By Gwen Chamberlain

The Chronicle-Express

BRANCHPORT — Local writer and film maker Matt Kelly is working on a documentary film about researchers who are studying the bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

“The film will capture the real work being done and allow a wide audience to be introduced to this exquisitely beautiful world of native bees. And, ideally, inspire even greater action to protect these pristine, primitive places in our country!” wrote Kelly in his recent email newsletter, The Bee Report.

Researchers Olivia Carril and Joe Wilson of the University of Utah have been studying the bees at the national monument since the early 2000s. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument — an area the size of Delaware — is home to at least 660 species of bees, while the entire eastern United States has 770 species.

The pristine undisturbed environment is the perfect place to study the intimate relationships between bees and flowers, says Kelly.

The research practices that will be used in Utah can also be replicated in other locations to help scientists better understand the vast biodiversity in the world of bees. “It’s one of the few places we can protect the species,” he says.

The research the filmmakers will be documenting will help develop methods to study other insects as well, he says, adding, “It’s not just about bees. It’s about supporting basic science.”

For example, there are about 420 bee species in New York State, and a good percentage of them are in decline. Each species of pollinator has a unique relationship with particular plants, and most have not been studied. “Their evolution is in concert. It’s an amazing system of connections,” he says. If a species becomes extinct, there will never be a record of its contribution to the balance of nature.

Kelly says he got the idea for a film during a visit to Grand Staircase last October. The plan is to return to the area in late May.

The film will point to President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce the size of the national monument, which researchers and enviromentalists say may have an impact on the bee populations. 

For more information, visit https://beesofgsenm.com/ 

A fund-raising effort has collected about $13,000 toward the cost of producing the documentary, says Kelly.