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The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

National Geographic’s Joel Sartore to speak in West Des Moines

Graphic courtesy of Iowa Bird Rehabilitation in West Des Moines

National Geographic explorer and photographer Joel Sartore is coming to West Des Moines next month. Join Iowa Bird Rehabilitation on March 3 at 3 p.m. at the Staplin Center to hear Sartore speak about his work creating the world’s largest collection of animal portraits.

Sartore is known for his main project, “The Photo Ark.” Through this project, he travels to take portraits of species found in human care. His goal is to document as many endangered species as possible to educate and support conservation. 

IBR is organizing this event in an effort to bring light to Sartore’s work and ultimate conservation goals. Both Sartore and IBR share the same long-term mission. 

“That’s really conservation [and bringing] awareness to people… what’s this world going to be like if birds disappear?” said Jenni Boonjakuakul, founder and executive director of IBR. 

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Boonjakuakul said that birds are crucial to our environment, performing services such as insect and rodent control, pollination and seed spreading. Approximately 800 million birds pass through Iowa during spring migration and 1 billion during fall migration. People would notice if their songs suddenly disappear, Boonjakuakul said. 

IBR wants to help people understand the issues in bird conservation and show them that action is needed now.

“The work Joel has dedicated his life to, photo-documenting animal lives (and their habitats) is a vital way to connect us all to the power and message of conservation biology,” Keith Summerville, professor of environmental science at Drake, said via email. 

He added that some students in the environmental science and sustainability major already work with IBR, and this event is a great way to broaden their collaboration. Many professors in the biology department at Drake commend the work IBR is doing and encourage students to get involved. Muir Eaton, professor of biology and the curator of vertebrates at Drake’s Biodiversity Center, has worked with IBR in the past to contribute to the University’s ornithology collection in the Center.

“This sounds like a great opportunity and event for anyone interested in the topic, and given my interactions with the IBR over the years, I would certainly endorse the IBR as an organization to support,” Eaton said via email. 

The speaking event is geared towards an audience with any knowledge or age level — especially those who love birds and animals, care about conservation or are interested in photography and journalism, Boonjakuakul said. As IBR’s first big event, they are hoping to draw a wide audience. Boonjakuakul said that Sartore is a great storyteller and, for college and high school students especially, his story and success is inspirational.

“He is an inspiration to us all and a great example of how one person can make such an important impact worldwide,” said the IBR press release

This event is also a fundraiser for the center. All the proceeds from the event will go directly towards caring for the birds at IBR’s facility. Tickets are available on the IBR website. General admission is $35 for adults and $25 for students. In addition to ticket sales, with extra donations, attendees can receive a signed copy of Sartore’s book “The Photo Ark” or other signed memorabilia or participate in a meet and greet with Sartore before he speaks. 

“He’s a great guy. He’s very supportive of us,” Boonjakuakul said. 

As a small rehabilitation facility in Des Moines, IBR is doing its part to aid conservation efforts, beginning with hosting Sartore. Through this event, they intend to bring awareness both to what is happening globally and to their facilities right here in Des Moines. 

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