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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

The desert floor may look like dirt and sand but it is full of living small and microscopic organisms vital to the park’s ecosystem. Many of these organisms live in biological highly active soil crusts that cover the first inch of the desert soil surface. In this field class Nat Pombububpa, Julia Adam, and Tania Kurbessoian will introduce crypto-biotic soil crusts with an emphasis on fungi, soil algae, and lichens. Participants will study the secret life of these microscopic organisms as they demystify this thin layer of soil. This class will discuss the components of crusts such as cyanobacteria (one of the oldest known life forms on earth), green algae, diatoms, bacteria, fungi, and lichens. During the lab session, participants will see the biodiversity of the park’s crusts up close through two different types of microscopes. On the second day, the class will go into the field to identify and assess the condition of several types of algal and lichen soil crust communities found in Joshua Tree National Park.

Register today!

Did you know that insects can survive in temperatures over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade with little or no water? Kurt Leuschner will explore the lives of the largest group of animals in the world through a study of insect anatomy, survival traits, habitats, and behaviors. Participants will learn to identify and distinguish insects from other arthropods and then practice their skills in the field. Field observations will include desert, dune, and riparian habitats, as well as a special night session with black lights at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Leuschner will share amazing stories of insects like the yucca moth, the ant lion, and the world they inhabit.

This class is sponsored by the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

Register today!

Participants will be introduced to the major groups of respectively macroscopic and microscopic invertebrates found in Southern California’s deserts, where and when to find them, and how to observe and identify them with the aid of online tools after taking digital macro photographs in the field (in the case of insects and other animals visible to the naked eye), or with the aid of a compound microscope in the lab (for smaller animals). The first part will include an outline of basic techniques for approaching and photographing different macro subjects with a compact camera or an interchangeable lens/SLR camera. In the second part we will demonstrate simple techniques for isolating microscopic invertebrates from different materials, how to transfer them to microscope slides and how to operate a compound microscope to observe them. Class size is limited, please sign up early!

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Your health and safety is the top priority for our hospitality businesses. In accordance with State/County guidelines we kindly remind you to wear your face mask/covering, practice healthy hand-washing, maintain a safe social distance, and postpone travel if you are sick.

Together, our everyday actions can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.