The eastern Mojave Desert is a region of complex topography and geology, lying in the southern Great Basin geophysical province. This results in a rich flora and fauna, distributed among several life zones and communities, in a landscape of rugged mountains, alluvial fans and bajadas, sand dunes, volcanic fields, pediment domes, drainage systems and playas.
The DSC sits on the eastern edge of Soda Dry Lake, the terminal basin of the Mojave River. This water source provides abundant year-round springs in the area, which have been vital resources for humans and wildlife for millenia.
The Desert Studies Center itself its at the base of the Soda Mountains. The Sodas are a mixture of Triassic metavolcanic rocks, Cretaceous granites, and Permian limestone, uplifted during crustal extension typical of much of the Basin and Range Geophysical Province, and resulting in the Soda Lake Basin.