212 - Clay Bolt - Grassland Pollinators

Transcript

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] Now, go ahead on your smartphone or on your computer and go to Google image, search and type in pollinator habitat. No doubt what you're looking at right now. It looks something like your garden, flowering tree, and Trubs lots of Forbes, lots of color, lots of dazzle, really obvious. Now what if I were to tell you that some of the best pollinator habitat in north America doesn't look anything like that?

We can think about the deserts and the basins. But also the grasslands native grasslands on the great Plains, you would not see all that flowering plant diversity when you're going down the interstate. As many people do when they go across the great Plains at high speed. But if you take the time to look, you'll notice that there's a lot of wonderful plants and accompanying them is a lot of wonderful.

Pollinator species. In this episode, we're going to take a look at the great Plains with clay bolt. He's the communication lead for the world. Wildlife fund's Northern great Plains program. We're going to hear about that program. In this episode, he's also a conservation [00:01:00] photographer and he loves.

Photographing small things. So the great Plains for him is like a kid in a candy shop. There's lots of subtlety and a lot of wonderful things to see, but you really have to get in close. So without further ado, let's join clay all the way over in Montana this week on pollination. Okay. We're going well, welcome to pollination.

Pleasure to meet here. Thank you. Now, when I think of the world wildlife fund, I think. Polar bears. How did WWF become interested in a bee conservation?

Clay Bolt: It's a funny story, when I started working with WW. Seven years ago, I had already come to the organization with a great passion for conserving north America's native bees.

I'd been very involved with the listing of the rusty patch bumblebee on the endangered species list. I had been photographing and being an advocate for bees for many years. And throughout my work. I'm always trying to bring these elements into the message that when you [00:02:00] conserve habitats, it's also important to think about the little things that live in those habitats.

And as over the last few years, there's been a lot more emphasis on. Pollinator protection and I'm always looking for those opportunities. And so over the last few years, we've had opportunities with some major corporations who are interested in protecting pollinators. And so we've been able to roll that into our work over the last few years.

Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. I know one of the areas of focus pollinators are such a large topic. An area of focus has been the Northern great Plains the grass, the native grassland. So to begin with, can you describe why the specific region is important for bees and why should our listeners care about the great Plains.

Clay Bolt: So the Northern great Plains is as a vast region. It covers portions of five, us states, two Canadian provinces. It is one of the last four remaining temperate grasslands in the world and among the full great Plains. It is an area that's largely intact in part thanks to private land [00:03:00] owners like ranchers, which is one of the things that makes.

Region so unique. So for WWF, we have to build base programs here in north America, one in the Arctic, and want to hear in the Northern great Plains. And we focused on this region, not only because of the intactness of the grassland. But because of the opportunity to restore bias and to work with native nations to work with ranchers, but also because of the value that this region plays to all of north America the grasslands, a lot of times, I think when people think of grasslands, they think of maybe your front lawn, just an area of a mono-cultural crop.

There's nothing there, but in fact, grasslands are highly diverse ecosystems. It's just that much of the life in the grasslands is hidden down in the grasslands. You could almost imagine that they're like a miniature for. And within that, within those grasslands, the roots go 10 to 15 feet down in the soil in many cases for wild flowers that we may know like purple coneflower, for example.

And instead of those deep. Stored vast amounts of carbon. They [00:04:00] filter water, they keep the air clean and those impacts are, felt well beyond the boundaries of the seeker region.

Andony Melathopoulos: Okay. I love the way that you described that because I imagine, driving down an interstate very quickly, it looks.

Perhaps at first glance as a kind of sea of green or later in the year, sea of brown, but in, and amongst it, you'd not only have a lot of plant diversity, but that plant diversity maybe is even an additional level hidden because it's, really a huge portion of it is below the ground surface sequestering, carbon, and helping the soil.

Clay Bolt: Yeah, it, I'm from the east coast originally. I grew up in South Carolina and love the forest as a Southern Appalachians. That's where my heart is and that's where I learned about nature. So when I first moved out to the great Plains, I have to admit that. It was a challenge for me because I wasn't used to the silence and sometimes, and like knowing how to see things.

So I really just spent a lot of time [00:05:00] just sitting in grasslands and listening, looking. And the more I did that, the more it was revealed to me, but it's really, there's so much life happening there and you just have to be patient. There are birds that crawl through the group. Like my S there are salamanders, there are so many pollinators that lived on in those grasses.

