The Historic Spalding Plots

  • The Spalding Plots on Tumamoc Hill

IN 1906 botany professor Volney Spalding and his botanist wife Effie came to work at the new Carnegie Desert Botanical Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill two miles from downtown Tucson. With an idea to observe landscape change over time, Spalding staked out 19 small squares of ground around the Tumamoc Hill research preserve. That was over 115 years ago, and Tumamoc scientists are still mapping these plots every ten years. The Spalding plots are now the oldest ecological study plots in the world.  While artist in residence on Tumamoc Hill, I became as interested in these plots as well--but perhaps seeing data the scientists did not consider. To collect my ideas I photographed the plots during the 2012 survey and again in 2021.