Earth Notes

The Colorado Plateau is one of North America’s human and environmental treasures. Ancient cultures have called this land of sun-baked deserts and lush mountain landscapes home for centuries. Earth Notes, KNAU’s weekly environmental series, explores the Plateau by telling stories of the intricate relationships between environmental issues and our daily lives.

Rooted in science and wrapped in human interest, the two minute long segments encourage listeners to think of themselves as part of the solution to environmental problems. Upbeat and informative, the program tries to foster hope and dampen despair about the environment, and motivate listeners to become more conscious and informed stewards of the Colorado Plateau.

Earth Notes: mule deer fall migration

Oct 6, 2021
Arizona Game and Fish Department/George Andrejko

It’s fall and mule deer are on the move from summer to winter range on the Colorado Plateau.  These large charismatic mammals are faithful to fixed routes during their seasonal travels.  And it turns out a few are doing marathon migrations.  

In 2008, biologists with the Arizona Game and Fish Department started a tracking project to see how deer could navigate hazards along their set routes--especially crossing busy Highway 64 between the San Francisco Peaks and the Grand Canyon.

American Chemical Society

No creature conjures up images of the burning hot desert better than the rattlesnake, with its venomous fangs, buzzing tail and ability to withstand extreme heat. But even rattlesnakes get thirsty, and they know an unusual way to quench their thirst: they harvest rainwater from their backs. 

Sheila Murray

A team of botanists with the Arboretum at Flagstaff just finished a two-year survey of three rare plant species found at Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah: the endangered Wright’s fishhook cactus, the threatened Winkler’s pincushion cactus and the Last Chance Townsend Daisy.

Grand Canyon National Park/Facebook

Pictorial weaving is an innovation born out of traditional Navajo geometric designs. Since the 1970s, the style has become increasingly popular among Indigenous artists.

Florence Riggs of Tuba City, is a renowned Diné textile weaver who learned the craft from her mother, grandmother and great grandmother. In keeping with tradition, pictorial weaving is done on an upright loom, working from the bottom up. Florence has taken her designs into new territory – using them to tell stories about the vivid life and landscapes around her.

U.S. Forest Service

Across the country, iconic signs mark the trails, campgrounds and other features on nearly 200 million acres of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

The signs were the brainchild of long-time Forest Service employee, Virgil Carrell. ‘Bus’, as he was commonly known, wasn’t a professional designer, but he was a professional forest ranger. He started his career in the West, and worked nearly every job expected of a ranger in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Gary Alpert, MNA Center for Bio-Cultural Diversity

There’s a new conservation plan for springsnails in Nevada and Utah. It’s aimed at protecting these strictly aquatic snails that depend entirely on springs for their existence.

More than 100 species of springsnails are known in the two states. Some of these unique gastropods are about the size of a match head, others are microscopic. They have names like the Rocky Mountain duskysnail, Green River pebblesnail and Grand Wash springsnail.

Margo Robbins, Yurok Tribe

Indigenous peoples of North America have long known the benefits of fire. It’s a vital part of ceremonies and cultural practices, and a key element of keeping landscapes healthy. A group called the Indigenous Peoples Burning Network is working to preserve the culture of fire for future generations.

Earth Notes: Summer Spadefoots

Jul 14, 2021

The sound of monsoon rains beating the ground is irresistible to one animal in particular. A toad-like amphibian called a spadefoot responds instantly to rain, emerging from an underground burrow where it stays dormant most of the year.


Douglas-fir trees are a well known fixture in the Pacific Northwest; their common name honors Scottish botanist David Douglas who collected seeds in Oregon in the early 19th century. But, an inland variety also grows here in the Southwest.

They grow mostly – but not exclusively – at higher elevations on cool, moist north-facing slopes. The Douglas-fir is a conifer, but is neither a pine, a spruce, nor a true fir. It’s in a genus all its own.

The Three Little Pigs taught us to be skeptical of straw houses. But, since the early 1900’s, humans have shown there’s a lot more to building with straw than the old fairytale suggests.

Straw bale homes are works of art with a uniquely southwestern feel. They’re often built with sculptural reliefs and alcoves carved into their thick, earthy walls.