Mallary Parker

Mallary Parker

Wednesday, 21 October 2020 20:31

The Empress Leilia and the Hackberry Emperor

I wanted to introduce you to the first butterflies that I learned to tell apart back in August. They are in the Nymphalidae family and are known to occur at Saguaro National Park so we had to learn to tell them apart early on. 

We were told that you should memorize their general pattern quickly and ID them as Nymphalidae - Asterocampa, but that to get down to species level (Asterocampa celtis vs Asterocampa leilia) would be hard. They are essentially identical except for one area of the forewing that has their distinguishing marks, visible when their wings are open or closed.

An Empress Leilia has two dark bars around a light bar, creating what I think of as an Oreo pattern.

A Hackberry Emperor has two dark spots and one dark bar, creating a trademark smiley face.

In the photo above can you find the Oreo on the Leilia and the smiley on the Hackberry? (Below my signature is the answer so you can check your educated guess!)

I am only now writing about these species because I had only photographed Leilia’s until just this week on 9/30/2020 when I finally got to meet the Emperor. I was so excited to get that observation and to be able to introduce you to these two as they are some of my favorite butterflies!

- Mallary (they)


Answer - Empress Leilia on the top and Hackberry Emperor on the bottom.


Tuesday, 22 September 2020 21:52

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Time flies when you’re having fun! We are now done with week 5 of fieldwork. Weeks 2-5 have been a wild ride of butterflies, tortoises, turtles, lizards, snakes, owls, hawks, insects, and water.

Week 2 - The week where I was stung by a bee.

We were reaching the halfway point of our survey on Monday when I felt that sharp, biting pain in my back that I knew was a bee sting. What a great way to start the week huh? Once we were away from the danger (there were multiple super aggressive bees there for some reason) we checked for the stinger and then cleaned it with some insect bite/sting pain-relieving wipes from our First Aid kit. I was grateful for those wipes because even though I am not allergic to bees their stings hurt and this one was right where my backpack rubbed it throughout the workday. 

The rest of the week went much better, there were no aggressive bees and we saw a great variety of butterflies on our surveys. We also saw a tortoise, it was my first time seeing one in the wild instead of at the Sonoran Desert Museum or at someone’s house. This tortoise is a fully grown female and was super chill about taking a selfie with me.


Week 3 - Rincon Creek is rewilding.

I want to focus on my favorite survey so far which was at Rincon Creek in an area that is being left alone for the most part. This was my favorite survey because when you leave an area alone, you allow it to rewild. You allow the elements to align themselves again. 

I love this - rewilding. 

I love letting nature relax back into space.

It was so easy to see this process because there were so many game trails, every 2 meters or so along the entire creek area we surveyed. It explains why we saw a huge squadron of Javelinas. Yes, a group of Javelina are called a squadron. It also explains why we saw so many bones of mammals large and small, if there are more prey in an area there are more predators too.

One of my favorite parts of the area was this deep dip in the creek created by enormous boulders. Here in this little dry cove, we found small bones and the shell of a native snail. As we explored it Lupe pointed out a little area that looked like it was being used as a den. I joked that I had wanted Lupe to explore it all first in case something was there and they laughed it off. A few minutes later I was standing where Lupe had been looking at the den when I turned a bit and saw fur. Black and white fur on what looked like a tail, it was a skunk for sure. I snapped a photo until it moved and then I ran out of the little cove. No way am I getting sprayed by a skunk! 

You would think this would be enough excitement for one survey, but there was one more really cool thing we saw, a red-tailed hawk. My dad always points them out, “Look, a red-tailed hawk! Keep looking at it and you’ll see the tail flash in the sunlight while it flies.” I was always so sad that I never saw it like I wasn’t allowed to see their namesake. BUT if you look through my photos in the album in the comments you’ll see the photo of the hawk flying, zoom in on it and look at that vibrant red tail. :)


Week 4 - Agua de Vida.

This is the week of water, agua. 

It should not come as a surprise that the day we were driving to work and heard the roar of water - we all got excited. Water in the desert is something you all need to see at some point but is something you might never appreciate at the level of someone native to a desert.

Raindrops are not just water, they are droplets of relief to dried soil, plants, animals, and souls.  We hiked between 12 and 13 miles that day, amid the constant whisper of water that is so ephemeral in the desert. The sound soothed the dried tierra of my soul and healed some of the chaffings that had been created by this incredibly dry and hot summer. The water murmured affirmations to me all day, and later that night I fell asleep to that sound and those feelings it evoked.


Week 5 - Appreciation. 

This week I took the time to recognize the growth our entire team has gone through that you can see in multiple ways. Our data sheets say “butterfly” less and say specific species names more. Our pictures are clearer. Our hiking endurance has increased, even through moments of fear such as on Monday when we were facing a 15 m wall of rock we had to climb up and then down. 

Even now as I write this there are other ways in which we have changed that are hard to express, but that I will try to find words for. There are still 6 more weeks of this internship and I cannot wait to see how much more we grow and how far we hike, stay tuned for more of our adventures!


