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Wild Coachella Lecture Series

This series investigates the history and habitat of the Coachella Valley and beyond. Each free lecture is held in person and is open to the public.  
6 p.m. Oct. 13, 2023: Eden's Last Chance film screening
Filmmaker Joshua Wright stands with a camera

About the documentary: Galvanized by scientists' dire warnings, Joshua Wright dropped out of high school when he was 14 years old, picked up a camera and dedicated the next four years of his life seeking an answer to this question. For Eden's Last Chance, he interviews climate scientists, economists, frontline activists, and thought leaders reckoning with, and seeking to find a way out of the environmental Armageddon his generation was born into.


Wild & Scenic logo for 2023
6 p.m. Nov. 9, 2023: Wild & Scenic Film Festival

The free Wild and Scenic Film Festival features 90 minutes of short, inspiring environmental films, plus the opportunity to win raffle prizes. It is the largest film festival of its kind, showcasing the best and brightest in environmental and adventure films. 


Yellow flowers in bloom
6 p.m. Dec. 7, 2023: Resilient Coachella Valley

Join Oscar Ortiz and Dr. Lynn Sweet in this interactive learning session that will delve into the ongoing climate change crisis, its effects globally and in the local Coachella Valley, and possible solutions as we move forward in this time of change. Oscar Ortiz will present a lecture on the problems and issues specific to our Valley, then everyone can participate in discussion along with Dr. Lynn Sweet. We want to hear from you! This presentation was created in partnership with Friends of the Desert Mountains, UCR and Dr. J. Pablo Ortiz-Partida from the Union of Concerned Scientists.


Wild Coachella Lecture Series
6 p.m. Jan. 23, 2024: The Amazing Diversity of Bees

Bees are necessary for thriving wild and agricultural ecosystems. Unfortunately, human activities present many challenges to these important pollinators. In this talk by professor and entomologist Quinn McFrederick, we will learn about the amazing diversity of bees, how we study them, and what we can do to help protect them. 


A smiling bald man with a trimmed goatee
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 24, 2024: Wild Coachella Day

Wild Coachella Day is a fun annual festival designed to cultivate knowledge about the native species in the Coachella Valley and surrounding areas, as well as inspire environmental activism and a love for nature. No RSVPs necessary. 

The schedule for brief talks is as follows:

9 a.m. Hike the Desert Pearls • Colin Barrows

The mountains surrounding us provide a scenic backdrop to the Coachella Valley. Amazingly, each mountain is precious and unique, forming a “string of pearls” that are protected public lands for us to enjoy. Get to know each of these desert gems by exploring them on foot, from below sea level to the highest peaks in Southern California! Colin Barrows is the Environmental Programs Coordinator at the UCR Palm Desert Center and a Coachella Valley naturalist and desert advocate who works to promote open spaces and native species.

9:20 a.m. There is a Trail for Everybody • Susan Forgrave

Susan Forgrave will highlight accessible trails and local efforts to provide opportunities for everyone to connect with nature. She will also provide thoughts on how to select the trail that best meets individual abilities and recreational expectations. Forgrave completed her training with the National Association for Interpretation, followed by certifications in California Naturalist (2018), Climate Stewards (2020), and Permaculture (2023). 

9:40 a.m. Q&A

10:15 a.m. Climate Resilience • Dr. Lynn Sweet

What are the types of changes that may happen in the future in the Coachella Valley and what power do you have to help solve the problem? Dr. Lynn Sweet is a research ecologist with UC Riverside’s Center for Conservation Biology. She studies the responses of animals and plants to climate change.

10:35 a.m. Connectivity of Cultural Landscapes • Elizabeth Paige

Recognition of the inherent ties of Indigenous people and the environments they are a part of is an essential part of protecting, stewarding, and honoring landscapes we all call home. Elizabeth Paige is a desert naturalist, a land manager, and a member of the Torres Martinez Band of Desert Cahuilla Indians. She is currently the Education and Stewardship Program Manager for the Native American Land Conservancy.

10:55 a.m. Q&A

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Desert Environmental Stewards lightning round presentations

• Sand Verbena • Pete Schwartz, Alison Kreager

• Coachella Valley Milkvetch • Julie Henderson

• Desert Mistletoe • Eric Tiegel

• Nature Journaling and Plants • Robin Hart

• Cholla Cactus • Jane Stevens

• Creosote Bush • Christina Sanchez

• Birds and Plants • Kurt Kosek


6 p.m. March 7, 2024: Protecting a Naturally Dark Night Sky
Doug Yanega holding a beetle that's the size of a deck of playing cards

Join Joshua Tree National Park Ranger David Larson and Physical Science Technician Stacy Manson to explore the wonders of a naturally dark night sky, to discover how national parks play a critical role in studying and addressing light pollution, and to learn what you can do to help protect the resource of a naturally dark night sky for future generations. RSVP now!


6 p.m. April 4, 2024: Fire in the Desert: A Study of Yucca Survival in the Mojave National Preserve 
A tiny plant growing from a seed

Following the 2020 Cima Dome fire, see how the unique vegetation landscape of the Mojave National Preserve has changed over time. UC Riverside researchers Melanie Davis & Danelle Baronia will discuss the history of fire in the Mojave National Preserve, and the results of ongoing research in their lab studying the recovery and resilience of desert plants, focusing on two species of yucca, the Eastern Joshua tree (Yucca jaegeriana) and banana yucca (Yucca baccata), within the ecosystem of the Mojave Desert. Using an interactive StoryMap, they will also present a comparison of pre- and post- fire photo documentation of the Cima Dome landscape. RSVP now