Art for Conservation

Our People

David Tomb, Co-Founder

David Tomb; photo by Forrest Tanaka

David Tomb has been an artist and serious bird nerd since childhood. He drew birds as a youngster in Oakland, CA. – stomped around his local patch looking for great-horned owls, red-tailed hawks, and got poison oak a lot. After his family moved to Marin County in the early 1970s, he was inspired by naturalist Rich Stallcup and his artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes. At that time he met Peter and Howard in middle school. David’s first project with Pete was enacting a used Greek chariot dealership for 7th grade history class. In case you are wondering, you could get them for a song back then. In 2005, he became a reformed portrait artist of twenty years and circled back to his first love, birds, as subject matter. When not in the studio or roving California looking for birds, David delights in birding Mexico and Ecuador. On occasion, he convinces/drags his wife Susan, and son Mitchell to go on some of these “vacations”. He exhibits his art nationally/internationally and has a cool regular showing gig at Electric Works gallery in San Francisco. David’s work has been widely published in the New Yorker, the New York Times and Harpers. In addition, his work is in many public art collections including: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Oakland Museum, and the Crocker Museum.

Peter Barto, Co-Founder

Peter Barto

Peter Barto

A native Californian and the son of two artists, Peter Barto has been an avid traveler and a supporter of all things wildlife since just a wee lad. Now working within the disparate occupations of legal specialist and client liaison for an international law firm, and as a professional voice actor (creating voices for everything from toys and games, to corporate and advertising spots, and everything in between), Peter helps Jeepney Projects Worldwide move forward using both his extensive business experience as well as his creative talents.

Peter received a B.A. in History from San Diego State University and is a recent graduate of the University of California/SPAWN California Naturalist Program. He is currently doing volunteer work for the National Park Service and Marin Municipal Water District for their respective Tule Elk and Foothill Yellow-legged Frog docent programs, and also contributes to the River Otter Ecology Project. Peter is a PADI-certified Divemaster and loves learning about animals and the sciences at large, and enjoys exploring the wooded trails with his lovely wife and two beautiful daughters near their home in Marin County. Oh, and he loves playing the guitar.

Howard Flax, Co-Founder

Howard Flax

Howard Flax

Howard has followed David’s work for decades and feels fortunate to have collected several unique pieces over the years. He jumped at the offer to become a part of Jeepney Projects. As the President of FLAX art & design, the venerable Bay Area art supply business, Howard has a reputation as a creative, forward thinking guy who gets things done. He also has non-profit experience from having served on boards (and as board president), presiding over their evolution and growth. He brings to bear his 30 years of business acumen and focus to ensure Jeepney’s projects are realized.

Howard is passionate about Jeepney’s mission that merges art and environmentalism. In addition to David’s art, Howard and his wife Patty have filled their home with original artworks, including some by their daughters, accomplished artists in their own right. Weekends are spent with family, friends, and in the garden with a sharp pair of pruners. A life-long runner who prefers single-track trails that meander into the wild, he is energized by nature. And like the rest of us, Howard hopes to leave behind a legacy greater than him, which is what Jeepney is all about.

Ian Austin, Ph.D., Science Advisor

Ian Austin, Ph.D.

Ian Austin, Ph.D.

Ian is a certifiable bird nut; he actually remembers looking for a northern three-toed woodpecker at age 10 with his father in the woods of Ontario, Canada. While working on his engineering doctorate at the University of Wales, Swansea, he spent months rising at 2am to ride a moody BSA motorcycle to record the diet of marsh reed buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus). Working in the unnatural city of Los Angeles, he found sanctuary organizing and leading bird walks for the LA Audubon Society. He designed and deployed nighttime light-level recording instruments to offshore islands to study artificial light impacts on the nocturnal Xantus’s murrelet. With 33 years of experience as a marine environmental consultant under, and over, his belt, he currently works on projects ranging from restoration of impacted wetland habitat in San Francisco Bay, to expansion of public ferry services and the feasibility of renewable wave power. Ian is passionate about the need for habitat protection and restoration; conservation of the flora and fauna eco-system that supports the pyramid of life. Critically endangered birds are a consequence of degraded and diminished habitat, a distressed plea for greater environmental awareness and stewardship. He is committed to advancing Jeepney’s mission of raising awareness and support for the restoration and expansion of critical habitat.

