Climate change is making it harder to revive damaged land

Carianne Campbell remembers the exact moment she fell in love with the Sonoran Desert. As a botany major in college, she joined a class field trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the southern border of Arizona, arriving and setting up camp in the dark. Emerging from her tent the next morning, Campbell, who grew up on the East Coast, caught her first glimpse of enormous saguaros, clustered organ pipes and bright desert wildflowers. She knew immediately that she wanted to work in this kind of landscape.

Sharing some heartbreaking news about a Sky Island jaguar

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog post today to share some heartbreaking news. Yo’oko, the majestic jaguar seen roaming the Huachuca Mountains in recent years, has been killed.

This is a profound loss for our Arizona Sky Islands and for endangered northern jaguars that are attempting to make a recovery on both sides of the border.

Yo’oko, the Yaqui word for jaguar, was the name chosen for this jaguar by Hiaki High School students. Photo credit: Arizona Game and Fish Dept

The loss of Yo’oko underscores the pressure of poaching on jaguars and the need for us to provide them with thriving habitat and safe pathways in the Sky Islands. Sky Island Alliance is working to protect the Path of the Jaguar by working to engage local communities in Sonora to monitor wildlife and increase predator tolerance, to keep crossborder pathways free of border infrastructure and open for wildlife, and to protect the connected open space in the U.S. Sky Islands that jaguars need to recover and thrive.

But we need to do more. We need to reach more individual landowners, better engage communities, and redouble efforts to build conservation solutions that secure safe space for jaguars to roam.

You can join us in protecting the Path of the Jaguar today.

Help Sky Island Alliance increase community engagement, expand on-the-ground monitoring of wildlife corridors by local residents, and raise the profile of the Path of the Jaguar.

Make a gift today!

Invite a friend to join our email list.

Volunteer with us.

You can read more about Yo’oko’s tragic death and other organizations working to protect jaguars in the Arizona Daily Star.

Binational gathering helps shape the future of the Sky Island border region

Einstein famously said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” And I would add, nor with the same voices.

For one week in May, hundreds of scientists, land managers, students, and conservationists gathered at the Biodiversity and Management of the Madrean Archipelago Conference in Tucson. The conference featured a diversity of voices, values, and perspectives that support biodiversity, conservation, and human well-being in the binational Madrean Sky Islands. And we were thrilled to bring dozens of students from the U.S. and Mexico to the conference to engage and empower them to share their ideas and work. We must work together across differing levels of experience and bring together people with different ways of thinking to tackle the wicked conservation challenges we face.

The week of the Madrean Conference was dynamic and inspiring. The group of people who came together there have the expertise, commitment, and creativity to shape the future of our Sky Islands and continue to build community with a strong sense of place.

We spent the final day of the conference discussing the future of the Sky Islands and how, with some resourcefulness and working together, we can shape it. One resounding message was the importance of engaging local citizens of the Sky Islands in loving and understanding this place. We must also continue to build connectivity between communities and Sky Islands in the face of so much divisive policy. We’re in it together and we’re in it with all of the critters, plants, and streams of this beautiful region.

We cultivated some great new ideas on how Sky Island Alliance can play an even stronger role in shaping the future of the region by:

  • Telling the stories of the Sky Islands through a diversity of media and with non-traditional messengers to foster a sense of place in communities throughout the region
  • Creating opportunities for local communities “to meet and celebrate their Sky Islands” through local events focused on common values, food, and culture
  • Fighting to keep pathways open for wildlife to seek food and water and move freely across the U.S.–Mexico border and study the effect of development on their movement
  • Connecting people to water and springs through storytelling, special campaigns, and new messengers, we must find ways to reach new audiences and help them become captivated by springs
  • Working with students and citizen scientists to discover new things about our Sky Island springs and wildlife
  • Developing a more comprehensive internship program to bring students from Sonora to work with Sky Island Alliance and other groups to launch their conservation careers

The Madrean pine-oak woodlands and specifically the Madrean Sky Islands was named one of the “best places in the biosphere” by preeminent biologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson in his recent book Half Earth (2016).

