Dr Reese's Planet

You have landed on Dr. Reese's Planet, a TV Nature series that ran on KVCR -- PBS and Time Warner San Diego - Desert Cities.  Join Earth Dr. Reese Halter, an award-winning broadcaster and distinguished biologist,  as he explores and probes the natural world, revealing cool factoids about plants and animals across the West.

Photo by John WiensAnza Boreggo Desert, California

Meet the rare tropical elephant tree and discover how it contends with the arid conditions of the Southwest. Learn why no insects or herbivores dare bother with this exquisite beauty. Marvel at how the only palm in the world - the giant fan palms - are able to retain all of their leaves and survive in the Colorado desert. Watch as Dr. Reese shows us the ancient desert pupfish that can live in water twice as salty as the sea and survive at record water temperatures of 112 degrees F. From an oasis to the most drought tolerant plant in all of the American deserts, the spectacular creosote bush. Dr. Reese takes us into a desert wash and we see how the palo verdre (green stick tree) contends with the hot, dry environment.
Photo: John Weins

From the Colorado Desert's dry wash and its well adapted trees like palo verdes, iron woods, smoke trees and mesquites to the awesome mountane coulter and gasoline pines of the San Jacinto Mountains of southern California. Dr. Reese shows us the flaming ocotillo and its hummingbirds and the incredible one shot wonder the century plant with its remarkable co-evolved bats. Bats are the only flying mammal in the world. They are crucially important natural pest managers and Dr. Reese tells of the aerial warefare that they regularily engage in with moths. Don't miss this episode its a doozer! 


Join Dr Reese as he searches for the bizarre looking Joshua tree in Joshua Tree National Park. The ecology of this most unusual member of the agave family is truly amazing, so too are the birds and other animals that depend upon its very existance. Marvell at Joshua forests that have burned and are beginning the duanting task of regrowing in the high Mojave desert. Also listen as Dr Reese talks about the dawn of life and shows evidence of 2 billion year old rocks that once connected the super continent of Rodinia. And watch Dr Reese as he discovers the rare Joshua giant oak tree in the middle of the desert!


Nestled beneath the Little San Bernardino Mountains and backing onto Joshua Tree National Park is a must see preserve. Thrity one thousand acres have been judiciously set aside. It's a crucial wildlife corridor connecting Joshua Tree National Park with the San Gorgonio wilderness and the San Bernradino National Forest. The Morongo preserve receives critical springtime meltwaters from the San Bernardino Mountains. These melt waters feed the Big Morongo Creek and supply perenial springs to hundreds of species of birds in the 15 acres of marshland - all in the middle of a desert! Join Dr Reese as he tours the marshland and describes the super-market of foods that the Serrano Peoples feasted upon. Relish the moment when Dr Reese discovers a female owl nesting in a dead tree, hanging on for her life and contending with a fan palm bashing incesantly against its head. Listen to the enchanting reverberating springtime courtship calls of male Pacific tree frogs.  And find out how to naturally cure aches and pains Mother Nature's medicine tree. 

The heavy rains in southern California over the past 3 months have created a sea of color in the desert. You won't want to miss this once in a lifetime showing of desert flowers at Coyote Canyon in Anza Borrego State Park as Dr Reese thrills the audience as he tours the Colorado Desert. From the rare bighorn sheep (only beleieved to be about 700 left on the planet) to coyotes and the endangered desert tortoise this show has it all. Don't miss this visual tour de force! Discover how certain plants are only adapted to either butterflies or bee polinators. And why all plants are blooming this year but why they are prevented from flowering each and every year. Dr Reese explains why Teddy Bear chollas aren't cuddly and how they have evolved with bizarre infertile seeds yet vegetatively reproduce by hooking a ride to their new home. And that Teddy Bear chollas contain 3 sets of chromosomes as opposed to the normal 2 sets that most other plants on Earth contain. Discover which native Californian plant helps people with sore and arthritic joints.

Join Dr Reese as he snowshoes in the mountains through a snow forest. This is a must see show for anyone who likes to play in the snow as well as all back country enthusiasts. Dr Reese tells us everything we need to know about the ecology of mountain snow. He explains why snow hangs off roofs and the dynamics of the snowpack. Marvel at the winter wonderland and the HUGE white firs and Jeffery pines. Watch to see how Dr Reese constructs a Quin-zhee or snow house. All you need is a snowshoe and you too can make your own Quin-zhee! The temporary shelter can be 50 degrees F warmer inside compared to the frigid outdoor temps, and it can save your life, preventing hypothermia, if you are forced to overnight in the woods during the winter. Find out why you should stay at least 6 feet away from big tree trunks avoiding treacherous snow wells. You won't want to miss this show - its a ripper!

