project leader
Matt K
location
Hole in the Rock Road
(Grand Staircases-Escalante National Monument)
latest update rss
Last Day to Contribute!

the project

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a hotbed of bee diversity. It's home to 660 species of bees. In contrast, the entire eastern United States has 770 species. Stop and think about this for a minute: an area the size of Delaware has nearly as many different bee species as every state east of the Mississippi River combined. The monument is a living lab for understanding the bee-flower relationships that are the basis of nearly every terrestrial ecosystem around the planet.

But in December 2017, President Donald Trump decided to reduce the size of Grand Staircase-Ecalante and open this land to increased human activity and development. What will happen to the bees? And why should we care?

Olivia Carril and Joe Wilson spent several years in the backcountry of the monument studying the bees. That was almost 15 years ago. Now we're going back with Olivia and Joe to do another round of studying the bees – and we're going to make a film about what they discover and why Grand Staircase-Escalante is so important to our future.

the steps

The steps involved with this stage of the project are pretty straightforward. With the funds we raise, we will:

  • Get the researchers and the film crew back out to the national monument in Utah.
  • Spend eight days on the ground at specific locations within the monument actively collecting bees.
  • Spend eight evenings pinning and labeling bees, preparing them to be sent off for identification.
  • Have our film crew documenting all aspects of the eight days, as well as capturing the bees going about their business in the wild.
  • Send our specimens for identification and analysis at a lab that specializes in this sort of thing.

why we're doing it

Bees are in trouble, right? Bee populations are declining?

The fact is, we don't know for sure. Yes, we have strong evidence that some of the 4,000 bee species in North America are in trouble – the rusty patched bumble bee is a great example. But to document a decline, you have to have a baseline for comparison, and for the vast majority of bees species, across the vast majority of North America, we simply don't have a good baseline.

But in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we do. It's one of the few places in North America where the bees have been studied extensively in an almost pristine and untouched natural environment. And this is extremely powerful knowledge to have as we continue changing the world to meet our human needs. We can, for example, compare nearby urban communities (like Salt Lake City, just five hours north) with the monument to see which bees are present – and which are missing. And when we see differences, what do they mean? Are there any indications of serious ecological trouble ahead? Primitive and protected lands like Grand Staircase-Escalante give us the knowledge we need to ask the right questions and make the right choices.

 

Studying changes in bee populations – or any insect population – requires time and patience. One thing we've learned from Olivia and Joe's work in Grand Staircase-Escalante is that many bee species can be readily abundant one year, nearly absent the next, and then abundant again in some following year. Which means if you only compare two points in time, you'll likely have a false sense of how well certain bees are faring in our modern world. You have to study bees consistently and regularly over many years to gain a true understanding of changes and stability in their communities.

We are at a critical time in our history, when understanding everything we can about pollinators and insects is essential to our shared future. Unfortunately, the changes being made to Grand Staircase-Escalante are proceeding with reckless abandon and zero consideration for the unique bee communities living there.

This is exactly why we're going back. To learn even more about the bees. To call attention to how important this very special place is. And to make a film to share with all of you the wondrous world of the bees in Grand Staircase-Escalante.

budget

DISBURSED BUDGET 5.16.19

Labor, $13,400: Systematically collecting bees and preparing them for identification is not for the feint of heart; it requires time and hard work. So does filming the process and the discoveries. Labor costs will compensate both the researchers and the film crew for their efforts over the course of eight days.

Services, $6,400: After collecting the bees, we have to identify them; this requires a specialized set of skills and tools in a lab, which will be covered by this part of the budget. There are fees we'll need to pay will that support our public lands and the people caring for them. We've also had some help from others getting to where we currently are (example: brand and logo design).

Room and Board, $2,663: We have to have a place to stay and food to eat while we're on the ground doing this work.

Travel, $2,543: We've got to get everyone to the national monument! This includes plane tickets for flying and gas for driving.

ioby Fees $2,328: ioby is more than just a fundraising website. The folks on the ioby team provide a tremendous amount of skill, expertise and moral support for helping get a project like this up and running. They deserve some love in return!

