I am a desert ecologist, primarily concerned with conservation of species and habitats. Desert landscapes are being altered dramatically through wildfire, invasive species, urbanization, and utility-scale solar development. I am currently researching Mojave desert tortoise connectivity in utility-scale solar development zones for my Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Reno.
I began doing desert fieldwork in 2002, with Columbia spotted frogs in the Great Basin Desert and tortoises in the Mojave, but my interest in desert ecology began a few years earlier, outside El Paso, Texas, in the Chihuahuan Desert. What I thought was a uniform sea of dull landscape became the glossy olive of creosote, the sunny green of rabbitbrush, the blue of yucca. Nothing had actually changed except my perception. I noticed the beauty of the desert around me that I had previously taken for granted. Subtle but brilliant, life in the desert is remarkably adapted for a harsh existence.
Desert species can be difficult to spot. Plants may be dormant for long periods and many animals spend more than half of their lives underground, conserving water and energy. I have surveyed for days on end, finding no reptiles, save for a few species of small ubiquitous lizard, to then unexpectedly stumble upon a well camouflaged coiled sidewinder, or a vivid greenish-grey variable groundsnake moving over granitic rock. Our deserts are full of life, far from the barren wastelands they are often thought to be, and are in need of greater conservation efforts.