Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Chelsy Bognot, 18, foreground, and fellow Cal State Fullerton biology students ride into the Mojave desert in the back of a flatbed truck.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Cal State Fullerton biology students walk in the Mojave Desert during a two-day trip to study desert geology and ecosystems.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Associate biology professor Danielle Zacherl holds a baby lizard while taking her students on a trip to the Desert Studies Center, which is run by the California State University system.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Cal State Fullerton biology student Mudassar Haq, 20, tries to protect himself with a towel under the broiling sun of the Mojave. On a recent weekend, the temperature reached 112 degrees.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Arturo Garcia-Guzman, 18, takes notes on desert geology, plant and animal life. “Being in the desert is a physical and cultural challenge,” says Cal State Fullerton associate professor Danielle Zacherl.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Student Amelia Sousa, 18, walks on the balcony of a former spa resort named Zzyzx that now houses visiting students at the Desert Studies Center near Baker.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

While Cal State Fullerton biology students were exploring in the Mojave desert, they ran across a sidewinder. “This is an unusual treat,” Fullerton associate biology professor William Hoese told the group. “We’re going to give it room.”

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Carissa Pangan, 18, studies an insect under a flashlight's glow during a trip to the Desert Studies Center with her Cal State Fullerton classmates.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Karen Andrade, 17, right, analyzes an insect as her classmates do the same.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Cal State Fullerton teacher's aid Kim Walker, right, briefs biology students at the Desert Studies Center before they venture out on a night hike to look for scorpions.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Cal State Fullerton biology students try to catch insects, drawn to a mercury light, as part of a two-day field trip to the Desert Studies Center to study plant life, wildlife and geology in the Mojave Desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

A dragonfly is caught for observation at the 1,200-acre field station near Soda Springs in the Mojave National Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

After dark, the students set out over the flat, sandy plain with ultraviolet lights to search for scorpions. About a half mile out, they could be found lurking in the underbrush, an ethereal, prehistoric presence.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Brian Mguyen, 18, left, takes field notes on the natural habitat of a scorpion. Each year, about 2,300 people visit the Desert Studies Center, which is run by a consortium of seven campuses and managed mainly by Cal State Fullerton.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Biology students shine UV lights on a scorpion, whose exoskeleton contains a chemical that makes it fluorescent under the black light.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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Mojave Desert studies

Darkness cloaked the desert, pierced only by a canopy of stars that provided a glittering backdrop for 20 college students treading cautiously over the cracked, dry landscape. But a soft hiss stopped them in their tracks.

Mudassar Haq heard the rattlesnake and shouted to alert the others as classmate Thomas Parker shone a flashlight on a large sidewinder slithering away under a tuft of salt grass.

“I immediately knew what it was, that’s something you don’t think twice about,” said Haq, 20, a Cal State Fullerton junior. “My instinct was to run.”

But neither student did. Their calm response allowed for an unexpectedly close look at a staple of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. “This is an unusual treat,” Fullerton biology professor William Hoese told the group. “We’re going to give it room.”

The biology students were spending a recent weekend with 40 classmates and two professors at Cal State’s Desert Studies Center, a 1,200-acre field station in the Mojave that is one of the world’s few desert research facilities.

Los Angeles Times photographer Genaro Molina documented their desert experience.

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