project leader
Matt K
Hole in the Rock Road
(Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument)
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Upcoming webinar: a behind-the-scenes peek at the project

the project

Our week of fieldwork observing and collecting bees in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument of Utah is complete. Now it's time to begin sorting through all of the footage, images and audio to create a film of this adventure to share with you!

We've been working towards this moment for two years now. In June, we were able to return to the monument to continue studying the bees after a successful crowdfunding campaign with ioby. We spent eight days filming bee researchers Olivia Carril and Joe Wilson at work in the remote backcountry, following up on their original bee survey from 15 years prior. Understanding how these communities of bees are doing is now critical because the Trump administration has reduced and divided the monument, opening it to extractive industries and increased human activity.

Our goal with the film is to raise awareness about this place, the need to fund basic fieldwork, and to promote action. While the film itself is not primarily focused on the boundary changes, talking about the bees of Grand Staircase means we have to talk about what the Trump administration is doing. However, the bigger story here is how do we take bees into consideration as we make changes in this world – because bees are part of that network that is essential to all life.

ioby has showcased our project as an "Awesome Project". (Thank you!) If you haven’t yet read their showcase, please do.

Close up image of native bee on flower.

the steps

What we need to do now is pretty straight forward:

• Produce the film.

• Show the film to as many people as possible.

• Get more and more people talking about the bees, thinking about this place, and taking action.

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 – sadly, the rusty patched bumble bee is an example of this. 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 (thanks to the amazing work of Olivia Carril, Joe Wilson and a handful of other people). This is extremely powerful knowledge to have as we continue changing the world to meet our human needs. Primitive and protected lands like Grand Staircase-Escalante give us the ability to ask the right questions and make the right choices as we move forward.

Image of researchers in desert.

But studying changes in bee populations – or any insect population – also 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.

Unfortunately, this sort of basic science and fieldwork has been woefully underfunded for years. What’s more, the funding that could be available for studying bee and other insect populations are getting much harder to come by.

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, there is little or no financial being given to the experts who could help answer the questions we have. And the changes being made to places like the Grand Staircase-Escalante are proceeding with such reckless abandon that we may very well be losing species and ecological connections before we even know they exist.

This is why we're making a film about the Bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante. To raise awareness about these bees, the need to fund basic fieldwork, and to promote action to protect these wild, pristine places.

Image of stone cairns in front of dessert landscape.


Labor & Service, $76,250: Sorting through all of the footage, images and audio from our week of fieldwork in the monument, and distilling it all into a single beautiful, engaging story to share with you is no small task! Editing, animation, sound work, music and re-editing takes time, energy and the help of others. And we want to bring in the best folks possible for this job!

ioby Fees, $7,567: ioby continues to be a fantastic partner for helping to make this world a better place. They deserve (and have earned) a little love in return. If we don't support them, how can they support us?

Promotion, $6,330: What good is a film that nobody sees? Getting eyes on this important story will require travel and submissions to key festivals.

Materials, $4,000: Putting together a film like this requires quality hardware and software.


ioby Platform Fee $35
ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $4,707
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $2,824
TOTAL TO RAISE = $94,147


Upcoming webinar: a behind-the-scenes peek at the project

Image of people walking thru mud puddle in slot canyon.

So this is super cool: I'm going to be a panelist for an upcoming ioby webinar on Oct. 28 on how to use photography and video in a successful crowdfunding campaign! If you're looking to add a few new ideas to your current marketing toolbox, or if you want a behind-the-scenes peek at the Bees of GSENM, then you should join us! The webinar is free and you'll have access to a recording of the discussion afterwards.

How's the film coming along?

Animation of work happening at my desk.

Despite radio silence for the past couple of weeks, I've been making excellent progress on putting the film together. And the plan is to have a final version ready by early 2020 to show at film festivals showing in fall.

Of course, this is the stage of film production where there really isn't anything exciting to show or tell – unless the image of me sitting in front of the computer, headphones on, the Clash, the Cars or wonky podcasts playing in the background, and bottles of kombucha scattered about my desk seems interesting to you.

But the other day I did catch an interview with one of the masters of storytelling: Ken Burns. And one particular thing he said about conducting interviews really resonated with me at this particular moment in the project. To paraphrase: The key to a great interview is not to get through your list of pre-planned questions, but instead to listen to the answers you're given to find the entry point to the *real* story being told – and go after it!

As I sit here, revisiting my interviews with Olivia and Joe (and some other select individuals), it's exciting to see the entry points we found and the true stories we pursued.

I'm getting excited to share them with all of you in the not-too-distant future!


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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