2019 Special Emphasis Series

Our 2020 Series is scheduled - view speakers here

Throughout the summer, we invite guest speakers to share their expertise in the field and through evening presentations. You may want to time your visit at Camp Denali or North Face Lodge to coincide with one of our Special Emphasis Series sessions. Our regular program of guided hiking occurs simultaneously.

Stan Senner

Vice President for Bird Conservation – Pacific Flyway, National Audubon Society

May 31 - June 2 at North Face Lodge

June 3-6 at Camp Denali

Denali Bird Life

Stan Senner brings a life-long love of birds and long experience in science, conservation and public policy to his work as Vice President for Bird Conservation for the National Audubon Society. Although much of his work is in the Pacific Flyway, which spans the region from Alaska south to Chile, Stan supports Audubon’s bird conservation programs throughout the country and Western Hemisphere.

Most of Senner’s professional career has focused on science and public policy related to energy development and its impacts on wildlife and ecosystems. Over the last 45 years he has worked for The Wilderness Society and U.S. House of Representatives during passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. He also served as Executive Director of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, as Alaska's Science Coordinator following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and as Executive Director of Audubon Alaska. Following the BP oil disaster, Senner directed Ocean Conservancy’s restoration science team in the Gulf of Mexico region.


David Sibley

Ornithologist, Author and Illustrator

June 10-13 at Camp Denali

June 14-16 at Camp Denali

Bird Identification and the Art of Observation

David Sibley, son of ornithologist Fred Sibley, began seriously watching and drawing birds in 1969, at age seven. Since 1980, David has traveled throughout North America in search of birds, both on his own and as a leader of birdwatching tours. This intensive travel and bird study culminated in the publication of his comprehensive guide to bird identification The Sibley Guide to Birds in 2000 and the completely updated second edition in 2014. Other books include a companion volume The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior in 2001; Sibley's Birding Basics – an introduction to bird identification – in 2002; and the Sibley Field Guides to Eastern and Western birds second edition in 2016. In 2009 he completed a fully illustrated guide to the identification of North American Trees – The Sibley Guide to Trees.


Sara Tabbert


June 17 - 20 at Camp Denali

June 21 - 23 at North Face Lodge

Exploring Public Lands and Alaska's Communities Through Making Art

Sara Tabbert is a printmaker and mixed media artist from Fairbanks, Alaska. She returned to her hometown in 2000 after college and graduate school in the Midwest and since 2010 has been fortunate to be a full-time artist. All her work is tied to the material of wood – she carves and prints wood blocks on paper, or the carved pieces become the art itself. In addition to smaller work, Tabbert’s large-scale commissions can be found in and on public buildings throughout the state. Her efforts have been supported by grants from the Rasmuson Foundation and the Alaska State Council on the Arts. In addition to residencies in the US, Canada, Argentina, and Italy, she has been a summer and winter artist in residence through the National Park Service in Denali, as well as Zion and Isle Royale National Parks.


Sally Jewell

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, 2013-17 Distinguished Fellow, University of Washington College of the Environment

June 24-27 at Camp Denali

June 28-30 at North Face Lodge

Public Lands – A Priceless Treasure for Future Generations

Sally Jewell has had a diverse and unusual career, beginning as an engineer in the oil and gas industry, spanning multiple roles in commercial banking, leading outdoor retailer REI, and serving in President Obama’s cabinet.  She has been an active volunteer in environmental, educational, social service and business organizations that have shaped her life and given her an appreciation of the inner workings of our democracy and civil society.  Jewell completed a fellowship at Harvard in the fall of 2017, and is now a distinguished fellow at the University of Washington where she is working across disciplines to help students and faculty understand how their diverse skills are essential to shaping a future that is both economically successful and environmentally sustainable.

Jewell is a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, mountaineering on multiple continents, plying the waters of the Salish Sea by sail and kayak, exploring our nation’s beautiful public lands, and introducing young people to the joys of nature and environmental stewardship.  She and her husband Warren especially enjoy playing with their grandchildren in the great outdoors.


Dr. Mara Kimmel

Deputy Director of Strategy, Scholarship and Engagement, Anchorage Museum

July 1 - 4 at Camp Denali

July 5 - 7 at North Face Lodge

People, Politics and Promise in the Far North

Dr. Mara Kimmel has had a long career in Alaskan public policy focused on issues of rights and justice.  She is currently Deputy Director of Strategy, Scholarship and Engagement at the Anchorage Museum.  Mara was appointed by the Governor of the State of Alaska to serve on the state’s Climate Leadership Team. She has been on faculty at the Seattle University School of Law Anchorage campus, the department of Political Science at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and served as the Walter J. Hickel Professor of Strategic Development and Entrepreneurship at Alaska Pacific University.

Mara is currently First Lady of the Municipality of Anchorage where she is involved with several city initiatives focused on equity, resilience and combating human trafficking. Mara has practiced law in Alaska since 1996, and co-founded the Alaska Institute for Justice-- Alaska’s only non-profit agency providing low-cost immigration legal services, language access services and research and policy analysis on issues impacting human rights in Alaska. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Mara worked with Alaska Native tribes on environmental governance issues.  


Pat Druckenmiller

Director, University of Alaska Museum

July 15 - 18 at Camp Denali

July 19 - 21 at North Face Lodge

Denali Dinosaurs: Revealing Alaska's Ancient Life and Landscapes

Dr. Patrick Druckenmiller is Associate Professor of Geology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Director of the University of Alaska Museum.  His research focuses on Mesozoic marine reptiles and dinosaurs, particularly those from high latitudes. Dr. Druckenmiller is currently involved in several field-based research projects in the far north; he collects and studies marine reptiles from Svalbard, Norway, and he leads expeditions to numerous dinosaur sites across Alaska, including Denali National Park and Preserve. He also oversees the largest collection of Alaskan fossils, ranging from Ice Age mammals to polar dinosaurs.


