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Rick Geib

AFC Conservation Artist of the Month for March, 2019

Rick Geib has had a lifetime of interest and focus on conservation. He started early and continues with his interest in the environment to this day. His ability to devote time to this has had to compete with the time required for work, for art and for his role as a businessman.

Perhaps the best outline of this is to use the words of the artist himself. This is a wonderful insight into the real world challenges and how they relate to the AFC mission of conservation through art.

"In the summer of 1987, I was hired as a volunteer, (at the age of sixteen), by Intersea research. The Intersea research team was the first group to officially document and study the cooperative feeding behavior of Humpback whales. They were featured in National Geographic’s January 1984 edition as the cover story. The owner of Intersea, Cynthia D’Vincent and her daughter Eve have gone on to become members of National Geographic’s explorer's club. Though the company is no longer, my roommate while onboard that summer Dr. Fredrick Sharpe has gone on to found the Alaska Whale Foundation (AWF), which continues marine mammal research in Southeast Alaska, primarily of the humpback feeding and behavior patterns and to whom my AFC page mainly dedicates its donations and cause to. Dr. Sharpe has gone on to partake in several documentaries concerning Humpbacks and served as primary consultant for an  IMAX film.

My duties onboard were that of boson’s mate, but I considered my duties essential to the overall mission. I was after all only sixteen and had no training in formal research, so my duties were mainly those instrumental and supportive to the naturalists and their research aims. The primary mission of Intersea was to photo ID whale flukes and document behavior, feeding patterns, and pod hierarchies. We would also take recordings whenever possible and ideally then coordinate the observed behaviors such as soundings and feedings with the vocalizations. For Intersea at that time, the summers were spent in the Southeast Alaska feeding grounds, then they would follow the pods to Hawaii for mating season. I only worked during the summer. AWF and Dr. Sharpe continue the work in Southeast Alaska, and I hope to work with them in the near future at their Baranof Warm Springs outpost, (if they will have me) and if I can make that happen with my other life responsibilities.

I returned to work for Intersea once again in the spring of 1990. By then the scope of research Intersea was taking on reached beyond whales. This time, I was again hired as a Boson’s mate, but we were to study the Exxon Valdez impact zone a few years after the spill. We were contracted by the state of Alaska, (The University of Alaska), to study the intertidal zone of the coastline stretching from Seward to Homer. We would work according to the tides and set up transects on the coast, then count and gather samples of algae and invertebrates in those areas for research and assessment later that winter. At this point, Dr. Sharpe was no longer affiliated with the organization. The intention after the spring of coastal research was to return to the feeding grounds in Southeast Alaska, but events transpired that thwarted that endeavor.

Intersea is now largely inactive, the ships (Acania and Varua), are sold, and the crew has all gone their separate ways. Cynthia D’ Vincent (one of the founders and owners of Intersea) still maintains a website and will participate in an expedition if enough private interest is shown to justify the contracting of a ship, but she has largely gone another direction in life, the current website may be found here: http://www.intersea.org/ . The experiences aboard Acania (Intersea’s primary vessel) during my formative years shaped who I am today, they were instrumental in forming my view of the world and the environment, I continue to grow from those experiences some thirty years on.

In the summer of 1988, (between my stints in Alaska), I worked a summer volunteering for the Nature Conservancy at their “Nags Head Woods” preserve. My duties were to guide canoe day trips on the Pamlico sound off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The sound and salt marsh are a rich and diverse ecosystem instrumental to the health of marine fisheries and shorebird populations, it was my job to expose people to the ecology of that area with a hands-on approach to environmental education.

During the winter of 1993, I attended and graduated a National Park Service ranger academy with the intention of pursuing a career in the national park system. My first post was a volunteer position with natural resources division of the Cape Hatteras national seashore, Ocracoke Island. The goal that summer on Ocracoke was to ascertain the impact of an invasive species on the native flora and fauna. Minks had been introduced to the island years before with the intention of breeding them for their pelts. The minks had gotten loose during a hurricane and (rumor had it) established a feral population that was impacting the waterfowl and shorebird populations. Our duty was to interview residents and patrol the island for evidence of mink presence. The study was mostly inconclusive, but while on the island with the park service there were other opportunities to participate in natural resource endeavors. To finance that summer of volunteering, I worked as an eco-tour guide for a local kayak outfitter. My job was to lead kayak tours on the Pamlico sound and give talks on the ecosystem we were gliding through while doing so. That summer there was also an opportunity to participate in pelican banding and shorebird population monitoring (at that time, the piping plover had a tenuous toehold on the island). I returned to guide kayaks with the same company (Ride the Wind), in the spring of 1995 and spent the spring and summer identifying birds and lecturing about the Pamlico Sound from the seat of a kayak. The work with the park service did not come to fruition, but my second summer on Ocracoke was spent guiding kayaks and working with making clay into sculpture in my makeshift tent and outdoor studio. That summer was the beginning of my dedication to sculpture and the arts.

My life’s path has been fairly crooked and convoluted. I only now graduated from university at age forty-eight. Oddly enough, my self-taught artistic endeavors went a long way towards financing my late life formal education. In 2009 I was granted full scholarship to a local college to pursue a degree in fine art based on the promise my body of work shown. Then some time was taken away from education to take an opportunity to manage a small art foundry for several years, but that first degree then opened the door to complete my Bachelor’s degree in the Humanities, December 2018 from Northern Arizona University. I suppose all of that information is unnecessary, but I feel it may be an important context when trying to understand someone’s path in life.  The reason I mention this also is to emphasize that It has taken quite a bit of effort and sacrifice to play the small roles I have played in conservation work. Without an education, I showed up and did what I could for the causes, and that often involved some very unglamorous work. Furthermore, the values and culture I was raised in were not those aligned with conservation conscious values, so my interest in the environment comes from deep personal feelings and philosophies, not my familial or micro-cultural values. My concern for the environment and how deeply I feel toward the importance of connectivity with the natural world still resonated strongly within me as it always has, but what to do with those feelings and how best to apply my efforts is still something I struggle with. The last two years have been dedicated to finishing university, but now, I hope to refocus and reinvent my life with creativity, humanity, and conservation as the focal points. "

AFC is pleased to have members with this continuing dedication.

Previous Conservation Artists of the Month

(October, 2019)
(September, 2019)
(August, 2019)
(July, 2019)
(June, 2019)
(May, 2019)
(April, 2019)
(March, 2019)
(February, 2019)
(January, 2019)
(December, 2018)
(November, 2018)
(October, 2018)
(September, 2018)
(August, 2018)
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