Photo credit: Stacie Beute

learning labs

Without collaboration were would we be? In an effort to share knowledge, best practices, and emerging research the Alliance, with the help of our partners, created the CAZCA Learning Labs.  Our labs are in-depth workshops designed for our land managers, researchers, ecologists, restoration professionals, and highly interested citizens.

Our Labs are split into two different series, one focusing on Restoration and a second focusing on Connectivity. These two issues present different challenges and opportunities, but both of these topics are of high priority for the Alliance and its partners. Our partner the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy leads the Restoration Labs, while the White Tank Mountains Conservancy leads our Connectivity Labs.

Have you attended one of our Labs? Find the lab you’re interested below to see the presentations, images and other resources from that day. We encourage anyone even the slightest bit curious to check out the wealth of knowledge that comes from collaboration!

  •   10/10/2018 - Restoration Lab: Lake Pleasant Field Trip

    Summary of Lab

    Field Visits: Lake Pleasant Regional Park is managed by Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department, but land is owned by Bureau of Reclamation.  Maricopa County has a management agreement to oversee the park.  With the Park Master Plan approved in 1995, much of the then deemed Conservation area north of Lake Pleasant has swung in the pendulum to overuse.  The issues that have arisen include:  illegal roads or routes being made, destruction of vegetation/wildlife habitats, cutting of trees, camping where there is no designated area, illegal dumping, and overuse of recreation thus expanding the destruction of the area.

    Maricopa County is seeking creative ways to make the activity benign so that environment can come back and look as full and lush as it was before by applying barriers, signs, and revegetating the landscape back to its original views.  After returning from the field visits, ASU Master’s student and City of Phoenix South Mountain Park Ranger, Taylor Riske, gave a presentation on trail management practices, followed by an awesome discussion. Taylor’s presentation is based on his research for his graduate degree on the topic, his abstract is below. Thanks to all our attendees!

    Lab Resources

    “Recreation Management Approaches” PDF presentation by Taylor Riske
    Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4


    Taylor Riske’s Master’s Thesis Abstract:

    Trails perform an essential function in parks and preserves by routing visitors along planned, sustainable surfaces. However, when visitors deviate from official trails in sufficient numbers, it can lead to the creation of social trails. These visitor-created pathways are not sustainably designed and can severely degrade both the appearance and stability of protected areas while also endangering the visitor experience. A multitude of recreation motivations among visitors and a lack of resources among land management agencies have made the mitigation and closure of social trails a perennial concern. A sustainable, economical strategy that does not require the continual diversion of staff and volunteers is needed to address social trails.

    In this study, the two site management techniques that stand out in the research literature for their efficacy and practicality were tested on a social trail in a high-use, urban-proximate mountain park in Phoenix, AZ. A research design with additive treatments utilizing the site management technique known as trail mitigation, sometimes referred to as brushing in the research literature, followed by theory-grounded signage incorporating injunctive-proscriptive wording, an attribution message, and a reasoning message targeting visitor behavioral beliefs, norms, and control was applied and assessed using unobtrusive observation. Both treatments reduced observed off-trail hiking from 75.4% to 0%, though traces of footsteps and attempts to re-open the trail revealed the existence of unobserved “entrenched” users. With entrenched users attempting to reopen the trail, trail mitigation represented an effective but vulnerable “soft” approach while the signage represented a long-lasting “hardened” approach that will provide a lasting educational message and put social pressure on the entrenched user(s).

  •   11/06/2018 - Connectivity Lab: Urban Corridors and Crossings

    Summary of Lab

    This was the first Connectivity Lab in the series. The lab was a workshop comprised of a brief (10 minute) presentation, followed by a scenario game in which participants assumed the roles of stakeholders in fictitious Cash County, AZ. Stakeholder roles in the game were diverse, including leadership, planning and engineering roles; business and development roles; conservation roles, and animal roles. Roles included city, state, and federal level stakeholders.

    Cash County, AZ was created to mirror the environmental, social, political, economic and cultural environment of Maricopa County, AZ. The purpose of using a fictitious place was to allow participants to engage in the scenario without the constraints of the personal or professional goals, challenges, or mandates that the populate real stakeholder landscape of Maricopa County. The fictitious county was intended to engage in familiar problems in a familiar landscape without actual stakes in any of the land on the map.

    Lab Resources

    “Wildlife Connectivity” PDF presentation by Anita Hagy Ferguson, PhD


    Sample of Stakeholder Role Cards –


    Cash County Map and Description

  •   11/14/2018 - Restoration Lab: Implementing the USGS RAMPS Network