Gwen Holdmann

Director, Alaska Center for Energy and Power at UAF

July 22 - 25 at Camp Denali

July 26 - 28 at North Face Lodge

The Future of Energy

Gwen is the founder and Director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, an applied energy research program based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks that focuses on community-scale fossil and renewable/alternative energy technologies.  Specific areas of emphasis include power systems integration for microgrids, hydrokinetic energy, low temperature geothermal, and diesel efficiency. Prior to joining the University of Alaska, Gwen worked in the private sector as a design engineer and project manager, including the design and construction of the only operating geothermal power plant in Alaska at Chena Hot Springs. This project received several awards including a R&D 100 award (R&D Magazine) and Project of the Year in the Renewable Energy Category (Power Engineering Magazine). Gwen has been inducted into the Alaska Innovator’s Hall of Fame, and was selected as a member of Alaska’s Top Forty Under 40. In 2015-16, she served as a Fulbright Scholar as part of the Arctic Fulbright Initiative.


Dr. Brian Barnes

Director, Institute of Arctic Biology

July 29 - August 1 at Camp Denali

August 2 - 4 at North Face Lodge

Hibernation and Overwintering Strategies of Alaskan Wildlife

Barnes grew up surrounded by orange groves in California, but steadily moved north through studies and training at UC Riverside, Hopkins Marine Station, UC Berkeley, and the University of Washington, before beginning as an Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska in 1986 where has studied insects, frogs, ground squirrels, and bears ever since.


In Alaska, winters begin early, seemingly last forever, and are very cold, snowy, and dark, as well as beautiful and serene. Illustrated by field research done at the University of Alaska’s Toolik Field Station in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range, evening talks will review the physiological and behavioral strategies available to animals for surviving and coping with arctic winters, including freeze tolerance, supercooling, and mammalian hibernation. Little is known about the molecular basis of hibernation, but discovering its mechanisms could lead to novel medical therapies and dispersal strategies for the human species. As a bonus, Brian’s wife, Dr. Alison York, will provide a short history and the future of wildfires in Alaska in the context of climate change. 


Ernestine Hayes

Writer, Memoirist, Professor

August 5-8 at North Face Lodge

August 9-11 at Camp Denali

Our Stories and the Land

Born and raised in Juneau, 2016-2018 Alaska Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes teaches at the University of Alaska Southeast. Hayes is best known for American Book Award winner Blonde Indian, an Alaska Native Memoir, which received an Honoring Alaska Indigenous Literature Award and was finalist for the Kiriyama Prize and the PEN Nonfiction Award. Hayes’s latest book, The Tao of Raven, places fiction and nonfiction narratives in the context of Raven and the Box of Daylight and Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Hayes belongs to the Kaagwaantaan clan Eagle side of the Tlingit nation. She has four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


In her first program, Hayes offers oral history narratives that illustrate the relationship between Indigenous people and the land: stories of bears, glaciers, daylight, and survival. In the second program, Hayes presents examples of this relationship from her writing and provides opportunities for participants to share stories of their own relationship to the land. 

Photo Courtesy of the Rasmuson Foundation


Jim Wilson

Nature Artist

August 19 - 22 at Camp Denali

August 23 - 25 at North Face Lodge

Denali Through the Eyes of an Artist

Traveling to Alaska since 1990, acclaimed artist Jim Wilson has been painting and drawing wild nature for 40 years.  His work has appeared in magazines and museums, is included in private and corporate collections, and is shown in galleries across the United States and Canada, as well as at his studio in Virginia.  Jim directs a portion of proceeds from fine art reproductions to conservation and humanitarian organizations around the world.

Jim seeks to understand, celebrate and share the natural world with others through his paintings.  Participants on his hikes will have the opportunity to learn how to develop visual interpretations from the field by combining journal notes with sketching, painting and photography.


Dave Shaw

Conservation Photographer, Science Writer, Photo Educator

August 26 - 29 at Camp Denali

August 30 - September 1 at Camp Denali

Autumn Nature Photography Workshop*

David W. Shaw is a Fairbanks, Alaska based writer and photographer specializing in conservation imagery, science writing, and educating others about the art of photography. He has both undergraduate and master’s degrees in wildlife biology and applies this background to create in-depth stories of the natural world.

He has written over 100 articles for publications across the world. His images and writing about science and natural history have appeared in magazines like Sierra, Living Bird, UnDark, Defenders, Ensia, Resurgence and Ecologist, Birds and Blooms, Birdwatcher’s Digest, Birdwatching, Alaska, and others. While his instructional photography articles have been published in Shutterbug, Photographic, Photo Technique, Professional Photographer, Amateur Photographer and others.


Neal Brown

Former Director of Alaska Space Grant Program and Poker Flat Research Range

September 2-5 at Camp Denali

September 6-8 at Camp Denali

Curtains of Light: The Aurora Borealis

Dr. Neal Brown worked for NASA in the 1960s, where his interest in auroral phenomena was first sparked. At the time, the aurora was linked to understanding the earth’s atmospheric makeup, a key factor in spacecraft travel.  Brown went on to direct the University of Alaska’s Poker Flat Research Range in Fairbanks, one of the nation’s busiest space research facilities and the world’s only university-owned rocket range. In 1995, he retired from his faculty position in the Physics Department and Geophysical Institute at the University. Neal was brought back to be Director of the NASA-sponsored Alaska Space Grant Program, a position he served in from 2002 through 2008. Brown is a consummate teacher and has been featured on PBS, the Discovery Channel, and Good Morning America.  2018 marks his 32nd year as a Special Emphasis Series speaker at Camp Denali.