So it's a, really a, it's a landscape that rewards someone for being paid. And the more patients you provide, the more beautiful things you'll see in this landscape.

Andony Melathopoulos: I'm a native Alberton and I, we do have Cypress Hills, a number of places with we have grassland national park in Saskatchewan.

And I do agree. It does require a sort of walking in and getting up close because you do see a lot of floral diversity in and amongst amongst a lot of grass. Can you just walk us through what, what this habitat looks like and what are the key aspects of the ecology of these plant communities?

What do we, what should we be aware of when it comes to oral communities and grasps. [00:06:00]

Clay Bolt: I think one of the things that's super interesting to me in terms of grasslands is just how ready grasslands are to respond to climatic conditions. So for example, as soon as the spring rains come in, as soon as the snow melts, it's suddenly greens up, but it's it's almost like a spring loaded.

The plants that are spring. It would just literally spring forth in spring. And it's amazing to me how quickly for example, we've had rain here and I'm just outside the boundaries here in Livingston Montana, or the Northern great Plains, but still we have some grassland areas here and the minute we get rained, the next day everything's greening up.

You start seeing small flowers on the ground and you start to see. Aunt's moving about. It could have been, 20 degrees or even, lower than that. And then the next day you see these ants and things responding. So it's a very resilient ecosystem in many ways. I think you could say it's similar to a desert in the back that it's just always there waiting.

It's not a slow kind of ecosystem. And when I go out into a grassland, the thing I always notice [00:07:00] first, especially here in spring, as you hear the Meadowlark scene and their calls are so loud and how that, so many of the birds here, for example, have adapted to singing everybody's in these arid conditions with these really bright, loud songs that you can hear for miles.

The sound of the wind going through the grasses, the hum of bone bumblebees it's really a spectacular place. I, I have to say that, although I still would say I'm probably a forest person at heart. I feel special that I've been able to spend time in the grasslands and learn about them because I know that it required the work that it took.

And now that I love the grasslands, now that I have spent time in them, I just want to tell everybody go to a grassland, spend some time there because they're truly amazing important places.

Andony Melathopoulos: I do remember we had Casey Delphia on a podcast a while back. We should catch up with her, but just, I remember her talking about the bumblebee diversity in Montana, and I was shocked cause I always think, oh, the Pacific Northwest is the hot spot for bumblebees.

And I imagine as you go down through the beach [00:08:00] genera, this is replicated. There's a lot of. Be diversity because there's a lot of plant diversity in these in these ecosystems.

Clay Bolt: Yeah, that's absolutely right. And I have to admit that when I first moved to Montana, I didn't realize, maybe the Casey study hadn't come out yet, but it showed that the Montana has more species of bumblebee than any other state in the country.

But when you get into the solitary bees, honestly, Montana and parts of this great Plains are similar to a black hole. It's unexplored territory for bees. There are so many areas that haven't really been observed, but you get into them and you realize that there's just so much life happening here.

And. I that's one of the things that makes me so passionate about this area is that there's so many pollinators that as a photographer, I can document. There's so many stories that need to be told to bring these species to the public view so that they learn more about them.

Andony Melathopoulos: Okay. That sets the stage up really well.

I w I'm convinced this is a place of high importance and a remarkable beauty. But [00:09:00] it strikes me as creating habitat in the Northern great Plains has been a real challenge at the best of times and ice match. And now it's more so than ever. There are surging commodity prices, and I imagine there's a huge push to get every scrap of land into cultivation.

How is WWF working to conserve habitat in light of all of these pressures?

Clay Bolt: Absolutely right. Since 2009, the U S and Canadian portions of the great Plains have lost 33 million acres to plow up for row crop agriculture. From 29 from in the last year, we lost 2.6 million acres across the great Plains and around 600,000 acres here in the Northern great Plains.

So row crop ag is a huge issue. And so interestingly enough, here in the Northern great Plains, one of the. Our greatest partners are it's the ranch community ranchers on much of the land here in the Northern great Plains and, ranching gets a bad name. And in many places, ranching is really bad for the land.

