Saturday, April 22, 2017

An Oasis in the Mojave

The sunset over Zzyzx
- by Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

In my newest museum travelling adventure, I was asked by Linda Gilbert, my Anza-Borrego Paleo Society Childers presentation partner, to do our presentation with her at the Zzyzx Desert Symposium, put on by Cal State Fullerton annually in a research complex in the middle of the Mojave. I agreed and the Paleo Society graciously sponsored our presentation and I set off to the Zzyzx, not knowing what to expect.
Edgar and Linda smile in front of their poster
I had seen the sign to Zzyzx on the way to Las Vegas before, and always wondered what was up with that jumble of letters. I decided not to think much about it as I took off from the valley, more excited about the desert landscape I was about to witness than the actual conference itself (what a nerd I know). I was very intrigued by the differences in blooming desert plants. The bloom has been over in the lower Colorado for several weeks now, but just north of Palm Springs, the creosotes have flowers and no fruit. Slowly, the landscape started featuring more yuccas, with the occasional joshua tree. After a few hours of driving through the wonderful Mojave, I took a dirt road and arrived to Zzyzx.
The tranquil central pond of Zzyzx
The grounds were beautiful. The facility is essentially an oasis centered around two large ponds. The grounds were far enough from the highway that a serene quiet enveloped Zzyzx, with only the sounds of birds and other wildlife filling the space. I walked a small path to a pond of pupfish, which were tiny and beautiful. At the largest pond, a bird dove into the water and splashed me, which was an incredible experience.
The event itself was very informative. I learned so much about the Mojave. Two of the most interesting presentations to me were about desert tortoises, which I found fascinating and relevant because of our upcoming outdoor tortoise exhibits at the museum. I learned about the desert tortoise’s natural predators and their reproductive habits.
Overall it was a lot of fun. I had a tough time shortening my presentation to ten minutes but Linda and I did great. The poster she made for the poster session following our talk was gorgeous, and attracted a lot of visitors. That night, I took my cot to the balcony and slept under the stars. It was truly a great experience and I cannot wait to go back.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring 2017 Events

Spring is in the air, and the museum is abuzz with excitement preparing for our upcoming spring events. We have two “Evening with an Expert” with our Wine Tasting Event in between.
The Evening with an Expert are member events in support of our National Endowment of Humanities Challenge Grant.  This endowment funds two staff positions within the museum, but we must meet our matching goals every year until 2019. 

The first “Evening with an Expert” coming up is on April 22, featuring Stan Rodriguez. Stan is recognized as THE expert on Kumeyaay traditions, and will be giving a lecture on medicinal desert plants. RSVPs are required, and the suggested donation for the event is $35 a seat. Only 25 seats are available, so call now!These event are fun and Stan Rodriguez will sell out quickly.

The second event coming up is our “Art, Wine, Music” Friendraiser, hosted by IVDM Society board member Antonio Rivera. It will be on May 18 -International Museum’s Day!

From 6:30pm – 8:30pm we will be hosting the event at the Old Post Office Pavilion in El Centro. Guests can participate in wine tasting and a silent auction. All of the wines will be from the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, imported in for us by Baja Wine+Food, out of San Diego, and hors d’oeuvres will be provided by Sobe’s Restaurant. Tickets are $25 in advance, and $30 at the door, and can be purchased at the museum or from any board member.


Our final event is another “Evening with an Expert” on June 17th.  This one will feature Marie Barret, a local wildlife biologist with over 20 years experience working with birds of the Imperial Valley. She will be talking about her work with the burrowing owl. RSVPs are required, and the suggested donation for the event is $35 a seat. As with our first “Evening with an Expert,” only 25 seats are available, so don’t wait to request a seat! 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Holtville 6th Graders Propagating Ocotillo

This week we have had nearly 250 6th graders come through the museum on field trips!

We also started our Ocotillo propagation program.

Beginning this week, on one of the legs of the sixth grade field trip we began a hands on propagation project. The students hiked down into the wash and took a cutting from one of our ocotillo bushes. Then we had students follow these steps:

1.  cut the colotillo branch in 8" sections
2. mix a nutrient rich soil by combining sand, compost and manure
3. place the 8"section of ocotillo in a small pot
4. cover the ocotillo section with 4 inches of soil
5. place containers into flats of 16 ocotillos
6. water

Though we live in a community that has an economy based on farming, it is amazing how little students actually know about fairly simple processes of plant propagation. Like, where seeds come from. Or the difference between dirt and soil.

I have worked with Vince Zazueta at both the 6th Street Community Garden and the Harding Elementary Garden, so I know others are also teaching the basics of how things grow. But as we begin a new five year strategic plan to develop the gardens we are going to come at this from all angles. Growing cactus is fun, it is also very educational. Oh, and a little sticky. If you know what I mean.