Throughout the summer, we invite specialists to share their expertise daily 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 brings a unique combination of skill and experience with birds, science, conservation, and public policy to his job as director of conservation science for Ocean Conservancy, which he has held since 2009. In his career of more than 35 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 the state of Alaska's science coordinator following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and executive director of Audubon Alaska (from 1999-2009). Stan's current work for Ocean Conservancy focuses on energy development in the Arctic and ecosystem restoration following the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Birds are Stan’s great love. He holds an M.S. in biology from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and has published many articles on the ecology and conservation of birds. Bird migration is his particular interest. Over the last 20 years, much of his work has focused on science and public policy related to energy development and its impacts on wildlife and ecosystems in Alaska. Stan is currently based in Portland, Oregon.
Field trips will focus on observing and appreciating breeding birds in forest, tundra, and wetland habitats. Guests of all skill levels should find these outings rewarding.
Stan will give two evening presentations: one on bird migration and natural history of Denali’s bird life, and the other on conservation in the Arctic--Alaska's North Slope and Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
The wildflowers of Denali National Park and Preserve create an extravagant, multi-colored microcosm of nature’s handiwork amidst a vast mountain landscape. Whether you are simply attracted to observation of nature’s floral displays, lured by macro photography, or drawn to plant taxonomy, we invite you to join us for Denali’s season of wildflowers.
Naturalist staff and guest specialists will lead field trips for botanizing and wildflower photography. We will explore marshy lowlands, boreal forest, rolling tundra hillsides, and windswept heights, discovering plants that are strategically adapted to these unique biological niches of the Far North. We will discuss the characteristics of taiga and tundra, river bar colonizers, cushion plants, and sedge tussocks, and will talk about how plants flourish despite the rigors of mountain weather, glacial terrain, permafrost, and the brief growing season.
Evening programs will explore topics such as far northern plant adaptations, pollination, the role of wildfire, traditional uses of northern plants, and how some plants provide evidence of climate change at northern latitudes.
Brian Okonek has been on 35 Denali expeditions. His first time on the summit was at 18 years old when he joined friends and dog sledded from Park headquarters to the Muldrow Glacier. Diane has traversed Denali 3 times and has climbed in the Alaska Range since 1978. Together, they founded their own mountaineeering guiding business, Alaska-Denali Guiding, in 1983. They organized seventy-five expeditions up Denali, taught mountaineering skills and led wilderness backpacking trips throughout Alaska. In 1990 they bought their first sled dog and began spending their vacation time together doing annual month long trips by dog sled throughout Alaska. After selling their guiding business, Diane went back to work for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and spent seven years managing the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary in Bristol Bay. Photography and climbing history have always been a passion for Brian, and his work has been published in many books, climbing magazines, Alaska magazine and National Geographic.
Brian and Diane will be sharing stories and photographs from their life based in Talkeetna, Alaska, with many climbing and hiking expeditions into their back yard, Denali National Park. They will discuss the historic to present day effects of tourism, flight seeing, climbing and hiking in the park. They will bring a local resident's perpective to the challenge of finding balance in managing a park so that tens of thousands of people can see the wilderness of Denali National Park while reserving places of solitude and quiet for those that seek it.
In a second program, Brian will follow the footsteps of the different explorers that came to Alaska 100 years ago and slowly unraveled the complexities of the Alaska Range, leading to the first ascent of Denali in 1913. He will contrast the early explore's life on the trail to the present day climbers, hikers, snowmachiners and flightseers that have technology and easy access at their finger tips. Brian will discuss how the desire to experience wilderness in many different ways has created the Denali National Park and Preserve we see today.
