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Field Trips

Field trips will take place on Friday, November 22, 2019, and the cost $20 for each participant. The overnight field trip to Mexico is $40 and will return on Saturday evening, November 23.

Thanks to our field trip sponsors–the National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute (NAFRI), University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University–for helping reduce the cost of field trips for all participants!

Altar Valley
A tour of the Altar Valley watershed southwest of Tucson will introduce you to a working landscape of Sonoran Desert grassland and Sky Island ecosystems where fire management has been active since the 1980’s. The desire to manage mesquite and woody vegetation encroachment and to return fire to this landscape were the major themes that initially united ranching neighbors together to form the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance in 1995. This mutual vision has allowed the Alliance to overcome many obstacles including Endangered Species Act compliance, fire planning, liability, and building fire management capacity. The resource benefits that come from active fire management have been demonstrated in the valley on private ranches and at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for over 30 years. On this tour you will see how Altar Valley partners are working to build a sustainable natural resource conservation program.
Cost: $20
Time: Depart 8:15 am; return 5:00 pm
Details: Includes transportation and lunch; site is not ADA accessible.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
A trip to Tucson is not complete without a visit to the internationally renowned Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, dedicated to the interpretation of the bi-national Sonoran Desert region. A self-guided tour will allow you to to explore the 97 acres of the museum which houses over 1,200 native plant species and over 230 native species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and birds. You may also chose to participate in any of a number of daily curated programs, including Raptor Free Flight, where visitors watch from the flight path as native birds of prey fly in their native desert habitat while a narrator describes their attributes, habitats, and behavior. Field trip participants will be responsible for their own lunch at one of the many dining establishments in the museum.
Cost: $20
Time: depart 9:00 am, return 3:00 pm
Details: Includes transportation and admission. Lunch is on your own at the museum. No outside food is permitted. Site is ADA accessible (please contact us to discuss transportation needs).

Biosphere 2
Tour one of the world’s unique facilities dedicated to the research and understanding of global scientific issues. The Biosphere 2 facility serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies, an arena for scientific discovery and discussion, and a far-reaching provider of public education. On this hour-long tour, you will be guided through the Rainforest, walk across the Ocean overlook, explore the Coastal Fog Desert, and travel through the underground technosphere, descending into one of the amazing “lungs” – an engineering marvel – that helped moderate air pressure in the sealed Biosphere 2 environment. You will return to the conference site before lunch, which will be on your own.
Cost: $20
Time: depart 8:30 am, return 12:30 pm
Details: includes transportation and admission. Lunch is on your own upon returning to the conference venue. Site is ADA accessible (please contact us to discuss transportation needs).

Cuenca Los Ojos, Sonora, Mexico (Overnight Trip)
(field trip is full, email us to be placed on the waitlist)

Visit the U.S.- Mexico border region to learn about current fire management challenges and how the historical differences in fire management have shaped current ecosystems in the U.S. and Mexico. This will be a two day trip. We will depart from Tucson on Friday Morning and experience the Sky Islands in Southern Arizona in the Coronado National Memorial, where managers will discuss unique challenges with managing fire along the international border. We will spend the night in Sierra Vista (on your own, see details). Early Saturday morning we will cross the Mexican Border in the town of Naco and drive into Cuenca Los Ojos, where recent prescribed burns have been conducted, but more importantly, where there was not an effective fire suppression policy during the 20th century. We will be joined by personnel from CONAFOR who are in charge of Fire Management at the National Level in Mexico. We will head back into the US early in the afternoon, and will return to Tucson on Saturday night. Lunches will be provided for both days of the field trip, but you will be asked to pay for your own dinner on Friday and Saturday and breakfast on Saturday.
Cost: $40
Time: depart 9:30 am Friday, return 8:00 pm Saturday
Details: Includes transportation and two packed lunches. Sites are not ADA accessible. Field trip participants will be responsible for additional dinners and breakfast in Sierra Vista as well as overnight accommodations in Sierra Vista for Friday November 22nd and in Tucson Saturday November 23rd (if needed). A block of rooms is reserved in Sierra Vista, AZ at the Garden Place Suites ( for a rate of $85 per night. Call directly to book a room (520-493-3300) under the block “AFE Field Trip”. Reduced rates for hotel rooms in Tucson at Loews Ventana will be available for Saturday. You must have a valid passport to attend. We encourage you to check with your employer regarding any policies on international travel.

