Showcasing Science at the Granites

image of newsletter cover
A special edition of the Mojave National Preserve’s Science Newsletter highlights research at Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center.

As late as 1979, California’s eastern Mojave Desert was called a scientific “black hole” because its resources and biodiversity were virtually unknown.1

Over the past 30 years, scientists have been busy shining light into that darkness, thanks largely to the establishment of the NRS’s Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center in 1978. In a region where the nearest town is hours away, scientists gravitate toward the reserve for its research and teaching facilities, not to mention its biologically diverse and protected lands.

Today, the Mojave National Preserve regularly publishes the Science Newsletter showcasing research conducted in the preserve. And the May 2014 issue is devoted entirely to studies affiliated with the NRS’s Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center.

catclaw acacia Acacia greggii Apis mellifera scutellata Africanized honeybee
Working at the Granites reserve, Keith Gaddis of UCLA has found that the Africanized honeybee (lower left) is a major pollinator of the catclaw acacia (upper left). Pollinated flowers grow into pods (upper right) that produce seeds the size of corn kernels (lower right). Image credit: Keith D. Gaddis

This special edition of the newsletter was a joint effort by the National Park Service and staff at the Granites. The issue was coedited by Deborah Hughson, science advisor for the Mojave National Preserve; and Tasha La Doux and Jim André, assistant director and director of the Granites.

“It is a perfect vessel for us to disseminate some of the research being done in the region to local land managers, the academic community, and general public,” La Doux says.

Each article describes research conducted by scientists based at the reserve. The studies range from Mojave fringe-toed lizard genetics, to the life cycles of parasitic wasps, to how landscape features affect seed and pollen movement in the catclaw shrub.

“We’ve been contributing to the newsletter for a few years now, but it’s nice of the Park Service to develop this special edition featuring Granites researchers. It demonstrates where our mission overlaps that of the Mojave National Preserve,” says reserve director Jim André. “We hope to collaborate with the Park Service to publish a Granites-themed edition of the newsletter each year.”

The editors will have an abundance of studies to choose from; more than 75 percent of scientific research projects in the eastern Mojave are based at the Granites.