Wilderness Experience Desert Herpetology in the USA

Research Course in Arizona

Your reseach course in the desert

As a participant in this exciting Wilderness Experience course you will broaden your knowledge about the most common features, evolutionary history and appropriate protection measures for reptiles and amphibians living in the desert. The course will take place in the North American Chihuahuan Desert, but provides additional trips to the huge and biodiverse Sonora Desert. Together with your international team you will gain valuable knowledge about most common research methods and data collection techniques taught to you by experienced biologists and natural scientists. The topics you will be dealing with range from studying different desert ecosystems to tracking and identifying various reptile and amphibian species and training special techniques for a safe handling of snakes and other representatives of the local herpetofauna. The ecosystem “desert” offers way more than just drought, heat and bald landscapes – it is home to various amazing species and has an important cultural meaning as well. Within the scope of this special upgrade training you have the opportunity to get to know a few of the biggest deserts of Northern America really close and gaining rare knowledge in herpetology and in nature and species conservation.

The deserts in North America’s Southwest are home to a diverse flora and fauna which were able to stick to the cruel desert climate in a unique way. Research location of that course will be the Chihuahuan Desert stretching from the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to the Mexican states of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi. This amazing course location offers the opportunity to meet and study a variety of local animal and plant populations. Climate change and other human related impacts pose serious threats to this area and the species living in it. Understanding the challenges faces and the ecological meaning of this impressive desert region is of crucial importance for long-term protection of biodiversity.

Service Our services at a glance


  • Placement in the course
  • All meals during the course
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • All meals during the project – participants help to cook
  • Assistance with selecting travel insurance
  • Excursions
  • Assistance with booking flights
  • Course-related equipment
  • Pre-departure information pack
  • English speaking support by long-term experienced staff
  • Airport pick up and drop off
  • Certificate
  • Accommodation during the course
  • 24/7 support throughout the course

Not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • ESTA fee/visa fee
  • Personal expenses and optional excursions


Start DateDurationCostNATUCATE-ID W.US-001
1 Week 2.280 €


If you would like to participate in our desert herpetology course, you must be at least 18 years old and proof a basic knowledge of English. Specific pre-knowledge is not required – it is more important to be interested in nature and to be motivated to work and study actively. For your application, you need a certificate from your doctor confirming that you are healthy. Moreover, we ask you to hand in a certificate of vaccination. Last but not least, you need to make sure to get travel health insurance before departing to the USA.

Everyone interested in the field course in Arizona should be aware that these courses aim at educating the participants. The course has a set content and deals with a variety of topics that are introduced in English. A number of theoretical and practical examinations as well as presentations in English may be part of the learning experience and can be challenging for non-native speakers.

Please note that the course is not simply a safari excursion but requires effort. But if you are interested and also willing to learn something completely new, the challenges and tasks will be manageable for you. You should not get discouraged – feel free to contact us so we can discuss the learning plan and explain the general procedure of the course to you.

Details Desert Herpetology in Arizona


Wilderness Experience in the USA

First, you will be heading to Tucson International Airport in Arizona and will spend a night with other participants of the course in a hotel in the city. The next day you and the others will leave for your course location in/close to the Chihuahuan Desert. The course is designed in a way that you will gain a broad basic knowledge about the most important sections of desert herpetology, with a focus on the deserts of America, nature conservation biology, but also some basic knowledge about local domestic cultures and traditions. The course emphasizes field exercises and boots on the ground experiences as opposed to classroom-based lectures.

In general, the days in the course are defined by hikes, presentations and group discussions. Since the course takes place during monsoon time, you have the chance to experience fantastic animal sightings. You will be taught how to identify reptiles and amphibians of the region and how to recognise microhabitats native to the area. You will also learn to safely handle snakes, lizards and other representatives of the local herpetofauna. During the excursions you will not only deal with typical characteristics of different reptile and amphibian species, but also with their evolutionary history and relevant topics regarding species protection. Most modules of this course focus on local reptile and amphibian species or habitats, but can also be used to describe other regions of the earth. In addition to that, you will visit Chiricahua Desert Museum which hides some of the rarest species of the Chihuahuan Desert. Since you will be accompanied by a professional wildlife photographer, you have the opportunity to improve your skills behind the camera – a very special bonus of this course.

After participating successfully in this course, all participants will be given a certificate. Moreover, you can recognize the course in form of credit points at different universities. In best case, you should contact your university and ask for the course to be recognized in your case. We will help you with that.


Specific course activities:

You will master fundamentals of following topics:

  • Field ethics and safety
  • Reptile and amphibian taxonomy
  • Reptile and amphibian survey, handling, and identification technique
  • Toxicology
  • Modern data collection and sampling procedures
  • Desert reptile and amphibian conservation

We realise that some of the people on our projects want to see as many animals as possible in their natural environment. However, this is dependent on a number of factors. Please note that NATUCATE makes no guarantee that you will see a variety of animals, as nature doesn’t always give us what we want. To make such a guarantee would be unprofessional and against our corporate philosophy.



The night after your arrival in Arizona as well as the last two nights before departure you will spend in a hotel in Tucson. There you will share a room with one or two other participants. During your stay in the hotel you will be provided with daily meals. Your actual research location will be the Chihuahuan Desert, in the south-eastern part of Arizona, in whose surroundings you will travel after the first night in Tucson. There you will be living in a furnished apartment in a guest lodge, close to a small village in New Mexico at the border to Arizona. The apartments provide bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, living room and a washing machine. The lodge also provides WiFi. You and your team are in charge for your breakfast and lunch – the groceries needed will be provided to you by your team leaders. Dinner will be ordered, you will eat in a restaurant or prepare it yourself. Since the course instructors will buy fresh groceries in a supermarket nearby, different kinds of diets can be considered.


Everybody interested in a Wilderness Experience abroad should be able to adjust to entirely unfamiliar standards of living in their future host country. Therefore, we would like to point out the importance of being flexible and adaptable regarding the accommodation and sanitary facilities provided by the project. Those are very basic and – depending on the project – cannot be compared to European standards. The equipment and furnishings are limited to a minimum; air conditioning is not available. Depending on your host country occasional power blackouts or water outages are quite common. Please contact us if you have further questions about your accommodation. We are pleased to provide you with comprehensive information since we would like you to feel entirely prepared for your time abroad.

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