The American Southwest is one of the fastest changing climates in North America. And some scientists fear many plants, and the organisms that depend on them, may not be able to adapt to the changes in time to survive. That’s why Northern Arizona University ecological geneticist Tom Whitham is cloning key species and planting them in different environments.

In the global carbon economy, forests act like leafy savings accounts. They take carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis, convert it into biomass, and deposit it for years or even centuries in wood and soil.


Information about Pluto continues to beam back to Earth from the New Horizons space probe. And scientists are finding the data perplexing, enchanting...and surprising!

University of Washington Press

Humbug Valley is a lush meadow in Northern California; a place the indigenous Maidu Indians believe was specifically chosen for them by the great spirits of their ancestors. For years, it's been the site of a controversial timber harvesting project by the large utility company that owns the land. And a group of activists known as "The Reclaimers" has been fighting against it. They are the main characters in Ana Maraia Spagna's latest work of non-fiction, Reclaimers...the focus of this month's Southwest Book Review by Mary Sojourner.

KNAU/Bonnie Stevens

Tree climbing scientists are going to great heights to find pine genes with the perfect fit for the future.

Hillary Cooper is a biologist at Northern Arizona University. Perched high-up in a Southwestern White Pine on Mount Elden, she gathers cones for an experiment to see if they'll grow in warmer, drier conditions. "It wasn't too windy today," Cooper says, "but we had to climb pretty high on about a 4" trunk and then really stretch out to get those cones at the tippy top."

It’s an iconic southwestern scene: the glimmer of green or yellow cottonwood leaves fluttering against the backdrop of Zion Canyon’s tremendous red- and cream-colored cliffs. Along southwest Utah’s Virgin River, groves of cottonwood trees please the eye, offer very welcome shade, and provide habitat for numerous types of animals.

But Zion’s cottonwoods are in trouble. Big as they are, the cottonwood trees along the river aren’t particularly long lived. Worse yet, as they die they are not being replaced by younger trees.

Scott Thybony

"Death by quicksand" has become a cliché in Hollywood Westerns set in Arizona. But in reality, it's practically unheard of. One of the state's only known quicksand deaths happened in 1872 in Paria Canyon. About 130 years later - in the exact same place - commentator Scott Thybony almost became Arizona's second quicksand fatality.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge floating island of plastic. Twice the size of Texas, it's riding the ocean currents between California and Japan, threatening sea life along the way. Flagstaff-based marine scientist Maria Campbell studies ocean micro plastics with the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science. She says the plastics absorb harmful chemicals in the water.

With their bald heads, beady eyes, and habit of shredding messy roadkill, turkey vultures look like birds only a mother could love. But this week we all should look up and tip our hats at the key role they play in the natural world. Saturday September 5 is International Vulture Awareness Day.

Earth Notes: The Southwest’s Armored Anteater

Aug 26, 2015

With spikes rimming its head and spines flanking its body, the horned lizard of the West could be a fearsome sight, a sort of modern-day dinosaur. That is, if it were any larger than a human hand.