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The SBSC studies the terrestrial and aquatic systems of the Colorado Plateau, Colorado River and its tributaries, drylands of the Southwest, and beyond. 

River flowing through an arid landscape consisting of riparian vegetation, canyons, and highlands.
River flowing through an arid landscape consisting of riparian vegetation, complex topography, different soil types, and plants and animals adapted to this harsh, beautiful, and important ecosystem. (Credit: GCMRC, USGS. Public domain.)

Scientists from the Southwest Biological Science Center (SBSC) are passionate about understanding the complex biology, ecology, and processes of the arid and semi-arid Southwest, and committed to conducting high-quality, useful science. The moisture-limited ecosystems (collectively called drylands) of the Southwest are known for their complex topography, variety of soil types, and having a high diversity of plants, insects, and animals. Rivers, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs also contribute to the landscape of drylands, and provide precious habitat and resources for fish, wildlife, insects, plants, and humans.

Our dryland systems are valuable for recreation, power (hydro, solar, wind, oil, and gas), water resources, species habitat, culture, archaeology, and economics. SBSC scientists work with federal and state agencies, Native American Tribes, universities, and other organizations to better understand both the terrestrial and aquatic components of dryland systems so that agencies, land managers, and the public can be equipped with the knowledge they need when making decisions about our complex dryland systems. To accomplish this, SBSC relies on a diverse group of scientists, information technology specialists, engineers, and remote sensing and surveying experts.

To explore the research SBSC conducts, and to see images of dryland organisms and landscapes, click on links in the left-hand navigation column and on the pages. If you are interested in a specific topic, click on “Science Topics” and select the topic you find most interesting. 

Close-up of male tortoise
Close-up of male tortoise. (Credit: Shellie Puffer, USGS. Public domain.)
Two USGS researchers in a small boat collecting aquatic insects using a net. Glenn Canyon Dam is in the background.
Sampling aquatic invertebrate drift near Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona. (Credit: Dallana Garcia-Peña, USGS. Public domain.)