Along the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains is a reserve second to none in California. Dr Reese shows us the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve and its 6 unique ecosystems. He explains why fire is so important for all these ecosystems and how each system has its marvellous adaptations. Not only have the plants adapted to fire but so too have the critters like the black western fence lizard which is perfectly camoflauged against charred chamise of the chaparral ecosystem. Dr Reese shows us how to identify the poison oak of the riparian (or stream) plant community and explains why you must stay clear of it. And he tours the stream where the majestic western sycamore lives explaining that this tree species has been in the State of California for at least the last 50 million years. Feel the excitement as Dr Reese discovers the huge coast live oaks. He explains where cork and dyes come from. The rare Engelmann oak lives where no other tree can thrive and is yet another exquisite example of the the diversity that exists on the Santa Rosa Plateau. Don't miss all the wild flowers that are gracing the reserve including the shooting stars, Johnny-jump-ups, goldminers, rare chocolate lillies, owls clover and the State flower of California beautiful California poppies. Don't miss this episode as Dr Reese shows us some of the last vernal or spring pools in Southern Califonia.

Welcome to the Red Rocks along the southwest edge of the Colorado Plateau. Feel the enregy as Dr Reese tells us about the story of these magnificent sandstone rocks. These rocks take us back in time to 320 million years ago when Sedona was on the edge of the west coast of North America. The off-white horizontal bands of limestone cleary show the Pedregosa Sea which covered these sandstone rocks 272 million years ago. Find out why the rocks are red and what their connection is between the ancestral Rocky Mountains of the West. The climate of this area is semi-arid and as a result fabulous diversity of desert vegetation meets open pinyon pine and juniper woodlands and closed montane ponderosa/Douglas-fir forests. Watch as Dr Reese shows the importance of fire and how ponderosa pines successfully deal with the natural occurrence of lightning-induced surface fires. Then Dr Reese takes us into a ponderosa/Douglas-fir forest where fire has not been allowed to burn. See first hand what happens when fire is supressed. Learn why pinyon pines rely upon the pinyon Jay for their very existance in a marvellous tale of co-evolution. This mutualistic relationship benefits both trees and birds. Trees feed birds and birds plant trees! Enjoy the Oak river and its unique ecosystems as Dr Reese tells us about the aquatic (water) and riparian (riverbank vegetation) ecosystems. And marvell at how the Arizona sycamores that once covered the hills of the Sedona area have adapted very successfully to climate change. This is a great show filled with color, energy and terific video! 

ancient Sierra juniperSan Bernardino Mountains, California

What happens when a prolonged drought sets in on mountain forests? Was it a pure coincidence that a hundred million voracious pine bark beetles ravaged these forests? And can fire help these forests rather than destroy them? Dr Reese answers these questions and gives us a tour of the east-west transverse mountains of southern California. From the yellow pine forest to the sublime 2000 year-old trees of the sub-alpine - all within 60 miles of Los Angeles, CA. Meet the trees that make up this magnificent mountain. Each has its own unique strategy of dealing with the natural occurence of lightning-induced fire. From the remarkable fire adapted knobcone pines to the unusual lacey looking big cone Douglas-firs. Experience the awe of discovering the ancient cinnamon-barked western junipers at 9000 feet above sea level. These trees have experienced almost 900,000 sunrises! Learn why snow packs are so important for supplying fresh water enabling 18 million people to live in sunny southern California. You won't want to miss this show - its a beauty!

Every one who lives, drives or hikes throughout the West particularily in the summer will enjoy this show. Dr Reese explains why it is vital to be prepared and plan - whether driving or hiking through the desert. The key message is WATER. If you are hiking you'll need to pack at least 2 gallons per person. And if your driving through a desert or a vast expanse in the West you need at least a 5 gallon water jug in your trunk. Dr Reese shows what gear to pack for car trips and cautions not to rely solely on your cell phone if you get into trouble. Hikers need certain gear too including: good footwear, a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, WATER, salty snacks, emergency blanket, survival mirror, knife, three types of fire, rucksack and a compact first aid kit. Dr Reese gives tips on what to do if you get lost and how to get rescued. Watch as he constructs a solar well and makes precious water. It's not a substitute for carrying water but in an emergency, if you have the correct equipment, you too can make a small amount of water. Dr Reese encourages early morning hikes in the desert to see nature's wonders! This is a great family show.