Julie Blankenship, Curator & Consultant

Julie Blankenship

Julie Blankenship with Yali Alfaro and Santos Vasquez, Chara Pinta La Reserva, Mexico

Julie is an artist, curator and dreamer. Growing up, her family traveled a lot. Her dad was a conchologist, and she spent many hours looking for seashells in tide pools when she wasn’t climbing trees or reading books. In college she studied biology and ornithology, before earning an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). Julie taught interdisciplinary art and photography at SFAI and San Francisco State University. She is a visionary non-profit leader, having served as Chair of the SF Artists Committee and on the boards of Secession Gallery and SFAI. For the past dozen years she has been Executive Director of Visual Aid, a non-profit organization that supports the creative work of artists with life-threatening illnesses. She founded Visual Aid Gallery, and curated exhibitions in many venues including American Institute of Architects and San Francisco City Hall. Julie and her sweetie Dan Geiger live in San Francisco’s Mission District. Dan is Executive Director of the US Green Building Council, devoted to addressing some of the root causes of climate change. Julie creates art that comments on our increasingly industrialized environment and has exhibited her work widely. She is an independent consultant and works with Visual Aid Projects.

Michael Park, Evolutionary Biologist and Bird Nerd

Michael Park

Michael Park

In addition to his interests as a scientist, Michael enjoys birding and photography. His doctoral work at UC Berkeley revealed the connection between the migration of Baird’s Sandpiper and the dispersal of plants from California to Chile. Michael’s work is derived from extensive field research across California. He looks for clues in the landscape. Geology and climate guide the connection between plant and bird species diversity and abundance.

Michael met David Tomb at a rare bird chase in San Francisco. When possible, they collaborate (travel together) to reduce carbon emission while seeking rare birds to observe and photograph. They agree that declines in bird abundance and diversity require action – through education and outreach.

Cory McAbee, Media Advisor

Cory McAbee

Cory McAbee

Cory McAbee is self-educated in several disciplines including music and filmmaking. His films have won many awards throughout the world. He has had seven projects featured at the Sundance Film Festival and has been a guest speaker at conferences and universities across the globe as a pioneer in alternative media. When traveling to these events, McAbee never forgets his binoculars. He’s always on the lookout for birds that he’s never seen, but his real loves are the crows, ravens and magpies. McAbee is equally interested in insects. In 2012 he joined a German film production that followed the monarch butterfly migration from Lake Michigan to the mountains of El Rosario, Michoacan Mexico. While en route he attended butterfly taggings and was able to capture the birth of several monarchs on film. The footage was aired on German television. McAbee lives in Queens, NY with his wife and three kids. As a family they have rescued many fallen fledglings from the hot New York sidewalks, nursed them back to health and delivered them safely to bird sanctuaries. McAbee will argue with anyone who insults a pigeon and hopes that someday crows will like him.

Dr. Bo Puentespina, DVM, Philippine Eagle and Conservation Advisor

Dr. Bo Puentespina, DVM

Dr. Bo Puentespina, DVM; photo by Dave Quitoriano

Dr. Bo is, simply put, a conservation hero. He attended the University of the Philippines and graduated with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Wildlife Medicine. He has inspired many people through his work as Director of the Malagos Garden Resort in Davao City, Mindanao. He is owner of Animal Solutions Veterinary Hospital (over 11 years). He is a member of the Philippine Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinary Practitioners Association of the Philippines, Malagos Wildlife Preservation Foundation, and Philippine Eagle Foundation. In addition, he is the host of the Malagos Gardens Interactive Bird Show. The night before Jeepney Projects visited the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Dr. Bo had saved the life of a Philippine Eagle, a victim of gunshot wounds, by surgically removing a large part of its wing. We were privileged to see this bird in recovery blinking and waking up to its new and permanent home.