But the grasslands [00:10:00] need to be grazed in order to remain in tax. And of course, historically the plane spice and played that role. And sadly, that's no longer the case for much of the grasslands here, but. Ranchers are also really good partners. And we've worked very closely with ranchers over the last several years to ensure that they're able to remain on the land because so many of the management practices, the sustainable ranching management practices were there rotationally, grazing their cattle in ways that mimic native herbivores the practices that you use on the land.

Ensure that these row crops don't continue to move further west. Because you're right. As commodity prices go up and as there are more opportunities for people to plow out these grasslands. That just means that every time, a hundred acres, a thousand acres is plowed up that's wildlife species that may not have even been discovered that lost their habitat.

So our ranch. R a critical and the fight to slow down this habitat destruction. [00:11:00] So

Andony Melathopoulos: it's it's a matter of, I imagine not creating new habitat, but really trying to focus in on existing remnants of grassland and trying to. Make sure that they don't they're not plowed up. Is that correct?

Do I have a

Clay Bolt: no that's yeah, that's correct. So there's a couple of things we're doing one, you can imagine it's coming from the east. It was hard for me to wrap my head around what it means to have a large property, but out here, people, man, Ranches that are like 20,000 acres. So that's a best, at least in my estimation, that's a vast tract of land, just on a single ranch that can support a whole host of wildlife species.

So the first thing we're trying to do is provide a ranching partners with the tools. We're trying to provide connections and funding whenever possible to help increase their positive impacts on the land so that they don't in turn have to make difficult decisions about. Paying the bills and going to the alternative, such as plowing up the grasslands, the ranchers we work with love the land.

They do it because it's a labor of love. Not because they're getting rich or anything like that. I [00:12:00] think that's one of the misconceptions sometimes is because they have this history, this familial history of the last several generations for the land and they love it, but it's a tough business. And so we try to ensure that they're able to stay on the land and do that.

The other part of the equation is that there are Rangers who maybe they did have to plow the land, or maybe their grandparents plowed up the land. And so they've got these plots on their ranches that, once were native grasslands and then they were plowed up for some row crop commodity, and they're lying fallow at this point.

We're helping to help these ranchers restore these grasslands, not just with any old plant, but a native mix of wild flowers and grasses. So that number one, it's not only good for their business, but it's also good for wildlife. So many of our ranching partners care about the birds on their land. They pay attention to when the pronghorn migrate through and in more and more often, I'm getting people sending me videos of bumblebees, for example.

So they're really paying attention to the [00:13:00] land. They just. Keep it intact. It's

Andony Melathopoulos: really wonderful. I know equivalent situation here in sweet cherry production. There's a lot of draws that have remnants of Oak Savannah, and you, sometimes you walk in and you think, oh, this is going to be a tough sell.

And then you see, oh, a number of those growers are already doing bird conservation and already have, are plugged into conservation efforts and they already understand how it works. And they're really proud of some of the successes that they've been able to achieve. On their farms.

Clay Bolt: Yeah, that's absolutely correct.

And, I think one of the things that I've learned over the last several years, and in fact, even before coming to the Northern Plains, having grown up in the south, there are a lot of people who at their core are conservationist. We have a lot of overlap. It's just how.

Discuss it that sometimes matters. And so I think one of the things that I've learned is that at the end of the day, whether somebody is conservative or liberal or whatever, we all have this sort of Venn diagram where we overlap and we care [00:14:00] about the land. And that's where we try to meet with our partners, because we all know that these lands are.

Not only for the wildlife and for water and air, many people's livelihoods rely on these lands remaining in tech. And so I think it's really about shifting your perspective in the ways that you work with people and you're right. You go into these properties and I can, I can get excited about talking about oh, wow.

I can't believe you got this bird here on your property, or I can't believe, oh, look at this as a tire salamander and you can see the pride on their faces, that they have these things on. On their property, the places that they manage. So I think just focusing on those positive similarities is a really great way to go forward to conservation.

I

Andony Melathopoulos: suppose the other end of that dynamic is for the public, seeing this work as hard or even conceptualizing. You know what how a grassland is a key pollinator habitat. How are you trying to get that part of the message out to the public so that they also can see the value in these areas?

Clay Bolt: That's a great [00:15:00] question. One good example would be the partnership that we developed about a year and a half ago with Airwick scented oils, the air freshener brand

Andony Melathopoulos: and air freshener brand. I

Clay Bolt: know it sounds a bit strange

Andony Melathopoulos: between air fresheners and grasslands.

