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The naturally unique and beautiful side to Tucson

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Galaxy M 33, otherwise known as the Triangulum Galaxy. (Copyright Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona)

With its rugged desert landscapes and plethora of wildlife, the natural environment surrounding Tucson is undoubtedly remarkable. Stepping back from the familiarity of Old Main and University Boulevard reveals what Tucson has to offer and how community members and students can experience its nature for themselves. 

Kat Rumbley is the media manager at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. She provides a unique perspective on Tucson’s natural beauty as someone who works to educate others and preserve the land. The Desert Museum is a historical and environmental landmark filled with hiking trails, wildlife, exhibits and access to 21 acres of desert landscape.  

Rumbley spoke about her favorite spots around Tucson and within the Desert Museum. 

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“My favorite spot at the Desert Museum is always changing. Since I don’t do favorites, I’ll give you two of my favorite spots," Rumbley said via email. "I really love hanging out in our Hummingbird Aviary, there is something truly magical about being surrounded by these beautiful winged wonders and it’s such a peaceful place.” 

Rumbley also expressed love for the hiking trail at the Desert Museum. 

“My second favorite place is the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail," Rumbley said. "You are immediately immersed into Sonoran Desert Beauty and are able to visit with our coyotes, lizards, and javelinas. It’s a great way to soak up the sun and enjoy crazy beautiful views.”

Rumbley also touched on the beauty of Tucson’s wildlife and what she feels the best aspect of living and working in this environment is. 

“We live in such a diverse ecosystem. I think everything is beautiful in Tucson. I love the different species of cacti, animals, and other flora,” Rumbley said.

Another member of the Tucson community who works within the realm of nature is Alan Strauss. Strauss is the director at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter and his work focuses on the distinct night skies and astronomical rarities exclusive to Tucson. 

The Mount Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory's main focus is education and community outreach. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about and view the sky alongside astronomers, and the center offers a number of education programs and experiences. 

Strauss spoke about his favorite aspects of the SkyCenter and what he feels sets Tucson apart from other desert cities. 

“We are at the summit of Mount Lemmon, so we have the best view of the night sky that you are going to get in Tucson,” Strauss said. “The SkyCenter is a little over 9,100 feet, so we are a mile and half higher than Tucson which gives us much less atmosphere to look through.”

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“Atmosphere affects starlight, but when you come up here that is all gone,” Strauss said. “You can come up here and see the Milky Way and for somewhere just an hour away from campus, that is remarkable.”

Similar to Strauss and Rumbley is Benjamin Wilder. Wilder is the director at the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill. The Desert Laboratory is a research center focused on studying and understanding the desert environment and serves as a center for both ecology and culture. In addition to exploring the research done at the Desert Laboratory, visitors can walk the Tumamoc Hill road. There, they can immerse themselves in the natural environment through a variety of audio, photo and video content located on the Desert Laboratory's website. 

When speaking about Tucson’s scenery, Wilder expressed his love for the natural landscape.

“My favorite time of day here is sunset. The unbelievable dramatic light that just erupts in color off the Catalina Mountains is astounding,” Wilder said. 

“I also think one of the elements that is really fun about living here is how close we are to so many different environments,” Wilder said. “You can drive up to the top of Mount Lemmon or go into the Sonoita area. I think it is all just endlessly exciting.”

Wilder also expanded on ways students can involve themselves with the environment.

“There is Tumamoc Hill, Sabino Canyon, parts of Tucson Mountain. There are so many trails and great hiking clubs part of the University, and we are so fortunate to live here during these pandemic times,” Wilder said. “We can get out and get fresh air and be safe enjoying these beautiful desert environments.” 

When it comes to wildlife and nature in Tucson, there is always more out there. With mountains surrounding and the night sky ready to reveal stars, the University of Arizona is in the heart of a very unique place. 


Follow Madison Beveridge on Twitter.



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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (4/9)
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Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated April 10, 2021