2018 Special Emphasis Series

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.

View the 2019 Special Emphasis Series schedule here

Scott Weidensaul

Author, Field Researcher and Bird Enthusiast

June 4-7 at Camp Denali

June 8-10 at Camp Denali

Bird Migration and Conservation

Scott Weidensaul is the author of more than two dozen critically acclaimed books on natural history, including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Living on the Wind, about migratory birds; Of A Feather: A Brief History of American Birding; The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America; and Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean.  His writing has appeared in a host of publications, and he is a contributing editor to Audubon magazine.


Fred Randall

Qajaq Builder

June 11-14 at Camp Denali

June 15-17 at North Face Lodge

The Qajaq: Hunting Craft in Arctic Waters

Fred Randall is an engineer whose passion for kayaking brought him to Inuit qajaqs 15 years ago.  His interest in Inuit skin-on frame construction began when seeking to accomplish his own designs.  In studying Inuit qajaqs, he recognized that the knowledge reflected in their designs was far beyond what he could achieve on his own.  Fred has since lectured and built replicas at qajaqing events across the country, and constructed over 30 replicas of Inuit qajaqs for museums around the world.


Shaina Kilcoyne

Energy Efficiency Director, REAP

June 29-July 1 at Camp Denali (CANCELED)

Can Alaska be a World Leader in Clean Energy?

As the Energy Efficiency Director for Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP), Shaina focuses on energy efficiency in buildings and supporting renewable energy projects. She works with energy service providers, state and federal organizations, businesses, tribes, and other organizations to promote and expand clean energy efforts. Her goal is to cultivate Alaska as a leader in the energy sector with smart, business-based policies and programs. 


Colleen Matt

Bear Biologist and Educator

July 2-5 at Camp Denali

July 6-8 at North Face Lodge

Bears and People

Colleen’s knowledge and passion for bears stems from years of field experience and hundreds of hours watching their behaviors. She’s walked among them at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, Katmai National Park and several other Alaska National Parks including Denali. As director of Alaska land and public information programs for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Park Service, she has helped shaped policy to build appreciation, awareness, and safety in bear country. Colleen currently works as a public education consultant about human-bear interactions with grizzlies and black bears in the Lower 48 States. She holds degrees in biology and education.


John Schoen

Wildlife Ecologist

July 23-26 at Camp Denali

July 27-29 at North Face Lodge

Alaska’s Wildlife and Wildlands: Contemporary Issues in Conservation

John Schoen grew up on an island in Washington State and received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington.  He has been involved in Alaska wildlife science and conservation for 40 years, including 20 years with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and 14 years with Audubon Alaska.  His research includes ecological studies of brown bears, black-tailed deer, and mountain goats in Alaska’s rainforest.  John’s work with Audubon has included comprehensive conservation assessments of the Western Arctic and Tongass National Forest.  He has also served as an Affiliate Professor of Wildlife Biology at the University of Alaska. 


Philippe Amstislavski, PhD

Associate Professor, University of Alaska - Anchorage

July 30-August 2 at Camp Denali

August 3-5 at North Face Lodge

Mycology of Denali and the Hidden Life of a Common Alaskan Fungus

Born in Russia, Dr. Amstislavski grew up with research biologist parents who often took him along on their expeditions in the Russian Arctic.  Now, he studies the fungal communities on both sides of the Bering Strait, focusing on the polypores.  Dr. Amstislavski’s research centers on creating sustainable materials for Alaska and the Arctic.  He is co-founder of Rhizoform, the first biomaterials startup venture in Alaska.  Rhizoform is currently developing production of a non-polluting, carbon-neutral, Alaska-grown alternative to plastics from fungal chitin/cellulose composites.  Dr. Amstislavski’s other research interests include environmental health and spatial analysis of health data.


David Stevenson

Writer, Climber, Professor

August 6-9 at Camp Denali

August 10-12 at North Face Lodge

Mountaineering in Denali: Literature and Some Lesser-known Peaks

David Stevenson has written two mountaineering books, most recently an essay collection, Warnings Against Myself: Mediations on a Life in Climbing, and the short story collection, Letters from Chamonix, winner off the Banff Mountain Book Award for Fiction in 2014.  He has worked as the book review editor of The American Alpine Journal since 1995. In 2017 he was awarded the H. Adams Carter Literary Award by the American Alpine Club. David holds a PhD in English from University of Utah and is a professor of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage where he directs the MFA program in creative writing.


Ingrid Nixon


August 13-16 at Camp Denali

August 17-19 at North Face Lodge

Denali: A Storied Landscape

Ingrid Nixon is an award-winning professional storyteller. She travels around the world telling stories on expeditions, as well as in national parks, schools, special events and festivals, including the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN. She spent 15 summers total, including nine years year-round, living and working in Denali National Park and Preserve. She started the interpretive program for the park’s concessioner, started the National Park Service education program for the Murie Science and Learning Center, and served for seven years as the Park’s Chief of Interpretation and Education. She has written, hosted and narrated numerous films for the National Park Service and the Discovery Channel about Alaska’s parks and beyond. Her storytelling recordings include collections of Grimm’s classic folktales, personal stories, and tall tales. She holds an M.A. in Storytelling from East Tennessee State University. More at IngridNixon.com


Kesler Woodward

Artist, Professor of Art Emeritus, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

August 20-23 at Camp Denali

August 24-26 at North Face Lodge

Painting in the North

One of Alaska’s best-known artists, Kesler Woodward is equally well known for his work as an art historian and curator.  Mr. Woodward served as Curator of Visual Arts at the Alaska State Museum and as Artistic Director of the Visual Arts Center of Alaska before moving to Fairbanks in 1981.  He taught for two decades at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks before retiring in 2000 to paint full time.


Ralph A. Clevenger

Professional Nature Photographer

August 27–30 at Camp Denali

Autumn Nature Photography Workshop*

Ralph A. Clevenger holds degrees in both zoology and photography and was a senior faculty member at the prestigious Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA for 33 years.  He has followed his passion for the natural world by specializing in photography and video projects of wilderness travel, natural landscapes, wildlife and undersea subjects.  He has photographed assignments and led workshops around the world and this will be his eighth trip to Camp Denali.  Clevenger’s book, Photographing Nature, features many images from these trips. Some of his clients include MacGillivray-Freeman Films, The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, National Science Foundation, and the National Park Service.  His publication credits include Audubon, Islands, Oceans, Outside, Orion Nature Quarterly, National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Terre Sauvage, Nature’s Best, National Geographic Books, Smithsonian Books, and Sierra Club Books.  Clevenger’s stock images are represented worldwide by Getty Images and Tandem.


Neal Brown

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

September 3-6 at Camp Denali

September 7-9 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.