Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Last week I was in Tucson, Arizona as part of the Astronomy from the Ground Up initiative. This NSF-sponsored project involves the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Association of Science-Technology Centers, and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Ideum is working with all of the partners to help build an online community and create some online materials and experiences for informal educators. We spent part of the day Thursday trying out some outdoor astronomy activities at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

My time was somewhat limited, but I did get a chance to look around the museum and take some pictures. The place is certainly unique. It touts itself as a zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, and it does do a pretty good job teaching visitors about the natural wonders of this part of the world. The museum is located on 98 acres in the hills just outside of Tucson.

flowing_cactus.jpgThe desert was in bloom when we were there or perhaps just past, but regardless the demonstration gardens were absolutely beautiful.

The museum was quite crowded the day we were there. An employee told me it was the end of the busy season. It was about 90° F the day we visited, so it is easy to see why attendance in the summer might be down. According to their FAQ the highest recorded temperature at the museum was 117° F.

The museum recommends about 2 to 3 hours to look around, unfortunately I was only able to spend about half that amount of time exploring. I walked through some of various demonstration gardens. In the mountain woodlands area, they have a mountain lion “exhibit.” While, I must admit I have mixed emotions when I see large animals in captivity, it was still quite fascinating to be able to see this amazing cat so close.


In the desert grasslands area I got to check out some Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, very cool.


The museum is full of suprises they have a mineral gallery, a collection of reptiles and invertebrates, an impressive hummingbird aviary, and much more. All in all it was a nice mix of live animals, beautiful demonstration gardens, and other types of exhibits. It was a great, brief introduction to the Sonoran Desert.

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