Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Intrepid Naturalists Explore the Desert at Night, Part 1

Dusk in the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park
Picture the empty desert and then, picture yourself out there walking around in the darkness. A few years ago, you would never have found me in this situation--but I guess I can still surprise myself.

Last Saturday night we attended a really special event called Nighttime in the Desert, which was held at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park, a 935-acre site northeast of Las Cruces. The Asombro Institute for Science Education, which is responsible for the park, works to foster scientific literacy in children and adults by teaching them about the desert, its plants and its animals.

We arrived in the parking lot at dusk after a trip down a five-mile dirt road and were greeted by the Executive Director, Dr. Stephanie Bestelmeyer. Dr. Bestelmeyer wants to see people get excited by science, and she and her staff and volunteers make sure that happens as they share their knowledge and enthusiasm.

The beginning of the trail was lined with learning stations, starting with a hands-on display that explained how meteorites impact landforms. The presenter, whose day job was at the nearby Johnson Space Center, and his 5th grade son were fascinating people who really knew their stuff and were ready for an evening of explaining meteorites to adults and children.

That learning station was only the beginning. The evening to come was to be filled with one new experience after another, for an amazing night of desert education.

Next: What can you find with a black light in the desert night?


charlotte g said...

Claire, Sunspot on Sac Peak sends scientists every summer for free lectures at White Sands National Monument, which may be further than you want to go, but sitting on the cool sand after a picnic supper, it's a fine way to spend an evening.

JC said...

You are having too much fun with your camera !!!

Powell River Books said...

That sounds like a wonderful evening. I love to go to the desert to watch the night sky. It is so dark and clear, unlike all the city pollution near the big cities. - Margy

Nan said...

Any snakes?? :<) Clair, I'm just now reading Dog On It, a mystery narrated by the PI's dog, Chet. It is set, I think, in Arizona, but I got to thinking you might get a kick out of it. Not cutesy, but really enjoyable. There is talk of lawns, and development, and canyons. Are there canyons in NM? I'm so bad with geography and geology.

clairz said...

Thank you all for the comments, and for following along with the Intrepid Naturalists as we learn to be brave about the desert.

Yes, Nan, we have canyons--and mountains and pine forests, too, in addition to having all sorts of deserts and plains and river valleys full of agricultural activities. I get confused about these things, too, and that is why I have lived in so many places--so I can learn this stuff firsthand.

They tell us that New Mexico contains six of the Earth's seven life zones--here is a nice New Mexico Magazine article about our geology.

Thank you for the book recommendation. I am adding it to my list of books to read.

Just to help you keep the states straight, Arizona is the one that is just passing a really mean immigration law requiring everyone there to carry identification papers. New Mexico is not that one. We are also not the one that now allows people to carry concealed weapons with a permit or training. Arizona is that one!