project leader
Matt K
Hole in the Rock Road
(Grand Staircases-Escalante National Monument)
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Who wants a sneak peak of our 10 days in Utah?

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.



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.




ioby Platform Fee


ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%)


ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%)






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.


Who wants a sneak peak of our 10 days in Utah?

Image of Vimeo screenshot.

After a two-month break from this project (spent catching up on other projects, taking a little vacation time, and marrying the most amazing woman in the world), I've once again thrown open the treasure chest of footage, images and sound from our trip to the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument, and begun sorting through all the jewels we gathered. Because it's time to start sharing this incredible adventure with all of you!

Last week, Olivia Carril was in Ohio leading a series of her fantastic one-day bee identification and biology workshops. Over the weekend, she was also the honored guest at a special event at Studio 35 in Columbus, screening a series of bee films and documentaries – including the trailer for our project! To back her up while she talked about the project, I put together a short teaser with footage from our ten days of fieldwork and filming in June.

After the event, Olivia shot me a text: "Just finished seeing the trailer and that little teaser on a giant screen. It looks INCREDIBLE. So excited for a documentary that highlights the little things in a big way."

This teaser is the first time anyone outside of the project team has seen our work. So here it is for you to enjoy as well. More soon!

Here's the link to the teaser:

That’s a wrap!

Image of bee on flower.

A week of fieldwork and filming the bees of Grand-Staircase Escalante is complete. There is truly nothing better than working with amazing people in one of the most beautiful and rugged places on Earth. Now, on to the next steps: analyzing our collection of bees and shaping the raw footage of our adventure into an outstanding film to share with all of you. More to come, my friends! #bees #GSENM #film

Image of people walking with bug nets.


We raised over $28K!

Image of two people overlooking desert landscape.

May 17, 2019

Hey friends! It’s been a couple weeks since the end of our ioby crowdfunding campaign for the Bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante project, and I have some truly exciting news to share with you: we raised over $28,000! This means we are fully funded to get our team of four back on the ground to study and film this exquisitely beautiful little world of bees in one of the most amazing places on Earth. Thank you, one and all, for your support! We would not be doing this without you. More updates from the field will be coming soon! Be sure to follow us at

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.


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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