Clay Bolt: Air fresheners and scented oils come from.

And of course we know that pollinators need flowers to survive. And so Eric approached us and wanted to collaborate on a project and we ultimately wound our way to this idea, okay, these need flowers growing in the grasslands have been plowed up. What can we do to actually make a difference?

And we said what if. Work together to restore a bunch of land here in the Northern great Plains land that has been plowed up previously. And so we committed or Airwick committed to funding the restoration of 23,000 acres, but we call it 1 billion square feet. And the reason we said that is.

And this sort of thinking, it is weird to think about things and restoring things in square feet, but we wanted this idea to spread beyond the great Plains [00:16:00] that even a square foot of pollinator habitat can make a difference. We wanted homeowners to realize number one, that even if they only have an apartment with a balcony where they can plant a square foot, that can feed some bees.

Also, we wanted people to realize that, have a miniature version of a Prairie or a natural wildflower habitat in their backyard so that they can begin to see how their everyday actions matter and also have that mental connection back to the great Plains. And so this project has been super, super exciting because not only are we starting to restore.

Grasslands here in the Northern great Plains. And I'm super excited to see how pollinators will return, but also we've got a lot of people, in cities throughout the country who are getting these seed packets Airwick is sending out thousands and thousands of seed packets, regionally appropriate, sustainably source seed packets to different regions around the country so that people can have their own little mini grassland habitat.

So it's been a really fun project so far.

Andony Melathopoulos: I love also, I love the idea of really motivating people [00:17:00] to create pollinator habitat in their garden and learn about pollinators firsthand. But I also love the way in which the scale of what's being done on the great Plains can be communicated back that, in some ways these big remnant habitats really need to be a priority in terms of public policy.

And so there's that, I love that conversation that goes on between the two that's a really in campus.

Clay Bolt: Thanks so much, I think the thing I love so much about trying to help people conserve pollinators is that really, it's a cliche at this point, but it's truly like a, if you build it, they will come scenario that, that if you do provide habitat in your backyard for pollinators, that they will show up.

And I think, I could imagine someone being critical and saying what's what can a square foot really do? But I think for me, that's like the entry point, right? If you can plant and manage a little square foot, you're going to want to plant more and then maybe your neighbors come over and see it.

And then maybe you have, a pollinator corridor going through your neighborhood, maybe you and several neighbors get together and you. Base you have to create a [00:18:00] corridor. I think the point is that there's so many things in the world that are overwhelming. Climate change is overwhelming.

All of these, melting ice, polar ice gaps and all these things are super important to focus on, but they're also, I think very difficult for the average person to really know what to do. But with pollinator conservation, even if you're in a major city, there are some spectacular, quite often rare bees.

In many cases, I know like here in Livingston, Montana, we have the Western mobile bee. I have it in my backyard. And so I'm doing things in my community to try to help provide habitat there's cases like that throughout the country. The rusty patch is another example. It's very strong as a stronghold in Madison, Wisconsin.

The idea is that we can make a difference. I see the results of those differences. And I think for me, all of that helps people realize, okay, now I can think about the great Plains and I can realize that, okay, there are landowners there who would trying to do the same thing. I just really want to help people.

I want to make it real for people. And that's the goal of this campaign.

Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. What's the [00:19:00] horizon of like how much land does WWF hope to hold on to a restore, what's in your wildest not your wildest dreams, what's your kind of expectation and hope for like in the next five years, what you will have accomplished?

Clay Bolt: I can speak in a abroad general goal in that is that we want to stop any further conversion of grasslands. Because as I mentioned, we're losing thousands and thousands of acres. And at times over the last few years we've lost At a faster rate than a forest have been cut down in the Brazilian Amazon to put it into perspective which is a mind blowing thing to realize that it's just happening in our backyard.

And so our goal is really to stop that plow up and begin to restore those grass lines so that it doesn't continue.

Andony Melathopoulos: So last thing before we take a quick break, I, when you talked about also doing a restoration projects where. Yeah. A rancher may have plowed. I imagined for stylish or for some kind of, for hae had plowed up some area and [00:20:00] restoring it.

Tell me a little bit about what, in your what you've seen in terms of a successful restoration project. What does that what does that even look like and how does that walk us through what that kind of project looks like?

Clay Bolt: So you're right. There, there are many cases where maybe a rancher hasn't even plotted up themselves.

