What lives in the desert?
Get to know the small wonders that inhabit the Park’s grand landscape!
We will explore a variety of habitats in and near the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park looking for small animals living in these semi-arid environments. Using traps, nets and just poking around, we will look for insects and other arthropods, small mammals, birds and lizards.
Plants and animals are adapted to particular conditions that in combination comprise what we call habitats; different species are better suited to some habitats than others, and thus we find different species distributed across the landscape according to the suite of conditions to which they are adapted. We will discuss some of the environmental conditions/parameters/characters that are significant in arid and semi-arid environments in determining whether a particular place is suitable for a particular species.
Small animals are often able to be active under conditions that on a larger scale seem too hot or too cold. They can exploit microhabitats with more benign conditions, such as under rocks and other shady areas that may be cooler, and then can bask in the sun on a cool sunny fall day, raising temperatures enough for organisms to be active for a few hours.
Habitats we’ll visit:
- sand dunes
- springs and intermittent streams
- rocky ledges
- piñon-juniper woodlands
- desert shrublands
Activities during the day:
- nets in aquatic habitats
- aerial nets for terrestrial arthropods
- rolling rocks and turning logs
- peeking at plants
Dr. Tim Graham is a desert ecologist who earned a B.S. in Marine Ecology and a Ph.D. in Desert Ecology. He has been studying the uncharismatic microfauna of the Colorado Plateau – terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles – for over 30 years. Tim retired from the USGS in 2009 but has not retired from life. We are pleased to have him conduct this seminar in during the month of Canyonlands National Park’s 50th anniversary.