Tim Griffith went to college to study wildlife biology and received a master’s degree in the field. But it took almost a lifetime, and a move from the Midwest to Jackson Hole, for him to finally use his education and indulge in his true passion: studying wildlife.
“This is the first time in my life I’ve really been able to actually do what I went to school to do,” Griffith said. “It’s really fun for me to have the opportunity to become a wildlife researcher again.”
Griffith is referring to his various and plentiful volunteer activities, all of which involve the outdoors and wildlife research and education. The retiree, age 65, moved here with his wife last September from Evansville, Indiana. He spends three days a week exploring Jackson Hole through wildlife volunteer work with the Grand Teton National Park, the Teton Raptor Center, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and others.
On Mondays, Griffith can be found counting sage grass for Grand Teton National Park. He then drives his typical nature mapping route, counting birds for Nature Mapping Jackson Hole. On Tuesday it’s more nature mapping, then working at the weather station in Grand Teton. Wednesdays he works for the Teton Raptor Center on its great gray owl studies by monitoring nests and recording wildlife sounds.
It’s a busy retirement.
“When we got here, I said to my wife, ‘Now what am I going to do?’” Griffith said.
“She goes, ‘If you can’t find something to do in Jackson that involves wildlife you aren’t trying hard enough.’”
Although Griffith has been able to live out his dreams here, it’s not like he was avoiding wildlife back in Indiana. He and his wife owned a wildlife supply store called Wild Birds Unlimited and often led nature hikes and hosted workshops.
Griffith’s love affair with nature began when he was a little kid. For his 10th birthday his grandparents bought him a plastic model of a red-headed woodpecker, but they wouldn’t let him put it together until he saw a real one. So they took him out into the woods to search for the elusive woodpecker.
“We walked around the woods until we found one.” Griffith said. “I fell in love.”
He said that kind of origin story isn’t uncommon in the wildlife biology field.
“It doesn’t take much of a spark to light the fire,” he said, “but when you get it, it’s a wildfire.”
Besides getting to look at birds all day, being involved with wildlife has allowed Griffith to better understand Jackson Hole.
“This is a natural way for me to get involved in the area and also get to learn the area,” he said.
Aside from his three-days-a-week routine, Griffith also stays busy coordinating the weekly Snake River nature mapping float trips, organized by the Jackson Hole Bird and Wildlife Club, that occur during the summer.
He also coordinates the Bluebird Box Program, which monitors 104 nest boxes during bluebird mating season. In addition he does occasional birding for the national eBird project based out of Cornell University.
While he would ideally want to take on more projects, Griffith said his plate might be full.
“Reality is, I think I am involved in enough right now and in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Griffith just can’t seem to get enough of birds. But after all these years he still doesn’t have a favorite.
“The one I’m looking at” is his favorite, he said. “I don’t care which bird I’m looking at, I really love them.”
When Griffith isn’t hiking around Grand Teton he’s probably biking through the park, staring up at the trees or taking his grandchildren on hikes. Asking him what is his favorite spot in Jackson Hole is like asking him about his favorite bird.
“My favorite place in Jackson is the place where I am at any given moment,” Griffith said. “This place is incredible.”
Griffith may have not been in Jackson long, but he’s already made an impact and already decided he loves it here.
“The first time I’ve lived in the West,” he said. “I’m not sure why I spent so many years away from it.”