National Park Service

Sonoran Desert I&M Network (SODN)

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The Desert Research Learning Center

Saguaro census
Conducting a saguaro census.


The Desert Research Learning Center (DRLC) promotes the scientific understanding, protection, and conservation of Sonoran Desert Network parks.

The center provides space and support for visiting researchers and interns, hosts hands-on experiential learning for local student groups, and displays examples of sustainable practices.

The DRLC is funded and operated through grants, volunteers, and in-kind services provided by the Sonoran Desert Network and its associated parks.

Main building
Main building.


Located adjacent to Saguaro National Park, the DRLC is an ideal space for connecting people, resources, and science.

The main building houses office space, a large meeting room, and a public restroom. Work stations and network connections are available for visiting Interior Department employees. Additional buildings contain a dry soils lab and provide on-site housing for researchers, interns, and volunteers.

The grounds feature an artificial tinaja, a heritage orchard, and a variety of native plants, all sustained by a rainwater collection system.

Beyond the grounds lie 40 acres of Sonoran Desert habitat suitable for field trainings, protocol testing, and outdoor education and research.

Visitors may explore the DRLC grounds weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. but are asked to respect the work environment of our staff.

Aquatics program
Aquatics program.


Services and programming are driven by our partnerships with parks, local schools, non-profit groups, and the scientific community.

The DRLC does not currently offer any regular public programming. However, volunteer opportunities are available with the Sonoran Desert Network and nearby Saguaro National Park.

The DRLC does:

  • Support high-school and college-level research projects and internships.
  • Provide experiences in field ecology and research design for local high school students.
  • Provide guidance, logistical assistance, access to datasets, and contacts for researchers.
  • Facilitate and host presentations about research in parks.
  • Deliver information about natural and cultural resources research results to a wide range of audiences.


Partners include the National Park Service, Ironwood Tree Experience, Iridescent Learning, the Student Conservation Association, several universities, and a wide array of local schools and community service groups.

The DRLC is home to two science-based programs of the National Park Service: the Sonoran Desert Network and Southwest Exotic Plant Management Team.

Contact Us

Please direct questions or inquiries to Andy Hubbard or Elise Dillingham.

Print our brochure

DRLC brochure

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster