Desert Research Learning Center

Desert Research Learning Center


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 and native horticulture.

Located adjacent to Saguaro National Park, the DRLC is an ideal space for connecting people, resources, and science. Inside the main building, exhibits offer insight into Sonoran Desert ecosystems and the science that helps us understand them.The main building also houses office space, a large meeting room, and a public restroom. Additional buildings contain a dry soils lab and provide on-site housing for researchers, interns, and volunteers.

Visitors may enjoy a self-guided tour of the DRLC courtyard. This tour showcases the desert environment and demonstrates the kinds of sustainable practices that can help to maintain and restore life in arid lands. Tour stops include an artificial tinaja and flowing stream, a heritage orchard, a pollinator garden, and a variety of native plants and foods, 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. A short nature trail winds through the landscape.

Location of DRLC
The Desert Research Learning Center is adjacent to Saguaro National Park (East).

How to Find Us

The DRLC is open to visitors on Tuesdays between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. We are located at 12661 East Broadway Boulevard, in Tucson. The facility is adjacent to the east district of Saguaro National Park. Drive east on Broadway until the road ends and then turn into the driveway marked with our sign. Visitor parking is available in front of the main building.

Examining a biocrust sample at the Desert Research Learning Center.
Examining a biocrust sample in the DRLC courtyard.


On Tuesdays, we offer a public program in the DRLC’s main room at 1:00 p.m. From December 2018 to March 2019, program topics will alternate by week:

—First and Third Tuesdays: Fish, Frogs, and Water—Oh My! Rio Sonoyta pupfish and lowland leopard frogs

—Second and Fourth Tuesdays: A Drink in the Desert: The waters that bring life to a dry land

Most DRLC services and programming are driven by our partnerships with public land agencies, local schools, non-profits, and the scientific community. Volunteer opportunities are available with the Sonoran Desert Network and nearby Saguaro National Park. Among other functions, DRLC programming:

—Delivers information about natural and cultural resources and science to a wide range of audiences,

—Provides hands-on nature education and experience for school groups,
—Facilitates and hosts presentations about research in parks, and
—Supports high school and college-level research projects and internships on natural-resource topics in Sonoran Desert parks.


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

Last updated: November 7, 2018