But we didn’t need E.O. Wilson to tell us how special the Sky Islands are. For nearly 30 years, the dedicated founders, staff members, volunteers, and donors of Sky Island Alliance have been celebrating the importance of this amazing place in the biosphere—and doing a lot to protect it!

The Madrean Conference was first convened in 1994 in an effort to put the Sky Islands on the map of research and conservation by defining the Sky Island region, starting critical conversations about its special features, and initiating efforts to collaborate across disciplines and borders.

Photo credit: Leslie Ann Epperson

Sky Island Alliance and our myriad supporters and volunteers have embodied this ethic, studying the diverse plants and animals found here, engaging local citizens in bringing ecosystems back to health and advocacy, and being a voice for the ecosystems, water, and wildlife that cannot speak for themselves.

With this fourth Madrean Conference, we’ve come together with years more experience and perspective, and we now know what’s at stake. Sections of the border wall are being built across wildlife corridors and rivers. Temperatures are reaching extreme highs, like they did this winter and spring in southern Arizona. And persistent drought is causing our once-reliable springs and streams to shrink or dry.

Yet there remains much more to learn and understand about the region. From soil-mite diversity in pine-oak woodlands to the flora of vascular plants in the Santa Rita Mountains. From the status of monarch butterflies in Sonora to the potential for re-establishing jaguar populations in the U.S. And from changes in plant communities under climate stress to the best practices for crossborder conservation in parks and protected areas.

Executive Director Louise Misztal with Mexico’s Deputy Consul Enrique Gomez Montiel

We also know what’s at stake when we cannot work together across boundaries. We are in complex and challenging times for crossborder collaboration. Yet we must work together to keep wildlife thriving and water flowing across borders. Face-to-face meetings like the Madrean Conference are critical to continue to conserve and restore our crossborder aquifers, rivers, ecosystems, and wildlife, and to foster a thriving community of residents working to understand and protect the Sky Islands.

Sky Island Alliance was honored to be able to bring this dynamic, thoughtful group together, and we look forward to building on the momentum coming out of the conference to manifest a more hopeful future for our Sky Islands.

You can read the running blog from the first four days of the Madrean Conference here.

Volunteer Dispatch: Sourcing Devotion: The art of nature, a sublime Sky Island natural spring, pt. 5

by Valarie lee James, Sky Island Alliance Adopt-a-Spring volunteer

Sky Island Alliance Volunteer Log
Springtime 2018 Visit to the Spring

“Nature is the Art of God.” – Dante

Had we missed the last spring wildflowers this year? Super blooms in the desert grasslands: Southern Arizona’s dazzling Art of Nature: wide swatches of color and scent, the sensuality of life unbridled. An out-of-state presentation on Devotional Art from the Border had kept me from our original devotional art here at home in the Sky Islands, the verdant mountainous border of Arizona and Mexico.

A couple of weeks earlier, driving to the border town of Ajo, a full palette of wildflowers ribboned through the Tohono O’odham reservation. Buttery desert marigolds and Mexican gold poppies, stalks of magenta penstemon and cobalt blue lupine… a fiesta of wild beauty unifying the binational landscape of cactus and creosote.

As spring turns to summer in the desert, we—my partner Steph and I—volunteers with the Sky Island Alliance Adopt-a-Spring Program, are checking the health of our hidden natural spring’s water quality and flow, changes in flora and fauna, tracks and scat.

Hiking to the spring, chunks of calcite and quartz at our feet glittering like stars in daytime, we crested a hill and I saw them, the wildflowers, albeit smaller in stature and not as showy. Tiny bluets and white zinnias and a fade of pink fairy dusters embroidered the full apron of land surrounding the spring.

Ocotillo burst into the desert sky like fireworks.


Up high, ocotillo flowers hijacked our eyes. A forest of the awkwardly elegant shrubs overwhelmed us with their size and numbers. The complex composition of many together instead of one prompts a different way of thinking about plant life. Instead of individual “loners” in competition for nutrients, new scientific evidence reveals that plants and trees cooperate instead, forming communal alliances and even communicating through a collective intelligence we are just beginning to understand.

Breathtakingly alien in appearance, like slow-moving stick bugs, the up to 20 ft. ocotillos loomed over us with command and presence. In the breeze, their cane-like stems tipped every which way, like the cutting-edge choreography we witnessed at the UA dance theatre the night before.

Ocotillos are so outrageous in appearance, many never forget the moment they first saw one. I remember being rooted to the spot and asking a traveling companion “What is THAT?” I had never seen anything like it in my life.

“Supreme sculpture of the desert environment…” Steph mused, leaning against her walking stick.

“It’s like the first time you see a Giacometti sculpted figure… the linear nature of them… but ocotillos are orders of magnitude more magnificent than anything created by humans,” she added.

Indigenous people of the Sonoran Desert—the Papago, the Hohokam, the Tohono O’odham, and others, turned ocotillo’s unique branches into artful architecture, arching shelters, and living fences. In the studio, art colleagues and I have dipped Ocotillo’s dried branches into paint and wax and then woven them through fiber pieces. Ocotillo’s long sharp thorns will draw blood unless approached with serious respect.

I wanted to know more about this dramatic shrub I thought I knew. As much as I appreciate the INaturalist app—a digital whizz of Bio-identification—one of the things I love best about our relationship with Sky Island’s flora and fauna happens later at home when we do the research… poring over old books, unearthing the word roots of what we saw and experienced, discovering the integral part the natural world plays in art and culture, biology and the history, and the mysterious mythologies surrounding what we see in the field.

The thrill of discovery, the art of it all, enriches my understanding, so much so that when I think about it, I can taste the clarifying air of knowledge in my mouth, tangy like Ocotillo nectar… a favorite for hummingbirds and our indigenous ancestors.

I learned that ocotillo is also known by the names coachwhip and slimwood, and my favorite moniker because there’s a story in it, Jacob’s sword. Jewish Sages say Jacob’s sword & bow refer to prayers and supplications before God. Looking up to see the ocotillo’s carmine trumpet flowers beseeching the sky, I can see that too. As we left, a breeze picked up and the legion of Jacob’s Swords seemed to wave us goodbye.

The Gray Hawk

Gray hawks favor riparian cottonwoods and adjacent mesquite bosques.

Descending the hill, Steph looks up and stops. Binoculars to her eyes, she sights the finding of the day: a gray hawk (Buteo plagiatus), perched in the highest canopy of the spring’s giant sycamores.

We passed the binoculars back and forth in slow motion, barely breathing, hoping what we were seeing was for real and praying we could keep the bird in sight as we made our way down to the spring.

The gray hawk, according to the Cornell Ornithology Lab is a tropical species that barely crosses the border into Arizona and Texas. The raptor follows a narrow riparian corridor; cottonwood and mesquite forests along a few streams.

The hawk’s pale form seemed to appear and disappear, camouflaged by the glaring mid-day sun. Its peacock-like call pierced the air and a moment or two later, pierced it again.  Did the gray hawk have a partner or was it alone? Apparently, there are fewer than 50 nesting pairs in the U.S. After breeding, the gray hawk, also known as a Mexican goshawk, migrates back to Mexico. Long considered a threatened species, human development, and associated groundwater depletion make increasingly fragile its world. Was there a nest in one of the spring’s big cottonwoods?

Male and female gray hawks build their nest together. The male builds the foundation out of living twigs and the female artfully shapes the nest, an awesome collaboration.

The Spring

As we duck under the canopy of trees over the spring, we stop to take it all in. The area is the greenest we’ve ever seen it: spring green, shades of shy mint color and virgin lime expand into fields of emerald.

The ambient temperature under the tree canopy is in the 60’s. Bird calls fill the air. The last time we were here it was winter. The great cottonwoods and sycamores were lace-like, stripped of leaves and there were no bird calls, only silence.

Our first steps into the spring’s environs leave footprints on the saturated ground. The distinctive smell of rich loamy soil hangs in the air. I take in big drafts of air through my nose and down into my lungs, a respite from dusty wind on the hillsides. My skin feels instantly smooth to the touch, soothed by the moist languid air.

At the mouth of the seep where we measure water quality and flow we see a familiar phenomenon – bees clustering at a dry tiny recess, the very inception of the spring. Pools of spring water lie within their reach and yet for some reason the bees prefer the promise of water, fresh water that they somehow smell or sense under the surface of rock and soil. It’s as if they know where the good stuff is, and they’re going for gold.

