University of California, Riverside

Palm Desert Center


Events and Programs at UCR Palm Desert

Enjoy the 2017-2018 academic year with great lectures, films, and programs to interest, inspire, and intrigue inquisitive minds of all ages. Most events are held in our auditorium; exceptions are indicated below. RSVPs are highly encouraged. All pre-registered guests will be seated first. 

Wild Coachella: The Ghost Lake of the Desert

6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1
This lecture on the evidence of past seas in the Salton trough will be presented by Andrew Bishop, associate professional researcher, UCR EDGE Institute, in partnership with Friends of the Desert Mountains. The origin of the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is commonly attributed to the accidental failure of irrigation canals from the Colorado River. However, this lake is merely the latest incarnation of a series dating back several million years, ever since the Colorado River delta cut the Salton Trough from the Gulf of California. The geological history of these ancient lakes is preserved by the sediments which they left behind. Scientific evaluation of these deposits provides an understanding of how these lakes formed in the past and how long they survived before returning to desert conditions. These natural records provide a useful context for evaluating potential remediation and stabilization strategies for the Salton Sea. RSVP now!

Arts and Letters Series 2017-2018

Arts & Letters is a free series that invites the community to spend time with today's most influential authors through interviews and personal readings. Conversations are facilitated by Tod Goldberg, the program director for UCR Palm Desert's Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts.

6 p.m. Nov. 16, 2017: Liska Jacobs
  • Liska Jacobs' essays and short fiction have appeared in The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and The Hairpin, among other publications. Catalina is her first novel. She holds an MFA from the University of California, Riverside. RSVP now!

6 p.m. Jan. 18, 2018: Panio Gianopoulos 
  • Panio Gianopoulos is the author of the story collection, How to Get Into Our House and Where We Keep the Money, and the novella, A Familiar Beast. His stories, essays, and poetry have appeared in Tin HouseNorthwest ReviewSalonThe Rattling WallChicago Quarterly ReviewBig Fiction, The Brooklyn Rail, Catamaran Literary Reader, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. RSVP now!

6 p.m. Feb. 7, 2018: Janet Fitch
  • Janet Fitch's first novel, White Oleander, a #1 bestseller and Oprah's Book Club selection, has been translated into 24 languages and was made into a feature film. Her second novel, Paint It Black, hit bestseller lists across the country and has also been made into a film. Her latest book, The Revolution of Marina M., is a sweeping historical saga of the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of one young woman. RSVP now!

6 p.m. April 4, 2018: Attica Locke
  • Attica Locke is a writer and producer for the hit TV show, Empire. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her second book, The Cutting Season, is a national bestseller and the winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Pleasantville was the 2016 winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. Her latest, Bluebird, Bluebird, has been called “an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.”  RSVP now!

6 p.m. May 2, 2018: Ivy Pochoda
  • Ivy Pochoda is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Visitation Street, chosen as an Amazon Best Book of the Month, Amazon Best Book of 2013, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Huffington PostSelf, and House & Garden. Her first novel The Art of Disappearing, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2009. She has a BA from Harvard College in Classical Greek and an MFA from Bennington College in fiction. RSVP now! 

Garden Day 2017

UCR Palm Desert is proud to host the 12th Annual Desert Garden Community Day, a collaboration with the Desert Horticultural Society of the Coachella Valley, the UCCE Master Gardener program, and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. This is a day of free programs on desert gardening for pleasure, growing food, sustaining native wildlife, and conserving water. Find out more!

8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017

Free presentations and information booths on selection and care of landscape trees, native plants, growing fruits and vegetables, wellness through gardening, attracting bees, butterflies, and more. New this year: A film screening, programs for kids, food trucks, and a UCCE Master Gardener plant sale.

Deep Canyon lecture series 2017-2018

6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017

Mind in the Oceans: How saving Arctic narwhals holds the secret for our brain and heart health  

In this talk, Dr. Terrie Williams will bring the audience on her latest adventure to save the narwhals of the Arctic oceans.  Threatened by the loss of polar ice and an increased human presence, these mystical toothed whales are facing new challenges for survival.  Unexpectedly, her team found that the strategies that narwhals use to meet these challenges are providing new insights into protecting the human heart and brain from injury. RSVP now! 

