The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is recognized worldwide as the most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a system based on five criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of species and subspecies throughout all regions of the world. The IUCN Red List is scientifically based and used to track the status of biological diversity worldwide. For more information about the IUCN Red List, please visit

The Parsons Field Institute at the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy received approval in 2019 to become the host organization for the newly established Sonoran Desert Plant Species Specialist Group within the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary goals of this species specialist group are to assess all of the nearly 4,000 plant species in the Sonoran Desert, and plan and catalyze relevant conservation action. Each semester, Dr. Rowe trains undergraduate students at Northern Arizona University to draft assessments for target Sonoran Desert plant species. Draft assessments are the first step in the assessment process and once enough drafts are completed, an expert workshop can be held to complete these assessments, followed by a process of review and publication.

Final assessments can be found on the IUCN Red List website

By Gabe Baca,

Being part of the IUCN training process to become a global assessor has given me the opportunity to be a part of a large conservation operation and to see where this work can take me in the future. I continued to learn throughout the whole process, because I continued to learn new ways to improve my work, and research skills. I’ve learned how to use SIS, which is a central database used by IUCN to manage species and assessments for publication on the IUCN red list.

The IUCN training has shown me everything that goes into giving a species conservation status. Providing an accurate conservation status takes a lot of people within multiple steps analyzing and calculating everything that species face, which includes threats, locations, habitats and even its uses. With an accurate conservation status, policies can be influenced, and resources can be used efficiently to conserve nature.

Other than being part of a process crucial for conserving diversity, the IUCN training process has opened my eyes to careers that are possible within conservation and environmental sciences. I enjoy learning how the world works and how things interact. So, when I learned that IUCN and other large conservation organizations provide internships, I was interested. They provide not only openings for plant conservation, but other aspects of the world such as conserving freshwater organisms. These may not be career openings, but it is a starting point to get your feet wet and explore.

Gabe Baca was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona. He attends Northern Arizona University, and is majoring in Environmental Science with an emphasis in
conservation management. When not in school, he loves to travel, hike, fish, and hangout with friends.