The cluster buzz, the sound of bees signaling virgin water mimics—or is it the other way around—the constant chant of monks: a vibratory hum, the sound of the earth itself. Lining both sides of the spring: a huge family of fountain grass. Grassy heads, some three feet tall, crowd together like a backup choir to the cluster buzz.

I spot an odd shape on the ground, a squarish chunk of dark honeycomb, waxy to the touch. The hexagon “tiling” of the comb, individual housing for bees or ants are a model of divine symmetry and proportion in the wild. Pattern and repetition, the formal balance of the honeycomb’s natural design, generate a feeling of order and wholeness deep within the body.

Delicate wildflowers dot the landscape, small signs of life.

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better,” Albert Einstein said simply.

It’s written that we are born with an innate sense of design because of our connection to the natural order. I would take that a step further. Harmony—the belonging of one thing to another and a foundational principle of design—begets unity. Like tadpoles, we instinctively swim toward an inner harmony but unity, the sum of all parts, the “All Shall be Well” of mystic Julian Norwich’s time, only occurs if we care for harmony in nature together.

While Steph monitors the health of the upper spring, I follow a large black swallowtail butterfly down to the bottom pool. The butterfly is soon joined by another and they circle endlessly together over my head.

Hunkering down in the bushes at the water’s edge, I sit and wait, hoping to get a photograph. Many minutes pass but the butterflies refuse to alight anywhere. They’re busy. It’s spring. They may never stop. I finally set my camera down content to sit and listen to the birds in the canopy. Some of the calls I can readily identify: The white-winged doves—Who cooks for you?—and cactus wrens and Gila woodpeckers at opposite ends of the spring. Other species, northern cardinals, Scott’s orioles, and finches we track later through binoculars.


At the water’s edge, time feels long and languorous. My breath slows, and my eyelids grow heavy. Suddenly: a rush of feathers in my face, in my ears. A magnificent hummingbird—nearly twice the size of other hummingbirds—lands on a seep willow branch an arm’s length away. And then another. It is the closest I have ever been to hummingbirds in the wild. They somehow do not see me or if they do see me, they do not care. And they do not linger long. Spring: the first hunger of life, the whole world in movement. Dragonflies, damselflies, and diminutive butterflies everywhere on the wing. All are paired.

Dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies flit through the moist air around the spring.

Wildflowers here are few but striking. I see mostly single-stalked wildflowers, large and leggy. The blooms we saw earlier in the year made way for sturdy almost athletic specimens. At the spring, mysterious variants are the order of the day.

A blue-green patina of algae and wisps of pollen on the surface of the pools draw my gaze. My eyes read the small details, the minute life forms. I sit and breathe in the spaciousness between bird calls high in the canopy, and I listen to the invitation that is already there.

I am so grateful for extended observation like this in Nature, the opportunity to deepen the practice of sacred seeing (Visio Divina), devotion to the source while at the same time volunteering for Sky Island Alliance. I want everyone especially children to have the same opportunities. I want them to know what it is to love the natural world and feel loved back.

When it’s time to go I shuffle my feet. I don’t want to leave. I am as devoted to the Sky Islands of Southeastern Arizona and Mexico as I am devoted to my faith. They are one and the same.

Read the first installment of Val’s Volunteer Log from summer 2017.

Read the second installment of Val’s Volunteer Log from monsoon season 2017.

Read the third installment of Val’s Volunteer Log from fall 2017.

Read the fourth installment of Val’s Volunteer Log from winter 2018.

All photographs by Stephanie Stayton & Valarie Lee James

Note to the Reader: the whereabouts of this wilderness spring is not revealed to ensure the survival of its unique ecosystem.

Your #MadCon2018 Daily Digest is here!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Day 4 – Big thinking and grand visions

Inspired by field trips on Wednesday and pumped full of ideas from three days of engaging sessions, Thursday at MadCon was all about BIG thinking.