Materials, $1,328: Nets and bags. Pins, labeling tags, and collection drawers. Some film, audio and photo equipment for capturing these little creatures in all of their exquisite beauty. This part of the budget will cover all the physical items essential to this project.

 

TOTAL RAISED =

$28,662.00

ioby Platform Fee

$35.00

ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%)

$1,433.10

ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%)

$859.86

TOTAL TO DISBURSE=

$26,334.04

 

 

Labor, $20,416: Systematically collecting bees and preparing them for identification is not for the feint of heart; it requires time and hard work. So does filming the process and the discoveries. Labor costs will compensate both the researchers and the film crew for their efforts over the course of eight days.

Identification Services, $4,500: After collecting the bees, we have to identify them. This requires a specialized set of skills and tools in a lab, which will be covered by this part of the budget.

 

Film Equipment, $4,000: Capturing these little creatures in all of their exquisite beauty on film, in photos and with audio necessitates having some out-of-the-ordinary gear for your cameras.

 

ioby Fees $3,319: The ioby is more than just a fundraising website. The folks on the ioby team provide a tremendous amount of skill, expertise and moral support for helping get a project like this up and running. They deserve some love in return!

 

Travel, $3,170: We've got to get everyone to the national monument! This includes plane tickets for flying and gas for driving.

 

Room and Board, $2,800: Then we have to have a place to stay and food to eat while we're there.

 

Permits $2,000:  Fees that support our public lands and people caring for them.

 

Collection Materials, $850: Nets and bags. Pins, labeling tags, and collection drawers. This part of the budget will cover all the small items essential to a big project – and big discoveries!

 

The $41,055 total we're raising for these items is just part of the overall budget for the project. Our current estimate to complete the film and bring it to a screen near you is $125,000.

updates

Last Day to Contribute!

Image of jeep on road into mountains.

This is it, my friends! We are gearing up and getting ready to head out into Grand Staircase-Escalante to study the bees. And today is the last day to add your support to the project! We keep whatever we raise through our ioby campaign, so every contribution makes a difference. Thank you to everyone who has helped move this project forward and contributed to our success! Much gratitude, my friends. Much, much gratitude.

Get yourself a Bee Badge!

Image of eight different Bee Badges.

A few days ago, we posed a question: In these last two weeks of crowdfunding for the Bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante, how many more people can help pollinate this project with $5 of support?

Well, let's sweeten the deal: Anyone who contributes $5 or more in the next 5 days (through Tuesday, April 23) will receive a kick-ass Bee Badge!

These digital badges are based on Joe Wilson's amazing photo work and represent just a sliver of the immense diversity of bees in the national monument. We have eight Bee Badges to choose from! Perfect for profile photos or wearing on the digital lapel of your web presence.

To date, we've had only two $5 contributions. And that is just surprising! Because if there’s one thing we can learn from the bees around us, it’s that the tiniest things often make a huge difference.

So lend your support with just $5 in the next 5 days, and get a Bee Badge that will make you the envy of all your digital friends. (Not to mention earning our deepest gratitude for helping to move this project forward.)

Thanks, friends!

To get your Bee Badge: Make a donation of $5 or more by April 23, 2019, through our ioby fundraising page. On the last step of the checkout process, do two things. 1. Type the name of your preferred bee in the "Display me publicly as" box; you can include your name and the bee name, or just the bee name. 2. Make sure the "Please share my email address with the leader(s) of this project" box is checked; Bee Badges will be delivered by email, so we need to know your address. When all that is complete, start thinking of all the ways you can digitally display your Badge!

Center for Biological Diversity supports the Bees of GSENM

Image of microscopic view of bee face.

We are thrilled to announce that the Bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante has the support of the Center for Biological Diversity!

“We’re proud to support this great project, which will simultaneously help raise awareness of the amazingly rich diversity of our native bees and also the huge importance of our public lands for protecting that diversity,” says Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit organization made up of activists, scientists and lawyers dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places through science, law and creative media. This one line from their mission says it all: “We want those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive.”