-Mallary (they)


Saturday, 22 August 2020 00:44

Saguaros, Leopard Frogs, and Butterflies - Oh My!

August 21, 2020

Section I - Pollard Walk Butterfly Surveys

We are surveying butterflies at Saguaro National Park East using a couple of different methods. The first is called a Pollard Walk. It involves slowing walking, hiking, or climbing over huge boulders in drainages while collection observations of butterflies. These observations are written down and photos are taken when possible to use as vouchers. Photo vouchers include key characteristics of each species so that they can be distinguished from each other. We will use these photo vouchers to create a guide to the butterfly species at the park for members of the community to use.  

Section II - Stationary Butterfly Surveys

The second type of survey we conducted this week was Stationary. It involved navigation to a predetermined coordinate and collecting data over a long period of time in that area. This allows other data to be collected such as any caterpillars that can found. We searched for them in nearby vegetation taking care to look at plants that showed signs of herbivory. We did not find any caterpillars and did not see many butterflies, hopefully after the rain yesterday this area will green up and we will see more activity when we repeat this survey soon.

Section III - Pollinator Garden Work

My interpretive component of this research will involve Pollinator Gardens. In the Sonoran Desert there are many different pollinators (see section in poster below) that must be accommodated in pollinator gardens. These gardens must also utilize passive rainwater harvesting techniques because conserving water is essential. We will be developing more pollinator gardens around the visitors center and eventually some in Saguaro National Park West. These gardens are in the early stages of planning so I will get to help other folx and interns do rock work (passive water harvesting), restoration work (native seed collection in certain areas of the park), and interpretive work (signs in Spanish and English identifying pollinators that may come to the gardens and how they can participate in our community science projects).

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in the project and for how the folx in this internship and at the Park have supported my passion for this work. ¡Muchas gracias!

Section IV - Dragonfly Larvae Collection

This internship also encourages and enables us to participate in other research projects. This week we helped collect dragonfly larvae from Tenajas. Tenajas (from the Spanish, tinaja, which is a large clay pot/vessel) are large pools of perennial water in our deserts. These pools are carved into stone in mountain drainages over long periods of time through erosion processes. The pools we collected in were so perfect, sitting in some of the largest and beautifully flowing rock formations I have ever seen. They looked like water frozen in mid flow and then transformed into red, black, brown, purple, white, and gray rock. The color variation is what is truly amazing. I know many folx think the desert is drab - a series of dulled browns and greens where all plants are dead, dried and crisped by the heat and sun. This is not what our desert looks like. I am hoping to record video of these types of areas soon so you all can see it for yourself.

During this dragonfly larvae survey we learned about other parts of the ecosystems (the Tenajas and the dragonflies) and about different survey methods. The dragonfly larvae live in the silt in these Tenajas for sometimes as long as 6-7 years depending on the species. During this time they act as some of the top predators consuming large amounts of the other inhabitants of these pools. During this time they can bioaccumulate things such as Mercury that can then be measured and used as indicators of the Mercury levels in the environment.

Section IV - Miscellaneous Observations

Below are some really beautiful and gnarly things we saw such as a spider predating a butterfly, a dessicated Sonoran Desert Toad, cactus blooms, a tiny Canyon treefrog, tiny tadpoles, and Tenaja ecosystems.

Section V - Some Poetry

The smell of creosote blowing on a hot wind down the paths that so many have walked for so many generations. From the traditional inhabitants of this land, to migrants, to NPS enthusiasts, to bike riders, and horse riders. All their stories are what I heard on that wind carrying the scent of creosote. All their culture, laughter, blisters, run-ins with cactus, songs, footsteps, bike wheels turning, and their hoofbeats. I could feel the warmth of the sun, the lifegiving sun, the same sun that carries the power of growth and the fear of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I could touch the earth below my feet and the air on that wind, but it also connected me to the fire, water, and spirit within - uniting all the elements. All this was carried to me on a simple, lazy breeze at the end of the first day of surveying at Saguaro National Park East. Then to close out my thoughts, I saw one of the most magnificent Saguaros. Saguaros are our sacred protectors here in our desert among the creosote and the sage and each other.

-Mallary (They) 

Friday, 24 April 2020 00:12

Mallary Rae Parker

I studied Natural Resources with an emphasis in Conservation Biology at the University of Arizona and graduated in May 2019. I got a minor in MCB, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and another in Anthropology. I can do research on animals, plants, genetics, and cultures and hope to eventually find a position that combines all of those passions into work that empowers communities to conserve their environment.

I have done research on plant genetics, the biodiversity of the Kimberly region in Western Australia, frog genetics, lizard behavior patterns on the UA campus, and the bird diversity of Tumamoc Hill. I really enjoy fieldwork and have always had an interest in learning more about insects so I am truly grateful to be researching butterflies with LHIP. I have been to national parks in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington and my favorite park is still in my home town of Tucson, AZ - Saguaro National Park East, where I have had the good fortune to get this internship! I am more than grateful to everyone who helped me get this position and look forward to working with everyone in this wonderful program and park.