In mid-July, 2016, Valerie was part of a support team working with an EarthWatch fellowship expedition. The study focus was "climate change and caterpillars" and the participants were all teachers who were there to learn first-hand about field research in order to enhance their students' traditional curricula with real-life experiences. One of the activities included collecting caterpillars, hence the white beat-sheets being carried up the hillside. The specimens were then kept for several days to determine parasitoid infestation, one of a number of different variables being recorded for an ongoing decades-long study.
The location shown above is in the Florida Canyon area of the Santa Rita Experimental Range, near Green Valley, Arizona, where the ocotillo and grass vegetation presents a rather striking spectacle under the heavy cloud cover. Although the weather was ominous, time was rather short, so the program leaders decided to try and get some collecting done prior to the arrival of storms. The group did manage to work for about 1/2 hour before lightning was seen. Due to the exposed location on the elevated slope, it was at that time deemed prudent to retreat.