Desert discovery

Learn how to wrangle a lizard in one weekend
Jonathan Hanson

Even if lassoing a lizard has never crossed your mind, the procedure (involving a fishing rod and dental floss) is a hoot. It's just one of a bewildering array of natural-history activities you can learn about at the Tucson Audubon Society's annual Institute of Desert Ecology, held at Catalina State Park.

The idea behind the program is simple: Give people a chance to learn about the environment so they'll want to conserve it.

With an intensive four-day weekend of talks and demonstrations from top experts in Sonoran Desert ecology, you can catch sight of Harris's hawks, get a close look at scorpions and Gila monsters, or hear how the Sonoran Desert has evolved in the last 10,000 years.

Cozy up at one of the local hotels, or brave it with the lizards by camping on-site.

Info: Tucson Audubon Society's Institute of Desert Ecology (Apr 20-23; $375; reservations required; 520/622-5622)