Maybe their grandparents plowed it up, as people moved out west, there was, it was a lot, there was a lot of experimentation happening where people thought this works in Pennsylvania. Let's try it out here in South Dakota. And of course the region is very different. So there's a lot of land on many of these ranches that they're laying fallow, basically.

And so what we do is we go in and we create, we, we provide the funding or we work directly with seed companies to provide a mix of foreign. Both grasses, as well as wild flowers that go towards restoring the native balance of the plant communities there. And of course you can't plan everything.

And ranchers may say I need to have X amount of [00:21:00] grasses for my cattle, but all of that starts the process of healing, the land. And that's really the goal is to give that jumpstart, the healing, the land and what's amazing to me is as. Birds fly through and deposit seeds and those kinds of things that the ecosystem does restore itself.

Now it doesn't happen overnight. And we're also in historic drought conditions right here in this, this time, and so there's a lot of work to be done, but slowly but surely these projects are coming back and you start to see the bird life coming back and the plant life. So we're in the early stages of this, but we're encouraged by what we've seen.

Andony Melathopoulos: Let's take a quick break. We do have a segment that we do with all our guests. I'm curious what your answers are going to be, so we'll be right back. Okay. We are back. First question I have for you. Do you have a book recommendation for our listeners? Boy, do

Clay Bolt: I know I got I've got a couple books.

I'm going to cheat a little bit and give you a couple of books first. If somebody really wants to learn about. The different families of [00:22:00] bees here in north America. One of the best books that I know of is the bees in your backyard, a guy to north America's bees by Joseph Wilson and Olivia messenger, Carol.

You've probably gotten that recommendation before but it's a, it's an excellent book with really great photography. Lots of diagnostic characteristics pointed out. I, and it's, it's only 25 bucks or something like that. So it's a really great resource for

Andony Melathopoulos: it is a steal. And I we've, recently the Eastern they've come up with an Eastern field guide and they're just on the verge of the Western one.

I w she was Olivia messenger. Carol was in Corvallis a couple of months ago and she told us. During the finishing touches, but the publisher apparently told her when they published it. Cause it was like a phenomenon at the time. It was the Harry Potter of B books.

Clay Bolt: Yeah. You know what I will say that learning about bees is a bit like chasing down fantastic bees because there's so many cool. I'm just going to take a segue to here to just say, there's proximately 4,000 species known [00:23:00] species here in north America. And as a photographer, most of them have not been photographed the life cycles.

There's so much to learn. So yeah, it's that Harry Potter connection has pretty good.

Andony Melathopoulos: I've got

Clay Bolt: another one. Okay. So one of my other favorites is an adventure story about bumblebee is my favorite group of bees called a sting in the tail by Dave Golson founder of the bumblebee conservation trust out of the UK.

And it's just a really awesome adventure story about bumblebees. It's a really fast read. Oh, can I tell one more? Can I give one more recommendation? I'm sorry. And it's not about, it's not about these, but it's just such a great insect book. It's called the fly trap by Frederick Sjoberg.

I think it's J O B E R G G. What a great book. It's about a guy who's obsessed with hover flies and this little island. And he's just this grumpy guy who just wants to look for flies is such a good book. I've read it so many times. All right. I'm going to shut up.

Andony Melathopoulos: It's a good combination. Cause Dave's book is a biographical book and, but he's not [00:24:00] grumpy.

Yeah.

Clay Bolt: He's not, he's very polite in a very British way. However, Frederick sobered very grumpy. And I just love it.

Andony Melathopoulos: Those are great book recommendations. Thank you so much. We'll have them the link below in the show notes. And I guess our next question is do you have a go-to tool? And I imagine you have several, I've never met a photographer who doesn't have their favorite tool for for photographing, but it may not be photographic.

What is your favorite tool? What do you really want our listeners to know? I was going to say

Clay Bolt: my camera. So I guess I'm going to have to get more detailed than that. I, one of the things that I have really enjoyed doing over the last few years is it's doing a technique called close wide or wedding macro, which shows is able to show a very detailed shot of a beat in the context of Islam.

And so I use a diagonal fish islands, which allows me to what that basically means is, if you think about our normal fish islands, everything's super worked and bizarre, like you're in a [00:25:00] fishbowl, these diagonal fish-eye lenses, it's fairly corrected. And so what it allows me to do is get within like an inch of a Bumble.