You might be familiar with the Center’s work generally from a recent New York Times story about how secretary of the interior nominee David Bernhardt effectively killed a four-year study into the impact that three widely-used pesticides could have on 1,400 endangered species. But you should also know that the Center for Biological Diversity has a strong commitment to protecting bees and other pollinators specifically. For example, in just the past six months, the Center has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list two bees – the Mojave Poppy bee and the Gulf Coast solitary bee – as endangered species. And in 2017, the Center published Pollinators in Peril, a systematic status review of native bees in North America that shows 749 species are likely in decline.

“At a time when both native bees and public lands face unprecedented threats, this project could not be more timely and needed,” Lori Ann says.

We are extremely grateful to the Center for Biological Diversity for its generous contribution to our project. Combined with the incredible support we continue to receive from individuals across the country, our total is now over $13,000!

Thank you one and all for helping move the Bees of GSENM forward! Our crowdfunding campaign has been extended through the end of April, so let’s spread the word and keep this momentum going!

Meet Mariana... and our new logo!

Image of Bee of Grand Staircase-Escalante logo

There's one thing that's essential to the success of a project like this: a kick ass logo! And now we have one, thanks to the rock-star work of Mariana Prieto.

Mariana is a designer dedicated to the development of innovation in wildlife conservation; she's solving challenges that are rooted in or affected by human behavior. "Anywhere you have human beings who are making choices, you can have design," Mariana says. And protecting the wild places of this world is all about the choices we make.

Mariana rarely does work as a graphic designer. Yes, she's an amazing illustrator and is co-creating a graphic novel series about superheroes who protect endangered animals. But her time, energy and skills are mostly committed to Design for Wildlife, a collective of creative talent working to support wildlife organizations facing a variety of challenges. Fortunately, she was all in on our request for help with our visual identity.

"I love bees!" she says. "The graphic novel doesn't include any bees. But now I might have to add some!"

Big thanks to Mariana for her contribution to the Bees of GSENM project. We are thrilled to have her on our team!

You can read more about Mariana on our Team page.

We're extending the deadline!

Image of road from inside the truck.

Important news, everyone: We're extending our ioby campaign through the end of April! Figuring out this crowdfunding piece of the project has been a fascinating learning experience. And one thing we've learned is that while one month might be enough time to build momentum – we need two months to keep it rolling!

Our crowdfunding total has been slowly climbing towards our goal, so we want to give that time to continue. Many people have reached out to us and asked if March is the only time they can contribute – would there be ways to add support in the following weeks? We also have some really exciting things coming our way in the next month. And, as previously mentioned, working with ioby means we get to keep whatever amount we raise, which will help cover our cost for getting back on the ground. So, for all these reasons, we've decided to push our crowdfunding deadline to April 30.

Big thanks to all of you who have contributed to the Bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante so far! We are most grateful! And we're absolutely thrilled for the opportunities ahead.

More soon!

Meet Tony, our director of photography

Image of film crew in desert road.

For a project like this to succeed, you need to have someone who is both gifted and experienced at the art of visual storytelling. And Tony Di Zinno is our man!

I first met Tony in the Black Hills of South Dakota, shooting photos and film for a three-day musical and cultural gathering of the Lakota Sioux and other Native people. As we maneuvered on the edges of both stage and meeting grounds, seeking the perfect angles from which to tell the story of this event, Tony's mastery of the lens was obvious. And the  respect he conveyed as a guest in this special place was evident in everything he said and did.

Tony's career has been one of telling beautiful stories of endurance and fortitude, environmental activism, and social justice. Tony got his start working for a Rolling Stone photographer, then broke out on his own shooting portraits and action shots of iconic sports figures for Adidas, Nike and The North Face. He moved on to photographing and filming extreme motorsports and human-powered racing events across the globe, and eventually landed in Afghanistan working with Mountain2Mountain – a project that operates in conflict zones to create education and opportunity for women and girls to be agents of change within their own communities.

