Background for Teachers

Cover-Desert Dwellers

TPW Magazine, August 2010
Desert Dwellers (pdf).

Desert Dwellers

What is a desert? 

Definitions vary, but generally,  a desert receives 10 inches or less of precipitation or the evaporation rate is greater than precipitation.

And how do plants, animals and people survive in arid conditions? 

Physical and behavioral adaptations help plants, animals and people survive. Because of the physical features some species have, they can survive. Examples include features such as thorns and needles instead of leaves; coloration; efficient root and stem systems; parts that optimize the collection of water or dissipation of heat. Some survival behavior is something wildlife and people can choose, such as being active at cooler parts of the day and night, wearing protective gear, carrying water, etc.

And what's so special about the Chihuahuan Desert?

  • It is one of the most biologically diverse desert in the world. 
  • Because of it's elevation, it snows in the Chihuahuan Desert.
  • The Chihuahuan Desert is the largest desert in North America. (The Great Basin is the largest in the U.S.)

Other resources:

The Centennial Museum of the University of Texas El Paso offers extensive natural history information and a short course for teachers on the Chihuahuan Desert.

The National Park Service provides background on nature and science at Big Bend National Park.

The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center has lots of information online: 

Desert USA is another good resource on the Chihuahuan Desert and the southwest: 

National Geographic Big Bend