Living Desert University

Natural Science

Living Desert University offers classes for individuals who want to learn more about the world around us, including our impact on it. Below you will find a sampling of our knowledgeable Natural Science instructors!

Cameron Barrows Ph.D.,
Cameron Barrows Ph.D., is currently an Assistant Research Ecologist coordinating desert research initiatives for the University of California Riverside's Center for Conservation Biology. The focus of the research ranges from the sensitivity of desert plants and animals to predicted levels of climate change, the influence of suburban-natural area interfaces, minimum habitat sizes for population persistence along precipitation gradients, the influence of exotic species on natural community composition, drivers of population dynamics, and modeling current and historic species distributions to objectively measure habitat loss.


Kurt Leuschner
Kurt Leuschner is a Professor of Natural Resources at College of the Desert where he teaches courses on Conservation, Entomology, Birds, GPS Navigation, and Wildlife Management. He has a Bachelor's degree in Zoology from U.C. Santa Barbara and a Master's degree in Wildlife Ecology from the Univ. of Florida. Kurt has extensive experience abroad including a year at the University of Nairobi, 2 years in the Peace Corps as a Game Warden in Tanzania, and field research in Uganda for a summer. Kurt continues to take groups over to Africa for wildlife photographic safaris during the summer. In addition to leading countless natural history field trips, Kurt also teaches weekend courses and workshops on Birdwatching, GPS, Insects, and Creating Backyard Habitats for the Desert Institute, UCR Extension, and the Living Desert University.


Jennifer Purcell
Jennifer grew up in Palm Springs and holds a Degree in Natural Resources. She has been working as a professional in the field of Natural History since 1986. Jennifer has taught Coachella Valley Native Plants with an emphasis on the Cahuilla usage of plants for Elderhostel for 22 years. In addition to Elderhostel, Jennifer has been a Living Desert University instructor for many years and leads interpretive walks into the Canyons, along with other locations throughout the Coachella Valley. She has also been a speaker for the "Spirit Keepers Lecture Series" for the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and has recently lead interpretive walks for residents and corporate groups at Smoke Tree Ranch. Jennifer says, "There is nothing I enjoy more than sharing our natural world with our community."


Peter Siminski
Peter is the Director of Conservation and Education at The Living Desert. For 20 years he was also the Curator of Mammalogy and Ornithology and the Director of Collections at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. He is best known for his work on Mexican wolf conservation. He is the coordinator of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for the Mexican wolf and is the past leader of the federal Mexican Wolf Recovery Team. Peter's conservation interests and activities also include the endangered peninsular pronghorn and the endangered Channel island fox.