"I've never tolerated bullies of any kind since I was a kid," says Tony, speaking of the social issues he's embraced. "This really hasn't changed as I've grown up. In fact, it's only become a deeper conviction."

Tony currently works with the Endangered Activism project, which is focused on engaging youth culture and reconnecting young people with the natural world through uniquely modern visual storytelling.

One of the things I admire most about Tony is his mantra of preparation. "It's only the best prepared who are ready for when the most fleeting, ephemeral and sublime moments present themselves," he says. There may be no better example of this mantra in practice than a recent trip to Botswana, where Tony captured on film a leopard hunting and striking its prey. It was such a rare moment that even the guide and spotter he was working with couldn't believe they saw it happen. (Be forewarned: the video is astounding but captures a moment of Nature that is truly red in tooth and claw.)

Image of video (not video itself).

"When something happens so quickly and there is no warning, the reward only goes to those who have prepared for success in anticipation of these possibilities," says Tony. It's exactly this level of preparation and discipline that we'll need to film the bees in Grand Staircase-Escalante. We may only get one chance to capture any given moment of their exquisite little lives.

Tony's thoughtful way of being in the world and his vast experience have helped this project become what it is today. Telling the story of the monument bees has not been an easy one; it started out as a print story and tripped plenty of times in the pursuit of publication – including having different media outlets show interest in the story and then back away. When I was at one of my lowest moments in the journey, it was Tony who asked, "Have you ever considered making a documentary to reach even more people than any single article could?"

I had not, of course. So I responded, "Have you ever considered working on a documentary about bees in one of the most beautiful places on Earth?"

Fortunately for all of us, Tony didn't just recognize the opportunity for making this story even more impactful; he was also game to take it on.

You can read more about Tony on our Team page.
 

"If you don't meet your goal, is the project still a go?"

Image of people and truck on desert rocks.

An excellent question. And the answer is: Yes!

Everyone on the team is committed to carrying out this research and producing a film to share with all of you. If we don't meet our fundraising goal before we hit the ground in the spring, then of course we'll need to adjust how we spend our funds. But we're still moving forward with our plans.

The wonderful thing about working with ioby is that we get to keep whatever amount we end up raising. Which means every contribution – no matter how big or how small – makes a difference!

And when the crowdfunding campaign ends, that doesn't mean our fundraising efforts are done. Far from it! Our ioby campaign is just one of several sources of support that we're pursuing. In fact, we're going to be fundraising right up until the moment we hit the road and head back to the monument. (And then fundraising again the moment we get back for future stages of the project.)

So, whatever amount we raise before returning to Grand Staircase-Escalante this spring will absolutely help cover the costs of getting back there. Which makes sharing this exquisite little world of bees with you – and the world – so much easier!

Many thanks and much gratitude to everyone who has already contributed!

Meet Olivia and Joe, our bee researchers

Researchers in monument area.

Olivia and Joe are an amazing pair of researchers to be working with on a project like this. Their knowledge of bees is astounding; their passion for bees is inspiring. To get just a flavor of what they bring to the study of these little creatures, check out the book they co-authored – literally "the book" on bees in North America – filled with amazing photographs and images they've captured over the years.

But it's not as if either Olivia or Joe were necessarily destined to melittological* greatness. So how did they end up at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the early 2000s doing such important work?

Image of Olivia in monument area.

"I never thought to myself: I’m going to go to college and I’m going to learn about bees," says Olivia. "That wasn’t really the plan."

Olivia's plan, such as it existed, was to find a career that paid her to spend time outside – and becoming a biologist was just the ticket. But as a freshman she had to find a job to make ends meet while in pursuit of her goals. The bulletin boards on campus were tacked full of "now hiring" notes fringed with tear-off phone numbers for countless different opportunities.

"But there was one that said something about a museum and bees or something," recalls Olivia. And the pay was higher than all of the others. "That seemed pretty good."

She applied for and got the job – which turned out to be a position working in a giant museum of bees. "These were all bees on pins, specimens from around the world," she says. There were brilliant green and blue bees; huge bees and tiny bees; bees with tongues so long that they wrapped all the way around their bodies. "They were beautiful and intriguing and not at all what I expected. And I got paid to have to look through these drawers all of the time."

