arizona. Workshop included a short uphill hike to the overlook at the Highlands Center to talk about Glassford Hill.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History   When: October 27, 2018


Ethnomycology Happy Hour

with Bob Gessner and Aimee Novak

Eat, drink, and learn at the Highlands Center!

This interactive workshop focused on the role of fungi in everyday cuisine.  Bob Gessner discussed the history, the fungi involved, and the fermentation processes used in the production of foods and beverages prepared with fungi. Aimee Novak demonstrated cooking gourmet meals with mushrooms and other fungal fermented foods.   Tasting included samples of beer and wine, mushroom crostini, truffle popcorn, and other fungal fermentation products.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History   When: September 8, 2019

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