Las Cienegas and Audubon Research Ranch Field Trip
This one-day field trip will visit Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (NCA) and the Audubon Research Ranch located within the rolling grasslands and woodlands of southern Arizona. Las Cienegas NCA, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is a lush riparian corridor that burned in 2017 Sawmill Fire. The discussions at this stop will focus on the impacts of this fire on the riparian resource as well as the monitoring work before and after the fire. The second stop of the field trip will visit Audubon Research Ranch which is surrounded by rolling grasslands and Madrean oak woodlands that burned as part of the 2006 Ryan Fire. The two sites will allow participants to contrast both short and long terms impacts of fire on southern Arizona landscapes. In addition, to the valuable information this field trip will allow visitors to enjoy the beautiful vistas of the desert seas, rolling oak woodlands and surrounding sky island mountains.
Cost: $20
Time: Depart 8:00 am, return 5:00 pm
Details: includes transportation and lunch; site is not ADA accessible.

Saguaro National Park
(field trip is full, email us to be placed on the waitlist)

Experience the Sonoran Desert up close and learn about management of fire and invasive species with Saguaro National Park leaders on this day-long hike in the Rincon Mountains, which rise abruptly from the Sonoran Desert to an elevation of 8,432 feet. Managers face unique fire management challenges in this landscape, trying to limit fire spread fueled by invasive grasses in the lower elevation desert community while maintaining an active and historically significant fire management program in the upper elevation fire-adapted forest communities. The hike is approximately 6 miles round trip on an easy-moderate difficulty trail with a lunch break at Bridal Wreath Falls. The trail winds through Sonoran Desert and desert grassland vegetation types, where managers will point out the impacts of non-native plants on the fire regime of the Sonoran Desert. Participants will also be able to see the impacts of past fires in higher elevation, fire-adapted vegetation types of the Rincon Mountains.
Cost: $20
Time: Depart 8:00 am, return 5:00 pm
Details: Includes transportation, park admission, and lunch; attendees must bring water and other essentials for a day-long hike (e.g., backpack, good walking shoes, rain jacket). Site is not ADA accessible.

Santa Catalina Mountains
The Santa Catalina Mountains represent a classic example of a southern Arizona Sky Island. Rising in elevation to over 9,000 feet, the forested summit is a vivid ecological contrast to the desert valley 7,000 feet below. The mountains of this region, also called the Madrean Archipelago, lie between the southern end of the Rocky Mountains and the northern end of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico, and share many plant and animal species with both ranges, as well as the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts to the east and west. As you drive up the Catalina Mountains through several life zones, you will see why these mountains are hotspots for biodiversity. The Catalina Mountains have also experienced many destructive fires in recent years, including the Bullock and Aspen Fires in 2002 and 2003. Collectively, these two fires burned over much of the forested area of the range and destroyed many structures in the community of Summerhaven near the base of Mount Lemmon. On this tour you will learn how the mountain ecosystems are recovering from these fires and what managers and community members are doing to restore fire-adapted forests while protecting residents from the threat of wildfire.
Cost: $20
Time: Depart 8:45 am, return 5:00 pm
Details: includes transportation and lunch; site is not ADA accessible.

University of Arizona: Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and Environment and Natural Resources 2 Building
The University of Arizona, founded in 1885, is home to historic contributions to the field of fire science and continues to play a leading role in natural resources science, management, and extension in the region. This half-day trip includes a tour of the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research, where the science of dendrochronology was invented over 80 years ago. Scientists at this lab have changed our understanding of the role of fire in ecosystems by studying the history of fires in tree rings throughout the world and continue to be leaders in the fields of dendroclimatolgy and dendroecology. The trip also includes a tour of the new LEED platinum-certified Environment and Natural Resources 2 building which is a testament to the university’s commitment to environmental sustainability and interdisciplinary research in earth sciences, environmental sciences, and natural resources. The tour will culminate with lunch in the building’s ‘slot canyon’.
Cost: $20
Time: depart 9:15 am; return 1:30 pm
Details: Includes transportation and lunch; site is ADA accessible (please contact us to discuss transportation needs).