Very quickly her boss (and later her mentor) recognized that this was more than just part-time employment for Olivia. So when he got funding to do a survey of the bees in Pinnacles National Monument in California, her boss asked Olivia if she would be the collector.

Olivia jumped at the opportunity. "I would go out with a net and hike the trails and collect bees," she says. "I had to camp for three months straight which was like a dream come true! My life was perfect! By the end, I was insanely hooked on learning more about bees."

Right around end of Olivia's senior year, Grand Staircase-Escalante was officially designated as a monument, and it was specifically set aside as a place for scientific research. Olivia and her mentor put together a proposal to do a big, intense bee survey of the area. "Definitely bigger and more intense than what I’d done in Pinnacles," she says.

Needless to say, they got the funding. The project ran for four years (2000-2003), and the knowledge it produced is the basis for the research we're returning to do this spring.
 

Image of Joe in monument area.

Joe's story is a little different in that, for as long as he can remember, he's always been interested in insects. In fact, he grew up wanting his backyard to be a nature sanctuary, and spent his time looking under rocks and logs for creatures that populated his homemade preserve.

But like Olivia, Joe was drawn to bees later in life for practical reasons.

"I got into bees because in college I met this girl that I was interested in," he says with an unabashed smile. The girl's name was Lindsey, and she and Joe are now married with a family. "She came back from a summer-long job in the Grand Staircase National Monument. I liked her so I volunteered in the lab she worked in and it happened to be the bee lab."

The job in the monument was, of course, surveying bees. And their boss was Olivia.

"Lindsey told me I ought to consider hiring this guy Joe for the next year because he was totally into natural history, he was great with a net, and he already had his own insect collection," recalls Olivia. So she interviewed Joe and quickly brought him on board. The following summer, he was out in the monument helping uncover this amazing world of bees.

"That experience worked out pretty well for them," Olivia says with a smile.

It worked out well for all of us. Because of Olivia and Joe – and Lindsey and the entire team they've worked with – we now have incredible insight into this hotspot of bee diversity. And the bees have two smart and passionate advocates in their corner.

You can read more about Olivia and Joe on our Team page.

* melittology mel·​it·​tol·​o·​gy | \ ˌmeləˈtäləjē\: a branch of entomology concerning the scientific study of bees.

The Fundraising Tour

Just returned from several days on the road talking up the Bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante, fundraising, and getting to meet some of the coolest people in the bee biz. (Also preparing for another fundraising event this coming weekend.)

The Bee Lab
First stop on the trip was the USGS Bee Lab in Maryland to visit with with Sam Droege. Sam and his crew have made a lot of amazing contributions to the world of biological fieldwork and field research, but his up-close-and-personal photos of bees and other insects have been absolutely inspiring to me. Check out the Lab's every-growing collection of images on Instagram and Flickr.
 

Image of Sam Dreoge at microscope.

The Smithsonian
Next stop was a visit to the bee collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC! I had a great conversation with Sean Brady, Silas Bossert, and Chris Meyer about bees, research practices, and maintaining a biological collection of this size (no small feat).

They also took me on a tour of the collection. You know that giant Indonesian bee that was recently rediscovered? The Smithsonian has a pair of specimens. They've also got a couple specimens of Franklin's bumble bee – which has most likely gone extinct in North America, almost completely unnoticed.
 

The Fundraising
Over the weekend I attended two fundraising events for the project in the Washington DC area. I was thrilled with how many people came out to watch the trailer and talk about our project! It's always great to be in a room full of people who are genuinely interested and want to know more. Many thanks to everyone who joined us and have since supported the project!

This weekend we'll be hosting another fundraising event at home in the Finger Lakes of New York state. Looking forward to another viewing of the trailer and more great conversation about the bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante. If you're in the area, come join us!

