City Slithers

If you are one of the 5 million people living in the Phoenix metropolitan area its likely you’ve encountered a scaly friend at some point. But what happens when you find one in your yard? Our recent study partnered with Rattlesnake Solutions looked at 2,300 snake removals from 2018-2019 in the Valley to think about the ways people currently interact, and can better coexist, with snakes and other wildlife as residential housing continues to expand into the surrounding desert.

You can check out a recent news article on our research at

Or access the paper at:

Building a place-based understanding of social-ecological dynamics & landscape change

The ENVISION project team in the Denali region is working with community partners and residents to develop an understanding of collective visions for the future of protected areas in Interior Alaska. Although there is a strong sense of social cohesion within individual communities, decision-making rarely engages communities across a regional scale. This research explores various community perspectives on landscape change through participatory processes, including one- on-one discussions, focus groups, surveys, and learning forums.

In particular, the Denali case study is facilitating discussions with residents to support deliberation on topics related to public land management. This case study thus aims to build knowledge of how residents can learn from and adapt with one another in response to landscape change, as well as identify the most effective pathways for rural communities to preserve the desired character of places. To do so, the following areas have been prioritized to build an inclusive conservation approach through social learning:

  1. Building Local Partnerships
  2. Understanding residents’ connections to place
  3. Modeling visions for the future
  4. Measuring multi-level value shifts in response to community deliberation

Clink this link to visit the ENVISION site and read the Fact Sheet on Social Learning in Denali!

Riparian Restoration

Our recent study led by Michelle Stuhlmacher questioned how urban riparian sites with differing design intentions link to environmental outcomes over time: including heat, vegetation, and bird biodiversity.

Site 1. The Rio Salado in Tempe was redeveloped with economic, recreational, and ecological design goals

Intentions: Recreational area that also supports economic activities and ecological functioning


  • Increased surface water from lake and stormwater drains
  • Area was found to be cooler and greener over time
  • Habitat supported more waterbird and warbler species

Site 2. The New River in Peoria experienced a developer-driven urbanization

Intentions: Built up commercial and residential land-use


  • Ephemeral (seasonal) water, drier overall
  • Less vegetation and hotter temperatures
  • Habitat supported urban-dwelling and generalist bird species

Stuhlmacher, M., Andrade, R., Turner II, B. L., Frazier, A., & Li, W. (2020). Environmental Outcomes of Urban Land System Change: Comparing Riparian Design Approaches in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. Land Use Policy99, 104615. Link to paper.

Abuzz about Bees

We looked at the likability of bees in a recent collaboration led by Kelli Larson and CAP LTER colleagues. With over 1,000 species, the Sonoran Desert is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world for bees. Human development is a major challenge for bee conservation. However, urban areas can also support bee populations with local actions such as habitat provisioning. Public attitudes are important to understand because they reflect people’s support for conservation initiatives.

Using a long-term household survey, known as PASS, we asked people living in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area (1) How much they liked bees, and (2) If bees presented a problem at their home. Although the majority of people didn’t see bees as a major problem, they were fairly neutral in liking bees, especially compared to other pollinators such as hummingbird or butterfly species. Both likability and being viewed as problematic were related to yard management activities that support bee populations, such as planting native desert vegetation or the use of pesticides. People who liked bees were more likely to add desert plants to their yard and use less chemicals.

Larson, K.L., Fleeger, M., Lerman, S.B., Wheeler, M.M., Andrade, R., Brown, J.A., Hall, S.J. and Narango, D.L., Who is abuzz about bees? Explaining residents’ attitudes in Phoenix, Arizona. Urban Ecosystems, pp.1-14. Link to paper.