Photo credit: Leslie Ann Epperson

The day kicked off with author Mary Ellen Hannibal sharing her take on the big power of citizen science. She expounded on the importance of all of us recognizing our “citizenship” of earth and contributing to understanding the stories of the world around us through careful observation. Citizen science drives so much of the work we do here, so her thoughts were an invigorating way for us to start the day. We carried the morning’s inspiration into a full-day session exploring current applications of citizen science, moderated by our very own Madeline Ryder, who said:

One talk in particular will stick with me, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the style of presentation. Brian Powell, with Pima County, works with a lot of data, spreadsheets and P values. Recently though, several of his projects have merged art with science in an effort to create more public engagement and awareness. The talk itself was artistic, with sweeping scenes of the Sky Island region and poetic notes from Brian about how much it all means to him, and to all of us.

Another full-day session on large-landscape conservation included success stories at Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge and important climate and ecological scenarios to consider for the future in the Madrean Archipelago. The shared vision and success discovered among the participants will guide collaboration through the coming years to protect Sky Island landscapes.

Louise Misztal’s surprising highlight of the day was hearing about the diversity of soil mites in a pine-oak woodland in Sonora. She said:

I was so intrigued by the study of soil mites, I couldn’t help but ask presenter Sofia Gozales Salazarhow how she became interested in mites, and it was quite a story of a long fascination and love evidenced by her tattoo of a mite! She’s discovering amazing critters we never previously knew existed in Sonora.

Nearing the end of a long, thought-provoking week at MadCon. Thursday night brought a much needed social mixer to get Emerging Leaders prepared for the Friday morning Emerging Leader panel. Everyone had a chance to relax a little bit and get to know our fellow conference-goers better. Madeline said, “I couldn’t think of a better way to end our last full day with each other before getting to our final Friday discussion on the future of the Sky Islands.” Louise wants to thank Borderlands Brewing Company for providing a venue to “form big ideas over good beer!”

Throughout the week, Carianne Campbell, Sky Island Alliance Restoration Director—and conference planner extraordinaire!—has been gathering photos of people who have created highlights for her conference experience. Below are just a few of those!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Day 3 – Herp, Herp, Hooray!

MadCon Wednesday was a dedicated to all things scaly, slimy, and slithery! While lots of MadCon attendees were out and about, exploring science on the ground in the Madrean Sky Islands (look for  field trip photos on Facebook soon!), dozens more were at the conference hall exploring all things herpetological at a full day program provided by the Tucson Herpetological Society.

The herpetology special session kicked off with a presentation honoring Dr. Phil Rosen for his outstanding contributions to herpetological studies and fieldwork in the region!

Bryon Lichtenhan, Sky Island Alliance’s Field Coordinator soaked up “tons of cool info about our regional herpetofauna!” At the morning’s Whither Underground: Toward a holistic understanding of snakes session, Bryon was fascinated to discover that Arizona black rattlesnakes turn out to be much more social than previously imagined, forming life long bonds within complex and sometimes quite extensive communities. Their interactions include communal birthing and the protection of newly born snakes by females that are not the mothers, but are themselves pregnant. Free childcare! These snakes have it figured out.

Before heading off to co-moderate a panel on Tracking and Prioritizing Invasive Species Management, our Community Engagement & Field Coordinator Madeline Ryder was also struck by the presentation at the Whither Underground session. The talk brought to mind last summer, which she spent working in Sabino and Bear Canyons, where she saw numerous black-necked garter snakes, rattlesnakes, whiptails, and king snakes—almost all for the first time. She said:

The most memorable point was this: As scientists, we’re hesitant to attribute positive “human” characteristics of love and affection to non-human animals, but quicker to attribute negative characteristics like fear and aggression. For endangered snakes (and animals of all kind, really), perhaps there’s less to lose from a bit of anthropomorphism than there is to gain from seeing some unexpected affection.

That’s Marci on the right, pictured with some of the other Doris Duke Scholars at MadCon!

Marci Caballero-Reynolds, attended the Tool Cafe focused on Climate Landscape Response (CLaRe) metrics to learn how this tool aids in mapping the location and documenting the phenometrics of buffelgrass through remote sensing. Marci said, “Having just completed a remote sensing class focused on land use and land cover change last semester at UA, and as an undergraduate who would like to continue on this geospatial analysis journey, CLaRe metrics could be a tool I will use when looking at phenological changes in other greening plants.” So inspiring to see the things we learn in the classroom used in real-life applications!