Reward for you: Special thanks in the film credits

Wh-What?!? Our fundraising campaign for this project passed the $5,000 mark on Sunday night and kept on moving today! This deserves a little bit of love in return. So how about this: Everyone who contributes to the campaign will get a special thanks in the film credits! Because no matter the amount, it's your support that's making this essential science and the film documenting it possible.

You rock, my friends!

 

photos

This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration

donors

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Matt Somers
  • Denise Watkins
  • Cynthia Scholl
  • Elizabeth Saunders
  • Bill
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Amber C.
  • Chris Palahniuk
  • Lorraine Hems
  • Anonymous
  • Shelly Miller
  • Heidi and Scott VG
  • Anonymous
  • Tim Webber
  • Susana M.
  • Kris Schachel
  • Peter Helfrich
  • Stacy S.
  • Jan Quarles
  • Amy Dalton
  • Natalie & Alex
  • University of Denver Pioneers for Pollinators
  • Vincent & Nora
  • Anthophorula
  • Jigar Shah
  • ASibul
  • Carolyn Hunt and Ben and Friedel Wiehe
  • Catherine deVries
  • Todd A.
  • ANson Fogel
  • Cheryl Exomalopsis
  • Brian Litmans
  • Anonymous
  • Liam
  • Colorado Native Bee
  • Jon and Caroline B.H.
  • Stacey W.
  • Apis Mellifera
  • Camagl
  • Osmia Bee
  • Terry Kelly and Terry Keister
  • Lori Ann B.
  • Robert Sundberg
  • Terrence Miesle
  • Anonymous
  • bartelsphoto
  • Rhea
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Patrick Hanlon
  • Rodge & Jan
  • Nancy-Jo Rembaum
  • Lenhart Saner
  • Paul Larkin
  • Peter Gamba
  • Anonymous
  • Duncan McGillivray
  • The Center For Biological Diversity
  • Jean M.
  • Lu Lu S.
  • Anonymous
  • Josh Gelman
  • Bonny L Messinger
  • Susanna M.
  • Melissa Wendland
  • Karin Gastreich
  • Gene & Chris
  • Dick & Bonnie
  • Don & Nancy
  • ravines wine cellars
  • Anonymous
  • Beren Argetsinger
  • Anonymous
  • Melissa Pennise
  • Annie Marie Musselman
  • Kathleen Mogelgaard
  • Janiele Lewis
  • BRINTON E JOHNS
  • Amel Benhamouda
  • Britt Gwinner
  • Matt Caffrey
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Susanne F.
  • Aditi S.
  • Ladeene F.
  • Anonymous
  • Brenda Ekwurzel
  • Dawn F.
  • BuzzLightYear (Asher made me do it)
  • Douglas N.
  • David and Marlene
  • Anonymous
  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! :)
  • Paul Johnson
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Zachary Salus
  • Anne Gibbons
  • Cliff G
  • Anonymous
  • Kelly Roache
  • Amelia M
  • Lisa and Dave Tikusis
  • Martha Soley
  • Gina G.
  • Kellie
  • Kathy Grassel
  • Anonymous
  • AGPeterson
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Jan Martenson
  • Christine T.
  • Hunt Country Vineyards
  • Margaret Jensen
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Dean & Mary
  • Anonymous
  • Bill Browning
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Dave Muyres
  • bradley f.
  • Ben & Katylin Kelly
  • One $ for each species found so far
  • Marnie and Gail
  • Donna
  • Anne Winters
  • In honor of Camilla Spencer
  • Anonymous
  • Nathan S.
  • Anonymous
  • C. Carril
  • Allison A.
  • Andy M
  • Anonymous
  • Rachael Patrice Cornick
  • Erin Wheat
  • Anonymous
  • Tyler Chesley
  • Anonymous
  • Suzanne Hunt
  • Heather Ireland
  • Solveig J Hanson
  • Anonymous
  • Jillian Tolliver
  • Ron M.
  • Terry K.
  • JOSE MADRIGAL
  • Ron & Lyn Kelly
  • Tim Webber
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anon Y. Mous
  • MK
  • TDZ

nearby projects