Rooted in Naparyarmiut (Hooper Bay), born in Bethel and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Jack Dalton has grown up an ambassador between two worlds, his Yup'ik Inuit and European heritages. A professional storyteller, actor, writer, teacher, and director, Jack has been honored by the World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education as a Distinguished Dignitary. He received the first Expressive Arts Grants from the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian. He has created and produced five theatrical works of epic storytelling, written a book, taught creative writing to tens-of-thousands of students around the world, co-wrote and stars in the play Raven’s Radio Hour, with it’s Summer, State Fair, AFN, Muktukmas, and Rondy versions, performed internationally in Sweden, France, Norway, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, at the National Multicultural Festival in Australia, and headlined the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. His play, Time Immemorial, premiered at Anchorage-based Cyrano’s in April 2009, and was selected as part of The Autry National Center’s Native Voices Festival of New Plays. Assimilation, his fourth play, was selected in the Top 5 cultural events in 2010 by Anchorage Daily News Arts Editor Mike Dunham. Cauyaqa Nauwa?: Where Is My Drum? is his first “musical/opera”, co-written with Stephan Blanchett, is in development. Jack is currently a mentor with the Alaska Native Playwrights Project, working on his fifth play, The Last of His Kind, and his first opera, Ada, based on the life of Ada Blackjack. He loves Alaska history and the natural world, and worked for 7 years as a guide with Cruise West Along the Pacific Coast and the Bering Sea.
In the first evening program, Jack will share stories from a variety of Alaska’s indigenous cultures. The next evening, he’ll take guests on an engaging journey through the history of the 11 different Native cultures of Alaska, integrating stories from the evening before and drawing upon his gift of captivating storytelling.
Dan O’Neill moved to Alaska in 1975 from his native San Francisco. Early on, he worked construction, built cabins, hunted, fished, and ran sled dogs. (He and his wife, Sarah, once ran their teams 800 miles to Nome.) Later, at the University of Alaska’s Oral History Program, he produced television and radio documentaries for public broadcasting. For several years he wrote a newspaper column of political opinion.
Dan has written three books of literary non-fiction. A Land Gone Lonesome is literary travel writing set along the Yukon River. The Alaska Library Association selected it as 2006’s best book on Alaska, published anywhere, and The New York Times Book Review awarded it an “Editor’s Choice.”
The Firecracker Boys, a political history, also won the Library Association’s best book award, and for it the Alaska Historical Society named Dan Alaska Historian of the Year. The book is under option to Leonardo DiCaprio for a feature film.
The Last Giant of Beringia blends biography of a unique scientist with an explication of scientific work on the Bering Land Bridge. The Times (London) called it “a beautiful and engrossing book…a wonderful integration of science and history.”
Dan's first program will be “The Firecracker Boys: The Story of Project Chariot and the roots of Environmentalism.” In 1958, Father of the H-bomb, Edward Teller, unveiled his plan to create an instant harbor on the coast of Alaska by exploding a string of nuclear bombs. Instead he accidentally helped launch the environmental movement. It is the story of how a small Eskimo village, along with a handful of Alaska scientists and conservationists, thwarted Teller’s scheme and sparked a new era of environmental awareness.
The second talk, “A Land Gone Lonesome,” will present slides documenting the subsistence life of bush people along the Yukon River (as contrasted with the representations in popular books and film) in an area that is now a national preserve administered by the National Park Service. It will examine the difficulties of managing wilderness lands that have, for thousands of years, included people.
Scott Sanders is an author and teacher with a keen interest in our ways of imagining and writing about nature. He is fascinated in particular by literature that explores human encounters with wilderness. His own two dozen books include novels, collections of stories and essays, a memoir, and picture books for children. Among his most recent titles are Earth Works, A Conservationist Manifesto, and A Private History of Awe. His honors include the Lannan Literary Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Cecil Woods Award for Nonfiction, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. After earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, he joined the faculty of Indiana University, where he recently retired as a Distinguished Professor of English after four decades of teaching. He and his wife, Ruth, a biochemist, reared two children in their hometown of Bloomington, in the hardwood hill country of Indiana’s White River Valley.
