Real estate investor Lew McGinnis has held leadership positions at a number of nonprofits over the years. For a period, Lew McGinnis served as director of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Foundation. The museum plays an important role in research and preservation of the desert.
Through the Conservation Education & Science Department, the museum spearheads ecological research of the Sonoran Desert that influences conservation policies and makes its research readily available to the public. In addition, the department offers various outreach education programs so that children and adults alike can learn about important issues affecting the desert. These educational efforts reflect the various ways that people learn with hands-on programming, as well as place-based learning and inquiry-based education.
The research undertaken by the museum is essentially interdisciplinary in nature, with experts in biology, earth sciences, botany, and ecology all working together along with specialists in ornithology and ethnobiology. Because about two-thirds of the Sonoran Desert is in Mexico, the museum also partners with researchers, educators, and conservationists across the border to ensure that findings reflect the entire ecosystem and protection efforts can be implemented across the whole desert.