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Biological Soil Crusts
Desert Institute Natural Science Course


The desert floor may look like dirt and sand but it is full of living organisms vital to Joshua Tree National Park’s ecosystem. Nicole Pietrasiak, Ph.D. candidate, Biological Sciences, will introduce biological soil crusts in this one-day field class. Participants will study the secret life of these microscopic organisms as Nicole demystifies this thin layer of soil. She will also discuss the components of crusts such as cyanobacteria (one of the oldest known life forms), green algae, diatoms, bacteria, fungi, lichens and mosses. During the lab session, participants will see the biodiversity of the park’s crusts up close through two different types of microscopes. In the afternoon, the class will go into the field walking approximately five miles to identify and assess the condition of some of the soil crust groups found in the park.

Sponsored by the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park, this field class meets at the Oasis Visitor Center, 74485 National Park Drive, on Sunday, October 26, 9 am – 5 pm. The cost is $60 ($50 for JTNPA/PINE members). For brochure, information and registration call (760) 367-5535 or visit

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