Evening programs will feature a sampling of work from writers who have written memorably about Alaska and the Arctic—such as John Muir, John Haines, Richard Nelson, and Margaret Murie—as well as passages from Alaskan Native literature. Professor Sanders will discuss the challenges, opportunities, and attractions offered to writers by this vast and varied landscape, and he will offer suggestions for guests who might be interested in writing journals, essays, stories, or poems about their experiences in Denali.
Tom Wessels is an ecologist and founding director of the master’s degree program in Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England. He is the current chair of The Center for Whole Communities that fosters inclusive communities that are strongly rooted in place and where all people—regardless of income, race, or background—have access to and a healthy relationship with land. He is former chair of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation that fosters environmental leadership through graduate fellowships and organizational grants. He served as an ecological consultant to the Rain Forest Alliance’s SmartWood Green Certification Program. In that capacity Tom helped draft green certification assessment guidelines for forest operations in the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. Tom has conducted ecological workshops throughout the United States for over 30 years. His books include: Reading the Forested Landscape, The Granite Landscape, Untamed Vermont, The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future, and Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape.
We do not need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to sustainability. All organisms and ecosystems work within basic foundational principles to create systems that are efficient, resilient, and stable. All we need to do is to understand how these principles work in the natural world and then apply them to human systems such as an economy.
Principles that will be covered in these talks will include self-organization and its relationship to coevolution in ecosystems, the second law of thermodynamics and its relationship to biospheric entropy including climate change. Though the topic sounds heavy and technical, it will be engaging, even for people without strong science backgrounds. Once we have examined these foundational principles we will apply them to human systems. It should become clear that nature's wisdom is our best guide to a brighter future.
Santa Fe-based photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins is the founder and director of the Expedition Photography program for the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic alliance. For more than 20 years he has has traveled the world leading expeditions from the Arctic to Antarctica and points in between. Back on land he is a lecturer with the National Geographic Traveler digital seminar series and teaches workshops for National Geographic Expeditions, Arizona Highways, and Santa Fe Workshops.
An inspiring teacher, Ralph's enthusiasm for the creative aspects of photography is contagious and is chronicled in his most recent book, Nature Photography: Documenting the Wild World.
Images from Ralph's travels are published widely by National Geographic. His work documenting conservation issues in Baja California was published in the National Geographic Traveler story, “Is Baja on the Block?” A selection of his polar images were featured in the National Geographic companion book to the major motion picture Arctic Tale. He is also author/photographer of the popular guidebooks Hiking the Southwest’s Geology and Hiking Colorado’s Geology.
Ralph's evening programs will discuss simple tips and techniques for improving your travel and wildlife images with examples from the world’s wild places. Daily field trips will explore the wonders of Denali, from the grand landscape to wildlife encounters and intimate details. The focus will be on exploring artistic elements of composition and discovering our own creative vision. In autumn, the tundra is transformed into a magical carpet filled with limitless photographic opportunities.
*Please note that an additional program fee of $225 for the three-night stay, and $300 for the four-night stay is charged to each Autumn Nature Photography Workshop participant. The workshop is limited to 10 participants.
After receiving a B.A. in physics from Washington State University in 1961, Neal Brown worked for NASA, 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.
Dr. Brown went on to receive an M.S. and a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He also directed its Poker Flat Research Range from 1971 through 1989. Poker Flat is one of the nation’s busiest space research facilities and the world’s only university-owned rocket range. In 2008, he retired from his faculty position in the Physics Department and Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Dr. Brown is a consummate teacher and has been featured on PBS, the Discovery Channel, and Good Morning America.
Dr. Brown’s evening lectures will explore the aurora, its myths and science, sun dogs, noctilucent clouds, and other atmospheric phenomena. Hands-on instructional aids and displays will illustrate many of the discussed scientific concepts.
By early September, clear nights are finally dark enough to view the aurora. Join Dr. Brown in his enthusiasm for the north country’s mystical night skies!
for reservations and availability