Our History

 How it all started:

The desert of Sonora, Mexico contains some of the least populated areas of the world, and is still a true wilderness, much as the desert was in the southwestern United States during the late 1800’s. Similarly, the state of Sonora still has homestead laws, enabling one to claim land. The reserve of La Estrella was originally a 272ha (672 acres) homestead on the coast, and is currently managed by the SDCC. (See La Estrella, Location/Description)

Increasing tourism is now drastically impacting the coastline of Sonora. During the last five years, the state of Sonora has witnessed the development of another disturbing trend in land use. The value for trophy hunting of desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) has increased dramatically (the permit for one sheep can cost as much as $200,000). Consequently, wealthy Mexican land owners are purchasing land, and taking advantage of Sonora’s homestead laws by claiming extensive mountain ranges in order to privately manage profitable hunting ranches. These vast tracts of desert that are now hunting ranches prohibit any trespassing, including the local communities that historically used the land (See San Lorenzo, Location/Description).

In addition, an inter-coastal highway is to be built within the next 7 years. This is the largest threat to the last remaining wilderness of vast unpopulated stretches of the Sonoran desert. The detrimental effects of an increase in tourism and coastal population on the coastline are very evident, especially in the proximity of large cities (e.g. Guaymas, San Carlos, etc.), and areas that promote tourism, such as the Baja California peninsula. The inter-coastal highway will be “progress” for tourism and urban development, yet for the largely intact ecological communities it will be “the end”.

The SDCC was formed in response to these recent changes in land use, which severely impact the local peoples, and the biological communities of the desert. In a similar fashion to the hunting ranches, the SDCC will homestead and purchase land, with the goals of establishing reserves that will protect the ecological communities of the Sonoran desert. These protected areas will not prohibit trespassing, but rather encourage low-impact land use by the local communities, tourists, and educational institutions.

The coastal areas the SDCC is currently working to protect, will ensure that at least parts of the Sonoran desert would remain as the magical wilderness it is.

Board of Directors

Michael O. L’Annunziata is the founder and director of the SDCC, a “grassroots”, conservation organization. Having an American father, and Mexican mother; he holds dual nationalities (US and Mexico), speaks Spanish and English fluently, and is in effect bicultural. Having a large family in Caborca, Sonora, he maintains close ties to the rural communities along the coast of Sonora.
Bsc, Biology (with a Marine pathway), University of California at Santa Cruz, California, 1996
Msc, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (Marine Sciences), University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 2000
Studies include successional mechanisms, and species-area relationships of ephemeral pool branchiopod communities present at La Estrella reserve. Marine research has involved surveying fish assemblages of both rocky, and soft bottom intertidal fish assemblages, along the coasts of California and the Gulf of California. Additional studies include determining life history components of the calyeptrid Thyca callista, parasitizing the asteroid Phataria unifaciallis, along the islands of the southern Gulf of California. Areas of special interest include general aquatic invertebrate ecology, intertidal ecology, tropical and temperate fish ecology, and restoration ecology.

1333 E. 8th St. unit A Tucson, AZ 85719
Tel: (520) 622-3140
E-mail: phataria@hotmail.com


Robert A. Jewell is a founding member of the SDCC. Rob built and maintains this website. A recent graduate from the University of Arizona, with a BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rob is experienced in floral and faunal monitoring. Experience includes work for the Chiricahua National Monument, Coronado Memorial, and the Environmental Research Lab of the University of Arizona. He has established habitat monitoring plots for the Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida), tracked mammals, banded birds with the MAPS program, collected, sorted and identified algae, and while working with various environmental organizations. Areas of special interest include marine and desert ecology, restoration ecology, algal assemblages, and alternative energy production.

724 E. 8th Street
Tucson, AZ
E-mail: robjewell@superior-sites.com  

Dr. Robert J. Frye, is a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, at the University of Arizona, and serves as an academic advisor for the SDCC. His research focuses on demographics and conservation of endangered cacti.

University of Arizona
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology/Biological Sciences East
Tucson, AZ
E-mail: rjfrye@u.arizona.edu 

Patrick Phoebus, Our public relations officer and another founding member of SDCC, Patrick received his B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. His experience working in cooperation with various federal agencies, volunteer groups, and nonprofit organizations enables him to communicate effectively with people of diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. He is an avid birder, having handled more than 250 wild birds during mist netting in Southeastern Arizona and Northern Sonora, Mexico. He has several years of experience in plant and animal identification in the desert southwest, as well as extensive experience illustrating and interpreting its animal and vegetative communities for the public. Finally, he is no stranger to the vagaries of fieldwork. His resume includes MAPS banding in the Sky Island Region, working for Sky Island Alliance/Wildlands Project under an NSF grant conducting ecological surveys and habitat evaluations, and fieldwork concerning the evolutionary ecology of plant-herbivore parasitoid interactions. His favorite things to are explore the fascinating natural world, speak Spanish with some buddies, and play frisbee with his dogs (the cat doesn't like frisbee).

Phone - (520) 888-8582


Dr. William A. Calder, is a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, at the University of Arizona, and serves as an academic advisor for the SDCC. His research focuses on migratory birds sizing and energetics, and conservation.

Full Bio

University of Arizona Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Biological Sciences West 110Tucson, AZ 85721E-mail: calderwa@u.arizona.edu
Please note our updated contact information
Sonoran Desert Coastal Conservation
The University of Arizona, EEB Dept. Biological Sciences East 1D
Tucson, Az 85721
(520) 622-3140
e-mail: sdcc@superior-sites.com