There is no place quite like Saguaro National Park, with cacti forests, riparian areas, and mountains. It can be sometimes overlooked as a dry desert with a lot of sharp plants; however, they are known for the largest cacti species, the saguaro. Saguaros are slow growing and can reach over 40-foot heights and live well over a hundred years old. The diverse ecosystem has many unique properties with the surplus of sunshine and lack of water creates a unique environment. My first days as an intern included two hikes, butterfly identification and the more pressing topic of safety. My hikes were to establish acclimating to the Sonoran deserts dry, hot, and 110-degree temperatures. Why acclimate to the heat? Well there is many dangers of going out in the sun if you are not used to extreme temperatures. Preparation is key, even a day in advance. Hydration is the most important to prevent heat illness. By no means are acclimation hikes easy, but when you are out in nature observing, it is the best feeling as a scientist.
There are many long-term projects on going in the park, I am excited to be a part of the butterfly surveys. Butterflies are indicator species which will help to determine the health of the park’s diverse ecosystem. A long-term study will create photo documentation for future generations to use. That way the importance of the butterfly species will become more well-known at Saguaro National Park.