2020 Special Emphasis Series

Schedule outline below - full bios will be available soon!

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.

Return to our 2019 Special Emphasis Series schedule.

Scott Weidensaul

Author, Field Researcher and Bird Enthusiast

June 5-7 at Camp Denali

June 8-11 at Camp Denali



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 and a columnist for Bird Watcher's Digest.


Debbie S. Miller

Alaska Author and Wilderness Advocate

June 19-21 at North Face Lodge
June 22-25 at Camp Denali



A lover of wilderness, Debbie is a 45-year Alaskan who has explored the Arctic and other wild places for decades.  Alaska’s wilderness and its rich diversity of wildlife are the inspiration for her many nature books for adults and children.  She enjoys partnering with scientists to gain a deeper understanding of the natural world, then weaving that important knowledge into her narratives.

As a teacher, Debbie has traveled extensively to schools throughout the country sharing her books and stories about Alaska’s natural world and its people.  A wilderness advocate, she is a co-founder of the Alaska Wilderness League, a national organization whose sole mission is to protect Alaska’s wilderness, including some of the wildest and most beautiful places on the planet.


James Edward Mills


July 13-16 at Camp Denali

July 17-19 at North Face Lodge



James Edward Mills is a freelance journalist who specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving, and practices of sustainable living. He has worked in the outdoor industry since 1989 as a guide, outfitter, independent sales representative, writer, and photographer. He is the author of the new book “The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors” and the co-writer/co-producer of the documentary film “An American Ascent”. James has written for the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Magazine, and Wisconsin Trails. He is currently a contributor to several outdoor-focused print and online publications such as National Geographic Adventure, Rock & Ice, Alpinist, SUP, Elevation Outdoors, Women’s Adventure, the Clymb, Park Advocate, High Country News, Land & People, Outside Magazine and The Guardian.


Jonathan Waterman


July 24-26 at North Face Lodge

July 27-30 at Camp Denali


HIGH AND WILD: Chasing Denali & National Parks

Jon Waterman has worked as a wilderness guide and as a Denali Mountaineer Ranger, exploring—in boats, by foot, or on dogsleds—remote places and many of the 61 national parks. He has received many grants from the National Geographic Society Expeditions Council, and his award-winning writing and photography have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers.  He has also written 14 books on adventure and the environment, including the National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks (November 2019) and Chasing Denali (November 2018).   He lives in Carbondale, Colorado.


Mary Pipher

Clinical psychologist, writer

August 4 at Camp Denali

August 5 at North Face Lodge



Mary Pipher graduated in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969 and received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in Clinical Psychology in 1977. She has worked most of her life as a therapist and she has taught at the University of Nebraska and Nebraska Wesleyan University. She was a Rockefeller Scholar in Residence at Bellagio and has received two American Psychological Association Presidential Citations, one of which she returned to protest psychologists’ involvement in enhanced interrogations at Guantanamo. She is the author of ten books including Reviving Ophelia and her latest Women Rowing North. Four of her books have been New York Times best sellers. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times.


Kesler Woodward

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

August 21-23 at North Face Lodge

August 24-27 at Camp Denali



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.

Mr. Woodward’s paintings, depicting scenes from Hudson Bay in Arctic Canada to the Bering Strait region of Russian Siberia, are included in all major public art collections in Alaska and in museum, corporate, and private collections.  In 2002, he served as Denali National Park’s first Artist-in-Residence.


Amy Gulick


August 28-30 at Camp Denali

August 31-September 3 at Camp Denali



Amy Gulick is an award-winning nature photographer and writer, and a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. Her images and stories have been featured in Outdoor Photographer, National Wildlife, Audubon and other publications.

Her new book, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind, celebrates the relationships among salmon and people in Alaska. Her first book, Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest, is the recipient of an Independent Publisher Book Award. Her work in Alaska has received numerous honors including the Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation and the Voice of the Wild Award from the Alaska Wilderness League.


Neal Brown

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

September 4-6 at Camp Denali
September 7-10 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.  2020 marks his 35th year as a Special Emphasis Series speaker at Camp Denali.