6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 

The physiology and ecology of California's Redwoods in a changing world

Dr. Todd Dawson will talk about his work elucidating the role redwood trees play in the hydrological cycle of their forest ecosystem. Understanding this perspective on how plants themselves modify their own habitats is increasingly important as the climate around redwood forests changes. RSVP now!

6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018

Endemic lizard and tortoise species of Namibia, Africa

Dr. Jill Heaton will discuss her work with reptile species in Namibia, currently understudied, and how she has taken methods developed and currently being used to study Mojave Desert tortoises and employed them in Namibia. RSVP now! 

6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018

Natural history, ethics, and aesthetics: why should we care about nature?

The diversity of life on earth is under serious threats from human-related causes, and science plays well-known roles in solving this problem. Dr. Harry Greene will describe how natural history enhances appreciation for organisms and environments, thereby influencing value judgments that ultimately underlie all conservation.  Dr. Greene will describe how an 18th century philosopher’s distinction between “beauty” and “sublime” can be used in the context of Darwin’s “descent with modification,” then illustrate this approach with frogs, snakes, African megafauna, Texas Longhorns, and California Condors. RSVP now! 

6 p.m. Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Value of Citizen Science for Urban Ecology and Invasive Species Research: Examples from the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) Project. 

Increasing urbanization and the impacts of invasive species are two of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Dr. Greg Pauly will discuss the use of citizen science to assess how reptile and amphibian species are responding to urbanization across Southern California and reveal some of the many recent discoveries of nonnative species resulting from these citizen science efforts. RSVP now! 

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum Series 2017-2018

6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2
Tribal sovereignty, a cornerstone of identity, survival, resistance and development for the tribal community, has been an ongoing, documented struggle in regard to jurisdiction, federal/tribal relations, gaming, and taxation. Not as well-known are the expressions of cultural sovereignty found in daily efforts by community members to build a better, more sustainable tribal community that meets the needs of the people.
This presentation, in partnership with the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, will discuss some of these efforts in governance, economy, land, education, environment, and cultural resources. 
About the presenter: Speaker Anthony Madrigal Sr. is a member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, the original people of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains in Southern California. An adjunct instructor of California Indian history, cultural preservation, and tribal political economy, he holds a doctorate in Native American history from UCR.

RSVP now! 


Public Art Documentary Series 2017 

In partnership with the City of Palm Desert Public Art Department, this series features many memorable community works from all over the globe. These free movies are screened on the third Thursday of the month at 6 pm and are open to the public.

6pm-Jan. 19, 2017: Stealing Klimt
  • This documentary is dramatic story of the long struggle by Maria Altmann, an elegant elderly Viennese lady, to recover five Klimt paintings stolen from her family by the Nazis in 1938.  The paintings included the iconic Woman in Gold, the portrait of Maria's aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, which became known as the "Mona Lisa of Austria".Maria's fight eventually takes her to the US Supreme Court. After Maria’s astonishing U.S. Supreme Court victory and following another legal win in Austria, Maria and her family were finally reunited with the five Klimts.  This is the true story behind the recent drama Woman in Gold.  The film will be followed by a Q&A with Donald S. Burris, Managing Partner, Burris, Schoenberg & Walden, LLP. RSVP now!
6pm-Feb. 16, 2017: Pilchuck, A Dance with Fire
  • Since being founded by iconic figure Dale Chihuly and a few art school friends in 1971 the Pilchuck Glass School has been pushing the limits of a medium that can last centuries or shatter in an instant. Through the story of this small and highly influential school in the Pacific Northwest Pilchuck: A Dance with Fire identifies the remarkable convergence of visionary individuals, regional culture and fortunate timing to explain how and why Pilchuck and the studio glass movement has blossomed.  The film will be followed by a Q&A with artist Patrick Blythe.RSVP now!

