2017 Special Emphasis Series at Camp Denali & North Face Lodge

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.


Bird Migration and Conservation

Stan Senner

Vice President for Bird Conservation - Pacific Flyway


June 5-8 at Camp Denali

June 9-11 at Camp Denali


Stan Senner brings great passion and long experience with birds, science, conservation and public policy to his job as Director of Bird Conservation for the National Audubon Society’s Pacific Flyway Program, which spans the region from Alaska south to California and beyond.

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 40 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.

Birds are Senner’s great love, and his particular interest is in migration. 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. He first visited Camp Denali in 1975 and is currently based with his wife Pat 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.  Senner will give two evening presentations: one on bird migration and the natural history of Denali’s bird life, and the other on conservation in Alaska and the Pacific Flyway.


Bird Identification and the Art of Observation

David Sibley

Ornithologist, Author and Illustrator


June 12-15 at Camp Denali

June 16-18 at Camp Denali


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. He is the recipient of the Roger Tory Peterson Award for lifetime achievement from the American Birding Association and the Linnaean Society of New York’s Eisenmann Medal. David lives in Concord, Massachusetts, where he continues to study and draw birds and trees.


Birding, like any nature study, is all about observation, and real observation involves more than just watching. It means asking questions, making comparisons, finding connections. Art, sketching, writing, photography, and more are all great ways to slow down and make discoveries. David is looking forward to exploring the birds and the environment of Denali, and hopes that all participants, birders and non-birders, will come away with heightened curiosity, and a deeper understanding of the natural world.

In one evening program David will talk about his own development as a naturalist and artist, especially the importance of field sketching as a method of study. David’s second talk is about the psychology of perception and how it can lead, and mislead, our efforts to identify birds.


Writing on Alaska

Kim Heacox

Author, Photographer, Musician, and Climate Change Activist


June 30-July 2 at North Face Lodge

July 3-6 at Camp Denali


Kim Heacox is the author of more than a dozen books, including the Denali memoir, Rhythm of the Wild, and the novel, Jimmy Bluefeather, winner of the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award. He also wrote the National Geographic book, The National Parks, the official commemortaive book of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service. A former park ranger in Denali, Glacier Bay and Katmai national parks (1979-85), Kim and his wife Melanie live in Gustavus, near Glacier Bay, but often return to Denali, and consider it a second home, as they have many friends here, and love to hike the tundra and river bars looking for berries and bears. In 2012 Kim was a writer-in-residence at Denali National Park.


Kim’s first evening presentation will be a slideshow on the inspiring beauty of Alaska, and how it colors and informs his writing. In the second presentation he will read brief sections from his books and discuss how he portrays his home in a voice that’s both celebratory and cautionary, given the growing threats of climate change. 


When the Beasts Come Marching In

Rick Sinnott

Wildlife Biologist, Writer


July 14-16 at North Face Lodge

July 17-20 at Camp Denali


Rick Sinnott is a retired wildlife biologist whose former domain included Anchorage, Alaska.  Anchorage is perhaps the only city in the world with viable populations of large wild animals, including moose, black and grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, and lynx.  His career with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was devoted to understanding how to tolerate and appreciate wild animals in landscapes dominated by humans. 

Rick has been a consultant for several films and television shows about Alaska’s wildlife.  He has been interviewed on the public radio show “This American Life” and featured in the BBC’s “Moose on the Loose.”  Since retiring, Rick has written articles and commentaries for the Alaska Dispatch on subjects ranging from Alaska’s predator control programs to the bus drivers of Denali.


With few exceptions, the wildlife species found in Denali National Park and Preserve – including the large and potentially dangerous ones – are also found in and near Alaska’s largest city.  In one presentation, “Take a Walk on The Wild Side,” Rick will discuss how wild animals typically found in wilderness areas cope in human habitat and how most Anchorage residents appreciate, or at least tolerate, the unique challenges of living with wildlife every day.  With over 80 percent of Americans now living in urban areas, Rick will share his ideas about what “wildness” means in today’s world.

In his other presentation, “The Natural (and Unnatural) History of Raven,” Rick will demonstrate how the northern raven acquired its reputation as the original Trickster, Creator and sidekick of the deities who once reigned supreme in arctic and subarctic lands.  Ravens, one of the most intelligent of birds, are also playful and vocally expressive.  Alaskan Natives, the Inuit of Canada and Greenland, northern Europeans, ancient Greeks, and indigenous peoples in Siberia all told Raven tales.  Rick will attempt to explain how Raven’s behavior and affiliations with humans were initially both respected and lampooned but how the same characteristics led to the bird’s persecution beginning in the Middle Ages.  Raven, now a protected songbird, will be greatly amused.


