Living in Tucson, living in the Sonoran Desert
There are few places in the United States that are as unusual and beautiful as the Sonoran Desert, nor as good a place to study biology. For example, fourteen species of hummingbirds have been recorded in Southern Arizona, and bee diversity is the highest of any place in the country. The desert is never completely absent, even in town, where it is not uncommon to see a coyote, a roadrunner (although rarely a coyote chasing a roadrunner), Gambel’s quail crossing the road with a long train of pursuing offspring, or Gila woodpeckers excavating a saguaro for a nest. When the summer rains start, ants swarm over Gould-Simpson (the Neurobiology building) and the giant palo verde beetle and mesquite bug come to lights.
Tucson, at 2000 ft. in elevation, is ringed by mountain ranges with peaks of 9,000 ft. Even in the dog days of summer, you can escape the heat, and in an hour and a half drive, find yourself in a habitat reminiscent of the northern U.S. As you climb from the desert lowlands, with giant saguaro cacti, prickly pear, mesquite and palo verde trees, you move into oak savannah, with red-barked manzanitas, and then eventually pine forest, with a leafy understory of wildflowers.
With only eleven inches of rain a year, Tucson boasts more sunshine than any other US city—about 350 days annually. Tucsonans celebrate rain like Seattleites celebrate sunshine, and people who leave the desert are likely to remember the mountains turning all possible shades of pink and purple in the evening, and the smell of creosote after a rain.
Performances of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra are of high quality at affordable prices. Recent performances of the Arizona Opera include: Macbeth, The Marriage of Figaro, Madam Butterfly, and Beauty and the Beast. There are a number of opportunities to view theatrical performances in venues both large and small. Tucson has nine movie houses, several of them offering less commercial productions. The collections at the Tucson Museum of Art and the Center for Creative Photography are renowned and extremely interesting. The Old West is evident in the two-day Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Tucson Rodeo), an event for which all local schools are cancelled. In addition, Tucson has a thriving counterculture centered a few blocks from campus that produces lively art, a multitude of ethnic, vegetarian and vegan restaurants, many vintage clothing shops, and an annual event near November 1, the Day of the Dead Parade, that is not to be missed.
On-campus attractions include:
- Grace Flandrau Planetarium, northeast corner of University Blvd. and Cherry Ave.
- Center for Creative Photography, northwest corner of University and Tyndall Ave.
- Arizona State Museum, just inside the main gate on University Blvd.
- Museum of Art, on Olive Rd. just off Speedway Blvd.
Cost of living in Tucson
Our current graduate students have chosen a range of housing options. Some of them own their houses, others rent single apartments, or share group houses. Tucson is still a relatively affordable city, with the recent speculative real estate boom causing many investors to have places for student rental. It is also possible to live close to campus, making car ownership optional. Tucson is a spread-out western city, however, and most students have cars.
Housing (approximate costs):
1 bedroom apartment – about $500-$600/month
2 bedroom apartment – about $650-750/month
2 bedroom house – about $750- $1000
Utilities $50- $120/month depending on season
Check out the Photo and Video Tours in the lower right corner of the UA Website home page.