6pm-Mar. 16, 2017: Bending Sticks: The Sculpture of Patrick Dougherty
  • In a career spanning four continents and three decades, internationally acclaimed environmental artist Patrick Dougherty has created over two hundred majestic sculptures out of nothing more than saplings. Bending Sticks offers an intimate portrait of the artist. The film follows Dougherty and his collaborators during a year of “stickwork” revealing his creative process, his inspirations, his thoughts about the temporary nature of his work, and his unusual personal story.  The film will be followed by a Q&A with Katherine Hough, Chief Curator, Palm Springs Art Museum. 

    RSVP now!
6pm-Apr. 20, 2017: Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson
  • Born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1868, Edith Lake Wilkinson moved to New York by herself in 1888 to study at the Art Students’ League. During the next 3 decades Wilkinson created artwork and a life for herself in New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts. Packed in a Trunk depicts Edith’s great-niece, Jane Anderson (Emmy-winning writer & director) two year exploration as she seeks to garner artistic recognition for her great-aunt’s life’s work.

    RSVP now!

UCR Boyd Deep Canyon Lecture Series 2016-2017 

This free lecture series investigates the world around us. Facilitated by Dr. Allan Muth, director, Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center, University of California, Riverside, each free discussion is brought to you in partnership with UCR Palm Desert and The Living Desert. 

6pm-Nov. 10, 2016:  A Big Brain: How'd We Get It and What Do You Feed It ? 
  • Two lectures in one! Discussions by Dr. Christopher Hancock and Dr. Joseph Scherger will look at the care and maintenance of our minds, and how we got these big human brains anyway. RSVP now!
6pm-Dec. 08, 2016: Sand Dunes and Lizards: Two Species, Two Ways To Do Things
  • This lecture by Dr. Allan Muth will look at two species of sand lizards - the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard and the Namibia Desert's Shovel Snouted Lizard - that have different solutions to living in harsh dune systems. RSVP now!
6pm-Jan.12, 2017: In the Shadow of a Lizard: Endemic Reptiles of Namibia
  • Dr. Jill Heaton will discuss her work with five lizard species in Namibia, currently understudied and threatened by the illegal reptile pet trade, and share opportunities for reptile conservation and education. RSVP now!
6pm-Feb. 09, 2017: Forensic Entomology: Bugs in the Legal System
  • Insects at crime scenes can often provide important clues about when a person died, what happened to the body following death, and other aspects surrounding the investigation. This overview by David Faulkner will include several case studies. RSVP now!
6pm-Mar. 09, 2017: Science and Management of the Desert Tortoise
  • The desert tortoise has been considered a threatened species since 1989. But after more than 25 years and millions of dollars, populations of desert tortoise continue to trend downward. Dr. C. Richard Tracy will discuss some solutions to the problem. RSVP now!

Are We Alone? Lecture Series 2016-2017 

The search for alien life is defining a new era of space exploration, from Mars and icy moons in our solar system to Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars. Learn how scientists hope to find life beyond Earth, and what that might mean for humanity.
Our Cosmic Origins: Stars, Galaxies, and the Stuff of Life

6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1: Lecture by Bahram Mobasher, UCR professor of physics and astronomy, followed by a Star Party with the UCR Astronomy Division and the Riverside Astronomical Society. RSVP now! 

Alternative Earths: How Earth's Past Guides NASA's Search for Life 

6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017: Lecture by Tim Lyons, UCR professor of biogeochemistry, followed by a celestial viewing. RSVP now! 

Mars 2020 and Beyond: Will We Find Life on the Red Planet?

6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017: Lecturer Lindsay Hays will present the latest discoveries from Mars and preview upcoming missions to the Red Planet. Following the lecture, volunteers from the Astronomical Society of the Desert will host a telescope viewing of the Red Planet, the Orion Nebula, and other celestial neighbors.RSVP now!

Galactic Discoveries: Delving into the Early Universe

6 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, 2017: Lecture by Brian Siana, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, followed by a space-themed musical performance. RSVP now! 

Alien Planets: Are there Other Earths Lurking in Our Galaxy? 

