2023 Resilience Theme

Sunrise over soil with a green sprout and the project title overlaid.

“If you enjoy eating, if you enjoy looking at plants, or hiking, or breathing, or drinking clean water, then you should care about soil.”

Elise Gornish is an Associate Cooperative Extension Specialist in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the principal investigator for the team receiving the 2023-2024 Annual Resilience Theme Grant.

Administered by the Arizona Institute for Resilience, the award will support Gornish and a collaborative team of researchers, students, artists, and educators to create an inspiring year-long agenda of activities engaging various audiences in the theme of soil science.

A colored image of a cactus with pink blossoms.

The project, “The Art and Science of Drought Resilience Through Soil Health Initiatives,” will include activities inspiring and engaging audiences from gardeners and land managers to researchers and educators, students and parents.

The team will develop targeted non-academic communications including public artwork, social media, zines, and presentations to teach the public about the importance and relevance of soil health in their own lives, regardless of where they live or work.

Activities will include public workshops providing Arizonans with resources to assess and enhance soil health and an associated webinar, presentations, field trips to soil biology laboratories for Tucson Unified School District high school students with special engagement for Hispanic students, a soil health field guide, public artwork showcasing positive soil health, and screening of a soil science documentary with a live expert panel discussion at The Loft Cinema.

“This project is for people who aren’t connected with the world of science,” Gornish added. “There’s a place for everyone at every age to contribute to caring for soil.”

Artwork by Claire Taylor.


June, 2023

  • Mural workshops at Compass High School

July, 2023

  • Zine workshops at Sunnyside High School

August, 2023

  • August 22 – Zine Workshop for Sky Islands High School students
  • August 23 – Zine Workshop with Compass High School students
  • August 29 – Zine Workshop with Compass High School students

September, 2023

  • September 12 – Zine Workshop with Sky Islands High School students

October, 2023

  • October 10 – Grassland Resilience Workshop Series Kick-off Webinar
  • October 20 – Grassland Resilience Workshop Series – Santa Rita Experimental Range
  • Paint mural at Compass High School

November, 2023

  • November 3 – Grassland Resilience Workshop Series – Altar Valley
  • November 14 – Plant Art Making Workshop
  • Paint mural at Compass High School
  • Paint mural at Sky Islands High School
  • Mural workshops at Catalina High School

December, 2023

  • Paint mural at University High School

January, 2024

  • January 19 – Grassland Resilience Workshop Series – Las Cienegas National Conservation Area
  • Paint public mural #1

February, 2024

  • Paint public mural #2

March, 2024

April, 2024

  • Paint mural at Catalina High School


A headshot of Elise Gornish.

Elise Gornish

Project Lead, Extension Specialist

Elise is an extension specialist in ecology, management, and restoration of rangelands, and the Director of Girls on outdoor Adventure for Leadership and Science in Arizona. She studies restoration and weed management strategies that mitigate effects of climate change.

A headshot of Albert Barberán.

Albert Barberán

Associate Professor, Environmental Science

Albert teaches data analysis for life and environmental science. His research interests include the role of microorganisms in the environment, arid ecosystems, plant-soil interactions, and soil microbial communities.

A headshot of Philippa Johnstone.

Philippa Johnstone

MS Student, Natural Resources

Philippa is interested in soil restoration and plant ecology on degraded land. She is passionate about developing community-driven conservation efforts in order to help native plants reestablish themselves and bring soil back to life. 

A headshot of Claire Taylor.

Claire Taylor

MFA Student, Art, Carson Scholar

Claire holds a MS in Environmental Humanities and a BFA from the University of Utah. Her artwork reflects her psychological attachment to and experiences with the landscapes and wildlife she visits during her walks, runs and bike rides. 

A headshot of Aaron Lien.

Aaron Lien

Assistant Professor, Natural Resources

Aaron studies governance and adaptation in response to ecological threats such as global change and invasive species to answer questions about social-ecological systems. He teaches about rangeland plants and sustainable agriculture and conservation.

A portrait of Ana Santos.

Ana Santos Acinas

Illustrator and Muralist

Ana encompasses a background in painting, fashion design and education, with an interest in social justice. Her work is inspired by pop culture, cartoons and comic art. She likes to use humor and crazy color combos creating  bold, colorful artwork in a cartoonish style.