I have a photograph, for example, the bumblebee in front of the golden gate bridge. So you can see the species, but also it helps people connect with the habitat of the species, which I think is super important, whether I'm hearing the grasslands or, on the national mall in DC, I've got all of this collection of photographs where people realize, okay, this bee is beautiful, but also it needs this habitat to survive.

Because I, as a macro photographer, close-up photographer I really want people to realize that these species are not only beautiful, but they also require habitat to survive much in the same way. You would see a photograph of a polar bear or a tiger or something like that. I want people to see, okay, these also need X, Y, and Z to survive.

So it's more of a full conservation story. And. That is

Andony Melathopoulos: really remarkable because, I think there has been a trend. We talked about bees in your backyard. One of the great things about it, it gives you these nice crisp decontextualized B pictures. So it's on a white [00:26:00] background, which has been wonderful to just draw attention to the bees, but there is this other dimension of it being able to envision where it lives in an aspect of its life history.

And that aspect might be, oh it's, it's in the bay area.

Clay Bolt: Yeah, exactly. For example, one of my favorite places to look for bumblebees is just on the Wyoming Montana border, an area called the bear tooth mountain range, which is very high area with Alpine plants and it's summer there and spring within about a three or four week period.

And so I have these photos of bumblebees flying in a snowstorm, or like they're melting snow in the background. And so it just really helps to tell a story. And I think it's a great way for people to connect with the bees in a different kind of way.

Andony Melathopoulos: Amazing. You've mentioned you love bumblebees.

I have favorite pollinator species as the last question. And I always know people who know there'd be. Or butterflies or moths or flies. It's a tough question. But today in this morning, [00:27:00]

Clay Bolt: I don't even know. I don't even know if I can sit up, but here's what I will say. The rusty patched Bumble bee.

When I started working on that story now everybody talks about the rusty patch. The back then I saw a specimen on a pen and great smoky mountains. National park was a species that had been common there for a long time. And at that point, it hit declined 90% and it wasn't on the headlines.

Like it wasn't everyone's darling, like it is. And so I decided in that moment I was going to do something to help out with their see society for invertebrate conservation to propel that species, to listing. Because at that time they had proposed it for listing and, the fish and wildlife service is supposed to get back within 90 days to say, yes, the species warrants being listed or no.

And it had been nearly 900 days at that point. So the bee needed a public system. I want it to be that person. And I have to say, when I saw it in the field, It's not the most spectacular looking bumblebee I've ever seen. It's got a little round head. It's not as bright and orange as some of our Western species, but I just fell in love with it because it was the perfect [00:28:00] candidate to me of the idea that every species deserves to be here.

And I love this. There's this quote from Leopold. There are those who can live without well things and some who cannot. And I'm definitely one of those who can not end this species was one that I wanted to be around for a long time. So it's in my heart. I

Andony Melathopoulos: also love the way that you described the rusty patch, but we'll be thinking about grasslands in the grasslands.

In some case at first glance, you may not fully appreciate them, but there's a whole world going on there that would be really sad to to lose. So thank you so much for being on this episode, telling us about the great work that you're doing and good luck. And we hope to have you back in the few.

Clay Bolt: It was a real pleasure. Thank you so much.

Grasslands are often overlooked in terms of pollinator habitat. But they are key to many of the bee and butterfly species in the U.S. In this episode we hear about programs from the World Wildlife Foundation Fund to preserve grassland habitat in Montana.

Clay Bolt is the Communications Lead and pollinator specialist for World Wildlife Fund's Northern Great Plains Program and a Natural History and Conservation Photographer specializing in the world’s smaller creatures. Clay's work appears in publications such as National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, and National Wildlife. He is a Senior Fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.

Clay's current major focus is on North America’s native bees and the important roles that they play in our lives. He was a leading voice in the fight to protect the rusty-patched bumble bee as a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act, which became North America's first federally protected native bee in 2017. In 2019, Clay became the first photographer to document a living Wallace's Giant Bee—the world's largest bee—as a part of a four-person exploration team to rediscover the species in the Indonesian islands known as North Maluku.

Links Mentioned:

Clay’s Book Recommendations:

Clay’s Go To Tool:

Macro photography with a diagonal fisheye lens

Clay’s Favorite Pollinator Species:

Rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis)

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