6 p.m. Thursday, April 6, 2017: Lecturer Eddie Schwieterman, a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow in UC Riverside's Alternative Earths Astrobiology Center, will discuss how astronomers have discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. Some of these worlds reside at just the right distances from their host stars to support liquid water on their surfaces, and possibly even life. But do they? RSVP now!

Series archived videos can be found here!

Artist Council Demos - Saturday, March 11, and April 01, 2017.

The members of the Palm Springs Art Museum Artists Council created an interactive experience of the Art Show "Artistic Expressions." They demonstrated the creative process from watercolor paintings to amazing encaustic works. The council is dedicated to arts activities, including programs that encourage fellowship among the arts communities, and promoting the roles of artists in the Coachella Valley. All council proceeds support Palm Springs Art Museum’s exhibitions, acquisitions, and operations.

Please join Kathleen Scoggin and learn some new and exciting techniques in Watercolor. Pat Kodet will teach us her secrets in working with acrylics. Trudy Woods shares some fun ways of creating art with colored pencils. Martha Cowen goes further into oil paint technique. Stephen Baumbach shows you how to photograph your work. Terry Hastings Discusses Art and the Internet and how you can use the internet to your artistic advantage.

Artists and Media:

  • Terry Hastings  - Art and the Internet
  • Judge and jury seminar with Barbara Gothard and MaryAnn Sutherland: Critical thinking in art

  • Kathleen Scoggins - Watercolor
  • Angela Koening - Pastels
  • Pat Kodet - Acrylics
  • Trudy Wood - Colored Pencil
  • Martha Cowan - Oils 
  • Stephen Baumbach – How to Photograph Your Work 

RSVP now!

Art Exhibition opening reception - 5pm, Thursday, March 02

Palm Springs Art Museum Artists Council collaboration with UCR Palm Desert will be one of the largest exhibitions of Coachella Valley artists.  

A unique collaboration between the University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert Center and Palm Springs Art Museum Artists Council will result in one of the largest ever exhibitions of local, living artists in the Coachella Valley. This large-scale exhibition, “Artistic Expressions,” features only Palm Springs Art Museum Artists Council members and is designed to engage, educate, and enlighten the community in the Coachella Valley. This is a curated but non-juried show, representing a variety of artistic styles and media for the general public.

 RSVP now!

UCR Book Club

Our monthly book club meetings are free and open to every adult in the community. Genres will change every month, and there is no obligation -- just come whenever a book strikes your fancy! Meetings are facilitated by our Master of Fine Arts creative writing program students. Join us for a lively, educational chat about books in a fun, casual atmosphere. Book club meets in room A206 at UCR Palm Desert. Parking is free. For more information including books that will be discussed, email Maggie Downs at

Previous Events and Programs 2016-2017

Read about some of the lectures, films, and events that were held at UCR Palm Desert earlier this academic year. We update our website when we schedule new events and programs. 

Special Events

    • August 9, 2016 - Posthumous film screening: Filmed entirely on location in Berlin, "Posthumous" is a modern-day fairytale that contemplates the values we place on art, life and love. Starring Jack Huston & Brit Marling with Lambert Wilson. This is the first feature film by writer/director Lulu Wang, whose short film "Touch" played ShortFest15. 
    • September 27, 2016 - Visual Storytelling with Jacob ChaseJacob Chase has written films for the Jim Henson Company, Cirque du Soleil, Amazon Studios, and others. Most recently, he won the 2016 Crash the Super Bowl contest with his commercial, Doritos Dogs. 
    • October 01, 2016 - Sustainable Landscaping Workshop: Discussions will focus on drought-proof landscaping, desert gardening tips, what to plant when, and desert pollinators. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions, as well as experts from UC Cooperative Extension and UCR. Click here for the Power Point presentation.
    • October 15, 2016 - Desert Garden Community Day: Learn from experts how to create and maintain a desert-friendly garden and reduce your water requirements at the 11th Annual Desert Garden Community Day. Presented by Desert Horticultural Society of the Coachella Valley.
    • October 17, 2016 - An Evening with Andrea Wulf: Andrea Wulf, the bestselling author of several acclaimed books, will discuss the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today. 
    • April 13, 2017 - The Impact of Climate Change on Native and Domesticated Plants: Dr. Cameron Barrows, research ecologist for UCR's Center for Conservation Biology, and Janet Hartin, environmental horticulture advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, will discuss what research has shown about climate change and native plants -- including the ones in your backyard. 

