Suzanne Dhruv

The co-founder of the Ironwood Tree Experience has dedicated her life to preserving the Sonoran Desert and to helping teenagers. She started the program with her husband, Eric Dhruv, in 2005 as a way for teenagers to enjoy nature. Ironwood Tree Experience has many events for teens who want to experience the desert, including a free urban nature walk along the Rillito at 4:30 p.m. every Thursday. For more information, including the meeting place, call 319-9868, ext. 7, or visit www.ironwoodtreeexperience.org.

What exactly is Ironwood Tree Experience?

It's a nonprofit organization for teenagers to engage with their community through experiences in nature.

When and how did it get started?

My husband, Eric Dhruv, and I started this program in 2005 as a sponsored program of Prescott College.

How did you come to work with Prescott College?

My husband and I both received our master's of art in environmental studies at Prescott College, which has a Tucson center, so we did our master's program through the Tucson center. Prescott College is a liberal arts school for environmental and social justice. When we graduated, we thought we wanted to do environmental programs with teenagers. So we asked the president if he would allow us to run this nonprofit program through the college. We wrote a proposal and the college accepted us as a sponsored program.

Where did the idea for Ironwood Tree Experience come from?

Both my husband and I have studied ecology, actually Sonoran Desert ecology, and we've been very active in hiking, backpacking, camping, but also doing conservation projections or environmental improvement projects. We also have worked with teenagers for about 20 years. When we were graduating from college we started working with teens in environmental projects and then we just kind of continued.

What inspired you to work with teenagers?

We found that when we worked with teenagers outdoors in natural places, they really came alive. They were passionate, they were interested, they were active, they had great stories to tell about being outdoors and wanting to be outdoors. We just saw the energy coming from the teen population, that, they too, wanted to experience nature and have a relationship with the natural world. There were not many opportunities for teenagers to do that in Tucson. Although we have had many wonderful programs for little kids or for college-aged kids, we really wanted to work with that teen population and give them experience in rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, camping, and also doing conservation projects.

Where does the Ironwood Tree Experience take place?

We do it throughout the Sonoran Desert, which goes into Mexico and also throughout Arizona. It's really the Sonoran Desert region, but we operate in Tucson.

What do you hope people get out of attending the Rillito nature walks?We hope that people have an understanding that nature is all around us. So even in the urban environment, we really can step right outside our door and be in nature. So we can explore and discover birds, mammals, water in the desert, plants, plants that provide food—all right here in our city environment.

How long have you done the walks?

For about one month. But we've been doing other urban projects for seven years.

What other events does Ironwood Tree Experience offer?

We have EcoPrograms that take place in natural Sonoran Desert areas for teenagers. We also have urban conservation projects called GreenLots and KidsCorridor.

What are they about?

Improving the environment in your neighborhoods. So, planting trees, collecting rainwater, harvesting from desert plants and really greening urban spaces.

What's your favorite part of these events?I like the opportunity of being active outdoors enjoying the Sonoran Desert.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work?

Collaborating with amazing environmental organizations and ... getting teenagers connected to organizations in environmental science, in conservation, in education, and just building partnerships that create more benefits for teenagers in those areas.