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Science Activities Update: Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Center for Research

Posted on Tuesday, January 5, 2021

On November 12, 2020, more than 70 members and friends of ARCS Northern California Chapter joined a ZOOM presentation to learn about the UC Natural Reserve System ( and the life of a research scientist focused on lizards.

Violet Nakayama, an attorney who oversaw many of the System’s legal agreements, explained that the UC Natural Reserve System consists of 41 sites throughout California that offer outdoor laboratories for field scientists, classrooms without walls for students, and inspiration for all. Totaling 756,000 acres, all but nine sites offer study and research opportunities. Nakayama said, “The UC Natural Reserve System runs more like a guardianship than an ownership.” Enduring partnerships with organizations like the Natural Park Service (NPS) and the Natural Forest Service (NFS) allow for a collaborative management of the land.

Al Muth, Ph.D, Director of the Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Center for Research, explained that this reserve was made possible by the donation of 1700 acres plus funds to purchase an additional 3500 acres by Philip L. Boyd, the first Mayor of Palm Springs, a California Assemblyman, and a UC Regent. Dr. Muth then introduced the audience to the fringe-toed lizard, a reptile native to the Deep Canyon Reserve. This lizard’s back legs and feet have a small fringe running over the whole foot that helps it move over the loose desert sand. As Dr. Muth said, “Deep Canyon Reserve offers researchers a chance to study life at its limits.

One of the favorite questions was from a 9-year old who asked, “How do you catch the lizards, Dr. Muth?”

If your interest has been piqued, make a reservation to tour one of the sites and see for yourself their natural beauty and variety (!

You can watch the virtual presentation here:


Photo of Al Muth, PhD Holding Lizards at Boyd Desert Center for Research