Do what you love and love what you do — it’s an expression that many would agree with but few have been able to make work. Whitefish native Jeff Hyer has succeeded in building a job that combines two of his passions.
When he was in fifth grade, he hosted a radio show in Kalispell with animal expert Jack Hanna. Later, Hyer participated in Whitefish High School’s AFS Program, an international youth exchange organization, that allowed him to visit Nairobi one summer. That experience sparked repeated trips to Kenya.
These ventures in his youth planted a seed and his degree from the University of Montana in digital media helped that seed grow. Hyer is currently a producer and host of a nature series. He has been able to combine his reverence for nature and his knack for videography to produce a series of nature stories highlighting conservation and wildlife.
As reported in the Pilot last year, Hyer visited the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya, home of the last two northern white rhinos in the world. That experience spurred a series of nature videos — 35 mini-episodes that are shared via YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.
“I collaborated with several different conservancies and used my network to have the opportunities to meet people, research, document and then tell the stories… in that social media format,” said Hyer. “Some are about the wildlife species, some are about the destinations, some are about the eco lodges and what they’re all about and then, the heavy hitters were more like the stories behind endangered species and conservation stories.”
Next, Hyer switched gears and traveled to Maine this summer and worked for the state’s tourism board. He created video pieces to highlight the state as a destination and honed his skills working in the travel and hospitality industry. He is slated to work for the state of Alaska next.
When he discusses his most recent project in Glacier National Park, Hyer’s tone becomes more excited.
“It’s about Glacier National Park because it’s been my backyard growing up — being born and raised here,” Hyer said with enthusiasm. “I’m excited to do this one because I’m most familiar with it.”
The Glacier series is in the works and will be shared soon. Since he is based in Whitefish, Hyer said this series will likely be a never-ending one that he will add to, occasionally.
“For me, with Glacier specifically, I’m not about highlighting it as a destination, necessarily,” said Hyer. “It’s more about promoting responsible recreation, wildlife stories, the context of the park, points of interest, adventure with purpose. It’s not like, ‘check out this hidden spot.’”
His goal for the future is to keep his momentum going. He is looking forward to making more series about Montana, Glacier or possibly Yellowstone. An artist involved with any artistic pursuits knows that securing financial support is necessary in order to continue with the work, and this is an issue for Hyer.
“I need to find a way to make it viable, otherwise it’s just a glorified hobby,” he confessed. “I found what I love, for sure, and making it sustainable has been a big undertaking.”
He plans on reaching out to Glacier Bank, Sportsman Ski Haus and similar businesses that may be interested in sponsoring his Glacier National Park video series.
“I’m working on pulling local and international sponsors that are relevant to the series I’m putting out,” he said. “That way I can keep doing what I’m doing.”
Even though it can be tough to get the support he needs, Hyer is hoping to grow his series with return trips to Kenya and other conservation destinations in the world. He will also continue to work with tourist boards and is interested in working with other institutions in the Flathead Valley.
While his videos on social media are polished and professional, they are not the endgame for Hyer. He plans to use the social media platform as a tool to build a larger audience so he can work on even bigger projects.
To view Hyer’s conservation series and video projects visit his Instagram account at @jeff_hyer or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/JeffHyer
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