From the recent (re)discovery of of a previously unknown species of agave that seems very likely to be the original species farmed by many Hohokam communities to revelations of a 20-year Pima Country Regional Flood Control District ecosystem restoration project to address local environmental needs for wildlife and the public, the poster session and evening social that wrapped up MadCon Day 3 was a hit.

Madeline had a surprising and unique experience during the poster session:

After a day full of conversations on reptiles and invasive species management, I was tired. But not too tired to hop on an awesome bicycle powered seed pelletizer! This prototype was part of the evening poster session at the Madrean Conference, where our emerging leaders and established professionals shared their findings on some of the most important knowledge needs for the Sky Island region.

Check out the short video (shot by Marci) on Facebook!

Remember, stay tuned to Facebook for a follow-up photo album from the amazing field trips—and as always you can track all the #MadCon2018 happenings on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Day 2 – A truly binational event

MadCon Tuesday was jam-packed with experiences, connections, and fresh insights. From the opening remarks by the Mexican Deputy Consul to the artist’s reception in the evening, crossborder collaboration and innovative solutions were the themes! Obviously these themes pervade every session at the conference, but they were on display in full glory on this day.

Deputy Consul Enrique Gomez Montiel set the tone for the day in his remarks, noting that this meeting is so important because we are working bilaterally to conserve this gem of nature shared between the U.S. and Mexico.

Panelists from both sides of the border, including our own Mirna Manteca, discussed the challenges they have faced and the successes they have experienced in crossborder work. There were also plentiful inspiring words on how we can succeed in this work in the coming years.

Photo credit: Leslie Ann Epperson

The full-day session Migrant Jaguars go Both Ways did not disappoint! Louise Misztal was thrilled to learn more about the beautiful lands of the Northern Jaguar Preserve, the current status of the northern population of jaguars based on remote camera detection, and updates on efforts to conserve them. And, Louise says, “We were regaled with a new video from NJP of jaguars breeding!” The sculpture of the Spirit of Macho B watched over the day’s proceedings, and amazing wildlife camera photos were plentiful.

The panelists highlighted the crucial role of working directly with landowners and ranchers, the potential benefits of reducing hunting of natural prey species to ensure adequate numbers for jaguar to eat, and the importance of continued preservation of excellent habitat for jaguars to recolonize in the U.S., if they can safely make their way here.

As always, there is so much more than we can highlight in one blog post, including sessions on grassland habitats, invertebrates, climate, mesquite and riparian health, and more.

The day wrapped up with two staff favorites, courtesy of photographer and filmmaker Krista Schlyer. Krista’s talk, Continental Divide, Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall, “brought the emotion of biodiversity and cultural loss that old and new border infrastructure has caused home to us in a heart-wrenching photo tour and commentary on border impacts,” said our Conservation Science Director Scott Wilbor. Krista also shared some excellent advice in these times of constant grief, by suggesting to emerging leaders that you must “find what you love, love it, and then work like mad using your voice to protect it.”

By evening, Twitter was abuzz with photos and praise for the Continental Divide Artist’s Reception at the Mexican Consulate in Tucson (and the tequila). Emma Fajardo, Sky Island Alliance’s Bilingual Conservation Coordinator, said the event was a great way to wrap up an inspiring day, and a highlight for her was having the Counsel staff join us for the reception!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Day 1 – Was that a puppet that just walked by?

The Madrean Conference kicked off on Monday, and what a day it was! Louise Misztal, Executive Director here at Sky Island Alliance, set a tone of collaboration, forward thinking, and inclusiveness with her opening remarks. Then the hundreds of participants launched into sessions on wildlife monitoring, pathway connectivity, native seed collection, climate change and pollinators, and more.

Sami Hammer, leader of our efforts to survey wilderness springs and Adopt-a-Spring program, spent her day immersed in sessions on water for natural areas, as is fitting. Some highlights from her day included Valer Clark of Cuenca los Ojos sharing strategies for how rock structures in dry washes can restore perennial flow to streams that haven’t flowed in 100 years; Lara Cornejo from the University of Sonora on how drones help us explore floodplains (but you have to watch out for birds of prey while flying them!); and Jeff Biggs from Tucson Water sharing exciting plans to use recycled water to bring back flow in the Santa Cruz River through the heart of Tucson. He says the water should be high enough quality to swim in, and we could even create a riverwalk to enjoy it more and attract tourism!