Lit Flicks


This season  had a fun twist: All of the movies are based on feature articles, not books, so it was easy for everyone to join in and read the works that inspired these films. Moderated by author and critic Tod Goldberg.
  • Argo:   6 p.m. Wednesday, August 17

  • Shattered Glass:   6 p.m. Wednesday, September 14

  • Saturday Night Fever:   6 p.m. Wednesday, October 19

Previous Events and Programs 2015-2016

Read about some of the lectures, films, and events that were held at UCR Palm Desert  this past academic year. 

            Spend time with some of today's most influential authors through interviews and personal readings.
      • Boyd Deep Canyon Lecture Series
        Facilitated by Dr. Allan Muth, director, UCR Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center, in partnership with The Living Desert.
      • Ideas and Society
        The Center for Ideas and Society is an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to advancing humanistic studies and creativity at UC Riverside. The Center’s fellowships, research workshops and public events strengthen the intellectual and creative life of the university. The Center is committed to disseminating the results of its programs to the Riverside community and beyond. We were proud to engage the community with two series this academic year: LGBT Lecture Series and Health, Hope & Humanities Series-Learning to Live Well.
      • UCR Living Green Series
        Who said it wasn't easy being green? Learn how to improve your environment, health and quality of life with our new lecture series, Living Green! Our eco-experts will take a look at the issues that face our community and discuss solutions to ensure that the needs of people and environment are met in the present -- and long into the future. Our partner for this series year was Friends of the Desert Mountains.

      • Money Matters
        A unique series of workshops on financial wellness sponsored by UCR Osher and UCR Office of Gift Planning. The workshops provide information on issues and topics that can help improve your financial health. The series is FREE to Osher members and features professionals and experts from the legal, accounting and financial planning fields. About Osher: Since 2003, UCR Extension's Osher has provided a stimulating learning experience at a modest cost that enriches the intellectual, social, and cultural lives of people over the age of 50.
      • Native American Lecture Series
        This series is in partnership with UCR California Center for Native Nations.
      • Palm Desert Art Documentaries Film Series
        In partnership with the City of Palm Desert Public Art Department, this series features many memorable community works from all over the globe. These free movies are screened on the third Thursday of the month at 6 pm and are open to the public. Check back in Fall 2016 when we will post our new schedule!
      • Tuesdays with Spirit and Soul
        UCR Osher Lifelong Learning and UCR Palm Desert Center presented the second season of Tuesdays With Spirit and Soul, a documentary film series and symposium designed to start mindful conversations, exploring the concepts of empowerment, challenge cultural norms, and cultivate a more meaningful, authentic life. 
        • Conscious Living and Aging - An Intergenrational Symposium: Thought-provoking speakers, including internationally acclaimed spiritual author and lecturer Marianne Williamson, dynamic, energetic panels, and engaging, and at times, revealing group and individual exercises.
      • Science Lecture Series
        UCR Palm Desert was proud to partner with the UCR College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences to bring you the Spring 2016 Science Lecture Series. The theme for this year's series was: "Sustainability in a Time of Rapid Change: The Future of Earth, Life and Humanity."

        UC Global Food Series
        The University of California Global Food Initiative addresses one of the critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025. The initiative aligns the university’s research, outreach and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions — throughout California, the United States and the world — for food security, health and sustainability. This series was presented via a partnership between UC Riverside and Hidden Harvest.

      • Special Events
        Read about the special events we enjoyed this academic year at UCR Palm Desert in addition to the programs featured in our series listed above.

Read about our 2014-2015 events!


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General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

UCR Palm Desert Center
75080 Frank Sinatra Drive
Palm Desert, CA 92211

Tel: (760) 834-0800
Fax: (760) 834-0796

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