We raised over $28K!

Image of two people with nets overlooking cliff.

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 right here at BEESofGSENM.com.

Center for Biological Diversity supports the Bees of GSENM

Macro image of a bee, upclose and personal.

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!

support us on ioby B

We’re extending the deadline!

Image of road from inside a 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!

“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!

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).

Image of big Indonesia bees.

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.

Images of bumble bee specimens.

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

Image of film credits.

Wh-What?!? Our ioby 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!

Why do we need to crowdfund bee research?

Image of bee collection.

It’s only been a few days and our ioby campaign for the Bees of GSENM is off to a fantastic start! We ended our third day $3,327 closer to our goal. Thank you to everyone who has given to the project so far. Let’s keep this rolling.

Of course, this whole project raises an interesting question: Why do we need to crowdfund fieldwork and research on bees? Aren’t there official agencies that provide money for projects like this? The answer is not a satisfying one.

The Atlantic has a great story about the recent “Insect Apocalypse” headlines, exploring how we really need more data to make such bold statements (although the data we do have definitely points in this direction). The piece addresses funding as part of the problem:

Few researchers have kept running tallies on insect populations, aside from a smattering of species that are charismatic (monarch butterflies), commercially important (domesticated honeybees), or medically relevant (some mosquitoes). Society still has a lingering aversion toward creepy crawlies, and entomological research has long been underfunded. Where funds exist, they’ve been disproportionately channeled toward ways of controlling agricultural pests. The basic business of documenting insect diversity has been comparatively neglected, a situation made worse by the decline of taxonomists—species-spotting scientists who, ironically, have undergone their own mass extinction.

What’s more, the funding that could be available for monitoring bee and other insect populations are getting much harder to come by. Over the past decade, there’s been a flattening of federal spending on basic research (defined as “activity aimed at acquiring new knowledge or understanding without specific immediate commercial application or use”) and there are more and more scientists competing for this same pool of money. The overwhelming majority of federal science funding goes to biomedical research, and what money remains typically goes to projects that get flashy results – not projects focused on monitoring or replication of results.

A team of journalists at Vox put together an extensive piece about the problems facing science, including another really important point about funding:

Grants also usually expire after three or so years, which pushes scientists away from long-term projects. Yet as John Pooley, a neurobiology postdoc at the University of Bristol, points out, the biggest discoveries usually take decades to uncover and are unlikely to occur under short-term funding schemes.

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 you have to study bees consistently and regularly over many, many years to gain a true understanding of changes and stability in their communities. The current system of science funding in the United States simply is not conducive to this type of work.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” says Joe. “We have these questions about bees and other insects we need to answer, and nobody is willing to put forward the efforts or the funding or the resources to let us answer those questions.”

This is exactly why we’re crowdfunding the Bees of GSENM project. We want to get Joe and Olivia back on the ground to continue doing the essential fieldwork that needs to be done. Grand Staircase-Escalante is one of the few places in North America where the bee community has been studied extensively and can serve as a baseline for assessing change – both in comparing our man-made world to the natural world, and in comparing the natural world to itself over time.

“Baseline data allows us to ask the right questions and to guide our actions,” says Olivia. “What’s more, it allows us to watch for change in Grand Staircase’s own bees – in the face of the incredible change to land use now likely to occur here.”

This is exactly why your support for this project matters so much: You are helping make essential insect research possible. We thank you. And so will the bees!