The Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute opens its gates to the public on the fourth Saturday of every month (excluding December). This past Saturday I had the chance to participate in the April event, as a guest and helper.
SASI is located in Tucson Mountain Park, a scenic enclave located, ironically, west of the city of Tucson. It shares the park with Old Tucson Studios and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, all of which are, sadly, inaccessible by public transportation. An “unimproved” dirt road leads to the headquarters. The facilities include a classroom, library, laboratory, and both live and pinned specimens.The all-day activities of Community Day begin with a morning nature walk on some of SASI’s 350 acres. Our walk turned up a few insects along with some wildflowers and blooming cacti. A cactus bee of the genus Diadasia, and a tiny bee fly in the genus Neacreotrichus were among the nice finds.
At 11:00 AM we were treated to an indoor presentation. Jim Verrier is the Director of the nursery for Desert Survivors, a non-profit that helps employ the disabled while furnishing mostly native plants for landscaping. Jim talked about host plants for butterflies and moths in the Tucson area.
We all broke for lunch at noon, treated to fresh tacos, beans, and garnishes prepared by a friend of SASI.
The afternoon brought more people in, with lots of children in tow. The live arthropod presentations in the classroom are always a big hit, and this day was no exception. John Rhodes had his menagerie back on exhibit, allowing the kids to handle the more “user-friendly” species.
The last program was another hands-on activity, where the boys and girls created their own mini eco-sphere, complete with Daphnia or ostracods, paired with algae suspended in water. The children got to take home their tiny aquatic world when they left. I do wonder how many got home and told the other parent “Look, I’ve got algae and an ostrich!”
John showed an incredible degree of patience with the kids, but it seemed like a long day from my perspective. Still, I’m looking forward to the next Community Day, on May 20, 2010.