Reptiles and rainforests in the November speakers series

Dr. Daniel J. Leavitt

Dr. Daniel J. Leavitt

While the November presentations in the SALT Speakers Series cosponsored by the Superstition Area Land Trust and the Apache Junction Parks and Recreation Department are very different, they both fit nicely into this year’s theme of “The Superstitions: Part of the Whole.”

The talks will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Room No. B-117 of the Apache Junction Multi-generational Center, 1035 N. Idaho Road. They are free and geared to a general audience.

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Dr. Daniel J. Leavitt, herpetologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, will discuss “Reptiles and Amphibians of the Superstition Area.” Dr. Leavitt manages more than 20 projects on reptiles and amphibians statewide, including nearby.

Desert habitats in southern Arizona are increasingly impacted by development near urban areas. Understanding how reptiles respond is critical to efforts designed to conserve intact ecosystems. In one study, an impacted site near the northern edge of the Phoenix metro area had lower richness and evenness of snake species compared to one at the desert/rural interface near Florence. Notably, two species accounted for 75 percent of the snakes encountered near Phoenix, perhaps due to shifts in prey availability. Research has shown a great diversity of reptiles and amphibians near the Superstitions, and Dr. Leavitt will discuss how land owners can further their conservation.

On Nov. 30 (fifth Wednesday due to Thanksgiving), Dr. David Pearson from the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University will present “Have You Touched a Rainforest Today?” While the topic may seem far afield, in truth, it is not. Even here in the Arizona desert, we are economically dependent on rainforest resources, and their sustainability requires development of long-term conservation efforts not only for our backyards but also globally.

Dr. Pearson’s research is focused on the interaction of ecology, conservation, ecotourism and education in promoting sustainable use of biodiversity. His work has included organisms from crabs and tiger beetles to Paramecium and birds, and habitat types from coral atolls to desert grasslands. He also works on international exchanges at all levels of environmental education that promote critical thinking and appreciation of cultural diversity.

The topic for Dec. 14 will be released soon to SALT’s website, There will be no talk on Dec. 28.

SALT is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to conserve the natural Sonoran Desert open spaces surrounding the Superstition Wilderness Area for this and future generations.

Editor’s note: Charlie and Becky Goff are SALT Education Committee co-chairs.

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