Join Dr Reese for a remarkable tour of the rarest pines in the United States. Nestled between millions of people of coastal southern California on a 50 million year old sandstone mesa lives the relic Torrey pines. There are about 7000 trees eeking out an existance on nutirent poor sandstone soils in near desert like conditions. In fact, if it were not for the coastal summertime fog these trees could not make a living under these rugged conditions. Scientists believe that these unusual trees have distant ancestors thought to have originated from central Mexico during a mega-drought in the southwest 45 million years ago. The trees of this Reserve are all genetically identical - a natural clonal forest! Although some trees are wind swept and stunted while others resemble large bizarre-looking umbrellas their shapes are a result of the different environments on the Reserve. Why is every tree genetically identical? When did the Torrey pines arrive on this spectacular mesa? What happens if a bark beetle gets loose in the Reserve? And are scrub jays friends or foes of the Torrey pines? Dr Reese explains the answers to these and more of nature's wonders. Feast your eyes on yet more wild flowers as the torrential winter rains of 2005 have brought the Earth alive! This is a great place to bring your family, enjoy a walk along the Pacific coastline and then tour the trails on Torrey pine State Reserve.



This is a show that you won't want to miss. Dr Reese takes us back to the time of the Ice Age Mega-Mammals. The richest deposit of fossils from 40,000 to 10,000 years ago are located in the most unlikely place on Planet Earth - the heart of the Los Angeles megalopolis. Over 3,000,000 plant and animal fossils have been recovered from the gooey tar pits. Over 100 tons of bones all stuck toegther have been carefully separated and catagorized. Like an enormous jig-saw puzzle - with no pictures included - and scientists over the past 100 years have recreated what life on the American Serengeti looked like. There was a vast diversity of plant and animals that inhabited North America before the first peoples arrived 14,000 years ago. Feel the excxitement as Dr Reese explains why the largest land mammal the gigantic Columbia mammoth - weighing a whopping 10 tons feared nothing. Walk with Dr Reese as he explains why the feirsome saber-toothed cats took care of their sick. And watch as Dr Reese tells why the enromous short-faced bears standing 14 feet tall didn't even have to fight to get a meal. At Rancho La Brea there were 6 meat-eaters for every vegetarian all entombed in the tar. Why did these critters all die-off between 11,500 and 10,000 years ago? Was it climate change? Did prehistoric man really over hunt these bizarre looking creatures? Or did a deadly microbe worse than E. boli transmitted by the dogs that followed prehistoric man strike them down? Bring your imagination along because this is truly a show stopper. Dr Reese in his element - and its a classic family show!


If you want to see the richest desert in America with trees and HUGE columnar catus don't miss this episode of Dr Reese's Planet. Dr Reese takes us to southwest Arizona - a stones through from the Gulf of California - in search of the very rare old man senita cactus. Just a few miles from the Mexico border this amazing jewel of a desert ecosystem is nestled into the chocolate-red rich lava rocks of southwestern Arizona. This corner of the Sonoran desert is packed with biological diversity because it receives two seasons of rainfall; light drizzle from the Pacific in the winter and monsoonal downpours in July and August. As a result it boasts TREES and in keeping with their mighty subterranean powers they fertilize the ground with nitrogen rich bacteria. As if discovering a desert filled with trees isn't enough, feast your eyes on the gigantic suagro cacti that reach up into the sky some 65 feet carrying more than 45 arms! Listen as Dr Reese explains these truly bizzare looking forms of life. The colossal cacti that resemble enormous organ pipes, for which this monument is named after, will blow your mind. They are vrarely found in America because they just don't like cold temperatures. And magically they migrated north inot this corner of Arizona because of the warmth that the chocolate-red rocks cast during the winter nights. In fact, it is just enough warmth for them to survive. Enjoy this beautiful show!


Marvel as Dr Reese takes us up into the White Mountains of California to the oldest forest on planet Earth. The Great Basin Bristlecone pines are near immortal as some of them have witnessed 1.8 million sunrises - making them almost 5000 years old! These remarkable trees live in one of the most inhospitable semi-arid environments in the world yet they thrive. Their gooey pitch holds many of the answers to longevity. These trees are so old that they outgrow their sites. Wood doesn't decay up here it erodes. Up to 85 percent of a tree may be wasted away but despite that they can continue to grow for another thousand of years. The oldest tree was old when the first pyramid was built. These trees hold the answer to understanding climate change amongst other things. Apart from one section of wood that dates between 8700 and 10,000 years ago (which is being actively search for and will be discovered soon) this mountain and its trees offer scientists a continuous glipse right back to the end of the last Ice Age. There is NO other place like this on Earth. You definately won't want to miss this show - it's a doozer!


When it's fall in the Rocky Mountains you must see the elk and aspen of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. And see them you will as Dr Reese takes us into Beaver Meadows and show's us a bull and his harem. Listen to the primevial call of the bull and he herds his harem. See the magic autumn yellows of the quaking aspen as they prepare for many months of sleep - winter is closeby. Check out the ancient rocks and the forest that call home almost 2 miles above sea level. And watch as Dr Reese almost gets blown over in 80 mph winds as he shows us the Never Summer Mountains. Then journey to the continental divide and witness the mighty Colorado River. It feeds some 55 million people in the West the life blood of planet Earth- WATER. This is a fun episode and one that you should not miss.


