Citizen Science and Research

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Citizen scientists are volunteers who work with Parsons Field Institute staff and research partners. Our citizen scientists work on all aspects of research, including data collection, organizing field days and mapping and analyzing data. Our citizen scientist volunteers have also been published in several peer-reviewed journal articles.

Many non-native grasses displace native species and increase the risk of wildfire. This threat is particularly grave in the Sonoran Desert because our plant communities are not fire adapted. Non-native plants, such as tamarisk, fountain grass, and buffelgrass, can have long-term effects on native plant communities. We have several Field Institute projects that address these priority species through study, removal, and monitoring.

  • Invasive non-native plants: testing removal techniques for buffelgrass and fountain grass
  • Mapping and monitoring of invasive non-native plants

Ecological Restoration

Due to historic uses, such as grazing and all terrain vehicles, there are many sites in need of restoration, particularly in the northern portion of the Preserve. We are testing different seeding and transplanting techniques to evaluate best practices.

  • Soil crust restoration techniques
  • Developing best management practices for restoring closed trails
  • Visitation effects on trailside vegetation and soil crust
  • Reseeding of native plants on degraded lands
  • Degraded lands mapping

Wildlife & Connectivity

Wildlife likely faces many challenges in an urban preserve. Not least of these may be connectivity and adequate habitat. Protection of McDowell Sonoran Preserve was ranked as the highest priority within Maricopa County at the time of acquisition because of the linkage it provides between McDowell Mountain Park to the East and Tonto National Forest to the North. We are also investigating how wildlife may be affected by urban stressors and resources such as neighboring housing developments (e.g. fencing, water), land use change adjacent to the Preserve (e.g. new houses, resorts), roads, and visitation.

  • Camera traps for corridor connectivity

Flora & Fauna Long Term Monitoring

Urban stressors and climate change are expected to cause significant change to our plant communities, particularly through increased visitation rates, land use change adjacent to the Preserve (e.g. new houses, resorts), roads, and air pollution (ozone, N deposition). Climate change may affect vegetation most acutely through drought, but also through changes in phenology.

  • Arthropod surveys
  • Butterfly surveys
  • Bat Monitoring
  • Bird surveys
  • Reptile and Amphibian Surveys
  • Climate change effects on plant phenology

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