Jimmy Gribbin, our Field Coordinator, started with Sky Island Alliance in September 2022 to recruit and organize volunteers for our conservation programs. He also helps handle field equipment and coordinate logistics/schedules with fellow staff, volunteers, and partners. Read this fun highlight to learn more about Jimmy.
Tell us a little about your background
I was born and raised in Tucson. My father was from Detroit, and my mother is from Chihuahua, so together the three of us explored southeast Arizona throughout my childhood. I have very strong memories of camping in the Catalinas and Pinaleños in the fall, exploring Colossal Cave and Kartchner Caverns, and going on day hikes in the Tucson Mountains while at the U of A. When I was 19, I went backpacking through South America and that lit a fire and curiosity inside me, as I have now been to 43 countries. Argentina and Japan are competing for the next destination on my list. In 2015, I moved to Chicago where I performed comedy, as well as volunteered and worked for a nonprofit called All Stars Project of Chicago, which produces talent shows for anyone under age 25 and also provides a paid internship program for young adults seeking professional experience. Eventually I was laid off during the covid quarantine, and so I decided to fulfill a lifelong pipe dream of mine and went out and worked at a ranch/outfitter in Idaho, inside the largest wilderness area in the lower 48. I worked there until February 2021, and as I wanted to continue my “wilderness year” momentum, I ended up thru hiking the Arizona Trail in March/April. While hiking I fell in love and met my now girlfriend. We just returned from living in Miami for almost a year and are very excited about returning to Arizona and the Southwest.
What brought you to Sky Island Alliance?
As a kid, I always loved animals and grew up wanting to work or help them in some capacity. I loved going to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Biosphere 2, as they were so different than anything else I saw on TV or in books. While living in Chicago, I developed an even greater appreciation for where I’m from and the incredible amount of biodiversity here. I’ve been volunteering and/or working with nonprofits since I was a teenager, and especially with today’s social and political climate, I am more motivated than ever to do whatever I can to help educate, protect, and preserve an area of the world that I value and owe so much to. SIA is an organization that checks all the boxes for what I was looking for and what I’m passionate about.
What’s your favorite thing or place in the Sky Island region?
Hard to pick just one, but I’ve always been drawn to the grasslands around Sonoita and Patagonia. There’s so much less development down there, and I love just staring at the backdrop of the Santa Rita and Whetstone mountains. I could hike or just sit in a chair out there for days. As for a favorite thing, I’m a sucker for big cats and underdog stories, so gimme the jaguar!
Describe a cool wildlife encounter
My stepfather Larry passed away in 2018, and so a week after his death I took my mother, who lives near Phoenix, on a day trip to Payson, Winslow, and the Meteor Crater (aka Barringer Crater), as we’d never seen it. After the visit, we were driving back to I-40 when I noticed something off in the distance to the right of the road. From afar, it looked like an archery deer target that someone had left out in the sun. As we got closer, I realized it was actually a pronghorn archery target, which I didn’t know they made. I pulled over the car to take a closer look. The target was probably 100 yards from the road as I began walking toward it. Suddenly the target moved, and I realized that it was, in fact, a living breathing pronghorn. Something I’d never seen in person before. I ran back to the car and grabbed my mother and camera. We slowly began walking toward him, taking photos as we went. Not knowing when he would bolt. We ended up getting to within 20 yards of him, which felt unbelievably close. He continued casually grazing and wandering around, and from that distance, every time I tried taking one step closer, he would take a matching step back. I walked around him to take several more photos and tried a few more times to get closer. But again, he would move away and keep that comfortable buffer zone between us. We stayed there watching for about 10 minutes — watching him graze, before leaving Larry the Pronghorn.
Let’s play two truths and a lie :)
- I prefer flour tortillas over corn.
- I was asked to be on last year’s season of “Naked and Afraid.”
- I’ve seen three mountain lions in the wild.