South central Utah is home to the LARGEST organism on Planet Earth - Pando (Latin for I spread) - 47,000 interconected quaking aspen trees. Pando weighs an astounding 13.5 million pounds. Some scientists say Pando may be 1,000,000 years old! And who loves quaking aspen? The industrious beaver does, the largest rodent in North America. Join Dr Reese for an exciting show as he takes us on Fish Lake in search of beavers and their lodge. Find out why fire is crucial for aspen and how they contend with it. This is a fun show filled with excitement and action. You won't want to miss this most cool episode!


Join Dr Reese for a tour through the magnificent Yosemite National Park. Find out why President Abraham Lincoln fell in love with the giant Sequoias - the bachelor and the three graces. Marvel at the incomprable valley. Granite and ice and fire. The high country is also amazing. Learn as Dr Reese tells us how trees are able grow out of sheer rock. And what does the Alaska and the high Sierra Nevadas have in common? Similar plants - would you believe. Lake Tenya, Toulamie meadows, Tioga pass and mountain hemlock -- this show has it all. ENJOY.


Join Dr Reese as he explores the largest white sand dunes in the world. These extraordinary gypsum sands are located in the south central heart of New Mexico in White Sands National Monument. This place plays tricks with your mind as distances deceive and the barness is totally sureal. Marvel as Dr Rees finds water in the desert after digging into 2 feet of hard earth. Not only is the vegetation unusal but so too are the critters: prairie lizards, camel crikets, spadefoot toads and darkling beetles. This is a great show!


Check out the incredible ROCKS of Zion. They clearly tell the story of the past quarter billion years. And although its climate is semi arid it truly has some of the most unusal features of the southwest including hanging gardens and swamps. Travel with Dr Reese as he walks up the Virgin River. Observe the POWER of water and see what it can carve in a millions years.  There is no other place on Earth like Zion. ENJOY!


This grogeous deep blue lake called Lake of Sky is nestled in California's Sierra Nevada's. It is surrounded by exquisite mixed Sierran conifer forests. In the winter it is home to some of the best downhill and crosscountry skiing in the world. In the summer it's a magic place to take a hike or just muck around in the water. Watch as Dr Reese tells us about the snow melt from the Sierra Nevada's. The importance of fresh water - the life blood on the planet - and in particular snow that accumulates from December to April is crucial for the State and its inhabitants. You better put this breathtaking place on your must visit list! 


The eastern Sierra are magic. Filled with geologic and tectonics wonders this part California - like all other parts - is unique unto itself. It contains some most unusual features like the massive inland (and land locked) Mono Lake. Millions of birds from all over the continent feed and breed here. And although the Lake has an extremely high salt content it supports 6 trillion brine shrimp and billiobs of salt water flies. These important small aquatic animals and insect make up the base of the pyramid enabling millions of birds an important food source. Equally unusual are the tufas that exist along the edge of Mono Lake. This is an eclectic show. It is where "Fire and Ice meet".


There are only a couple other places on Earth that could conceivably rival the shear magic of Sequoia National Park. Between 6400 and 7400 feet above sea level lives the LARGEST trees on the planet. Nesteled on a bench between some spectacular Sierran high peaks lives General Sherman - the largest known living tree in the world.  The General is old and BIG. How big you ask? Well, the largest living animal (and known resident animal) is the blue whale. About 15 blue whales could fit comfortably inside the General. Watch as Dr Reese explains how these magnificent beasts rely upon fire - Nature's broom. The life history of Sequoias is remarkable and awe inspiring! These trees and their distant ancestors have existed on Earth for over 100 million years. Don't miss this show. It's a keeper!

Dr Reese travels to New Mexico and examines the awesome forests where the real life icon "smokey bear" was first rescued as a scorched cub. The valley bottoms are rich with life adapted to the Chihuahuan desert and the montane and subalpine forests are breathtaking. Watch as Dr Reese explains how millions of the pinyon pines have been demolished by global warming and the engraver beetles. Marvel at the big trees that live near the top of the mountain.

Dr Reese is in his element with ancient rocks, the largest stand of Joshua trees on the face of the Earth and the amazing creosote plant. As a matter of fact, on route to the Preserve Dr Reese goes on an side expidition to find the oldest creosote in the world. This is a great show and one not to be missed!


This show highlights many of the special moments and places that Dr Reese has visited over the past two years. You will absoulutely love this fun filled episode. Enjoy!!


This is another fascinating best of show which takes viewers from the ocean to the desert and to some of the greatest trees in North America. If you liked the first one then you must own this second special edition show. Cheers!!!

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Dr Reese's Planet

Twenty-five shows are now available on dvd for only $9.95.  The titles on each episode link through to Amazon store to purchase the DVDs.