Desert Ecology

This page includes links to resources to go along with my Desert Ecology Unit! Find the Desert Ecology Unit and other nature-based learning materials in my Shop!

Prior to making the Desert Unit, I visited Sonoran Desert in December 2022 with my dad. Interacting with the exhibits and natural areas in Saguaro National Park and at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum helped inspire this unit. I am grateful to the staff, rangers, and volunteers at these parks. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, it will be well worth your time!

2.) Desert Animal Research Project: suggested resources (external links)

  • I created a list of Department of Wildlife websites for each US state. These websites usually include info on native species. States with deserts include Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, California, and Utah (these states also contain other biomes, so make sure to pick a desert animal).
  • The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum website has great information about a variety of desert species.
  • The Great Basin National Park website has information on native reptiles, birds, arthropods, mammals, and amphibians.
  • The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument website has info on some common desert animals, and is especially useful for birds.
  • Desert Plants and Animals of the world – from the San Diego Zoo website
  • If you selected a bird species, The Cornell Lab’s All About Birds websites is a wonderful resource for researching your species!

3.) Additional lesson plans and free activities – for educators (external links)

4.) References (external links)

These include reference websites and books I used to fact check the information within the Desert Unit. Use the links below to enjoy the wealth of information these references have to offer!

  • The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum website is an valuable reference for desert species information
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service’s species info page on the desert tortoise
  • The Saguaro National Park website’s bird species list
  • Oregon State University Extension’s Sustainable Tourism Blog post on Turkey Vultures
  • DesertUSA’s info on desert stinkbugs aka pinacate beetles
  • Oklahoma State University Extension’s info on subterranean termites
  • The Texas Government Website’s page for the Black-tailed Jackrabbit
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument’s info on cacti and other desert plants, and desert animals
  • The US Forest Service’s Plant of the Week plant descriptions (includes entries for ocotillo and prickly pear among many other desert and non-desert plants)
  • The National Park Service’s fact sheet on Sonoran Desert plants
  • This is Tuscon’s blog post with fun facts on the Palo Verde Tree by S. Munsey
  • R.J. Ansley , J.A. Huddle and B.A. Kramp’s publication on Mesquite Ecology, accessed via the Texas Natural Resources Server of Texas A&M University
  • Notes From the Road’s in-depth guide to the cacti genera in the U.S. and Puerto Rico
  • The American South West’s webpage on Cacti of the West and Southwest USA
  •’s detailed photos of cacti, sorted by genus
  • NASA Earth Observatory’s information on the desert biome
  • Physical Geology by C.C. Plummer, D.H. Carlson, and L. Hammersley is my favorite geology textbook. They have a wonderful chapter on Deserts and Wind Action (Ch 13) with beautiful photographs, explanations, diagrams, and more!
  • U.S. Geological Survey’s webpage on types of deserts
  • National Geographic’s encyclopedic entry on deserts

5.) Related units from Wild Earth Lab

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