Photo credit: Leslie Ann Epperson

Another attendee favorite from the day was a session for emerging leaders in conservation, hosted by Southwest Decision Resources. These young scientists, community leaders, and activists are our best hope for the future. It is so inspiring to hear them share their stories and to arm them with the skills they will need to secure a future for the Sky Islands wildlife and wild lands we all love. Members from student groups Sky Island Alliance has helped establish, who are working to protect pollinators, monitor wildlife in the Borderlands, and study Sonoran springs, were among the participants in this session.

The day wrapped up with a puppet show that is used by Naturalia AC to share strategies for jaguar conservation in rural schools in Sonora! Here’s how Mirna Manteca, our Mexico Conservation Manager, described it:

Cerrando con broche de oro. Or closing with a golden brooch, as they say in Sonora. The first day at Mad Con was a success, and we wrapped up the afternoon with El Rey Jaguaripa, an environmental education puppet show from L’ormiga Títeres, and 20 elementary school students from the Paulo Freire Freedom School.

There was so much more we’d love to highlight here—too much to capture in one blog post—but it’s off to another day of exploring ideas, expanding knowledge, and exploding preconceived ideas of what is possible! We are all so grateful for each and every attendee sharing their experience and enthusiasm.

Don’t forget to follow the #MadCon2018 tweet storm on Twitter!

May 10, 2018

The anticipation builds…

Madrean Conference 2018 gets underway in just a few days, and the anticipation around the office is building! Okay, maybe there’s a little panic too, but mostly it’s anticipation.

Hundreds of scientists, land managers, students, and conservationists will gather from May 14 – 18 for the Biodiversity and Management of the Madrean Archipelago Conference. The 2018 theme for this premier regional event is “Collaboration Now for the Future.”

We’ll be sharing a Daily Digest of highlights from the conference in this space, so stay tuned! If you want even more from the conference, make sure you follow us on Twitter and Instagram, where we’ll post real-time reflections and highlights. Look for #MadCon2018!

There’s still time for you to be there! The registration deadline is TOMORROW, Friday, May 11th! La fecha límite para inscribirse es MANANA – viernes, el 11 de mayo!




Media are invited to attend select sessions at the conference; and conference participants, Sky Island Alliance staff, and keynote presenters will be available for media interviews during the week.

Media contact:
Louise Misztal, 520-461-7664,
Carianne Campbell, 520-624-7080 x14,

Download the Press Release from 5-14-18

Download the Media Advisory

Colaboración binacional entre parques hermanos

Un buen ejemplo de cómo los habitantes de ambos lados de la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos nos oponemos a la fría separación de las naciones, es jugar al “Wallyball,” un deporte muy similar al voleyball que usa el muro fronterizo en lugar de la red.

CALL TO ACTION: Speak out to protect our Outstanding Arizona Waters!

Davidson Canyon, one of our most vital Sky Island pathways for wildlife, and Cienega Creek, a riparian oasis, are designated as Outstanding Arizona Waters. This designation protects unique habitats and perennial flow and safeguards our drinking water in Tucson!

Davidson Canyon, flowing with monsoon floodwaters to replenish Cienega Creek.

At the behest of Hudbay Minerals, a Canadian company seeking to build Rosemont Copper Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, the state is reviewing its Outstanding Arizona Water designations. It is critical that we all speak up to tell the Arizona Deparment of Environmental Quality how we value unique waterways like Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek and that we want them protected for future generations.

Speak up to protect clean water in Arizona and special places like Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek. Ask ADEQ to keep all existing Outstanding Waters of Arizona designations.
Show your support on Thursday, May 10, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., at the Triennial Review meeting on Outstanding Arizona Waters in Tucson. Attend in person at the ADEQ offices, 400 W Congress, Tucson, or you may attend via webinar or conference call.

RSVP by sending your name, organization, and the meeting date you will be attending to Those who RSVP will be sent an agenda, webinar access details, and background materials. Additional information and resources are available for download on the ADEQ website.