Climate Change: Ice Ages to Global Warming


Dr. Alan Werner

Professor of Geology, Mount Holyoke College


August 11- 13 at North Face Lodge

August 14-17 at Camp Denali


Dr. Werner’s research focuses on climate change during and since the Last Ice Age. He is a glacial geologist and his specialty is interpreting glacier activity and climate change from sediment cores recovered from  lakes.  Dr. Werner has conducted field work in nearly all regions of the Arctic including many parts of Alaska.  For the last 12 years he has co-directed the Svalbard Research Experience for Undergraduates program in Norway, and he currently co-teaches a field-based research course in Svalbard, Norway.  He completed his Master’s thesis, mapping and dating glacial deposits in Denali National Park, and returned in the early 1990s to recover sediment cores from Wonder Lake.  In 2013, he was awarded the Faculty Award for Teaching.


Dr. Werner’s first presentation will describe the science behind the Ice Ages and will describe how repeated glaciation from North America’s tallest peak has sculpted the Park’s landscape and left behind a rich record of past climate change.  

In his second presentation, Werner will focus more specifically on what Wonder Lake has taught us about the Last Ice Age in Denali National Park and Preserve.  Sediment cores recovered from Wonder Lake contain a rich history of glacier advances and retreats, wildly changing lake levels and numerous distant volcanic eruptions.   He will discuss the science of current and future climate change in the context of the Ice Ages, and will discuss some of the anticipated changes.

During the day, Dr. Werner will co-lead field hikes that explore the glacial landscape in the McKinley River Area.


Centennial Celebration of Denali National Park

Dayton Duncan



August 18-20 at North Face Lodge

August 21-24 at Camp Denali


Dayton Duncan is the author of twelve books, and for 25 years he has collaborated with Ken Burns, writing and producing many of PBS’s most-watched documentaries, including The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, for which he won two Emmy awards—for outstanding nonfiction series and outstanding writing for nonfiction programming. Duncan has also been involved in a number of national conservation organizations. President Clinton appointed him chair of the American Heritage Rivers Advisory Committee and Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt appointed him to the board of the National Park Foundation. He has served on the boards of the Student Conservation Association and the National Conservation Lands Foundation. In 2009, the director of the National Park Service named him an Honorary Park Ranger, an honor bestowed on fewer than 50 people in history. 


Using clips from his documentary film, Duncan will celebrate the 100th birthday of Denali National Park, telling the story of the people involved in its creation in 1917 and of some who have helped in protecting and expanding the park over the last century. He will also talk about his work with Ken Burns in making their acclaimed film series.”


Autumn Nature Photography Workshop*

Ralph Lee Hopkins



August 28-31 at Camp Denali

September 1-3 at Camp Denali


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 25 years he has has traveled the world leading photo 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 with National Geographic Expeditions, Canon USA, Arizona Highways, and Santa Fe Workshops.

An inspiring teacher, Ralph’s enthusiasm for the creative aspects of photography is contagious and chronicled in his most recent book, Nature Photography: Documenting the Wild World. He is also author/photographer of the popular guidebooks Hiking the Southwest’s Geology and Hiking Colorado’s Geology.

Images from Ralph’s travels are published widely in National Geographic publications. His work documenting conservation issues in Baja California was featured in the National Geographic Traveler magazone 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, and included in the Best Wildlife and Best Landscapes book series.  Ralph’s images are represented by National Geographic Creative and Fine Art Galleries. To view his online portfoli, visit RalphLeeHopkins.com.


Denali National Park is a nature photographer’s dream. In this special emphasis photography series daily outings will explore the colorful autumn tundra in search of wildlife, landscape compositions, and macro subjects. The wilderness surrounding Camp Denali is alive with free-roaming moose, carribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bear, wolves, and the diminutive pika. Camp Denali has a scenic view of the mountain complete with reflection pond, and provides special access for canoing on Wonder Lake. Ralph will share images and experiences from his recent travels. Daily photo assigments and teaching moments will emphasize the use of quality light, strong composition, and the decisive moment to create images with strong viusal impact and appeal. The Denali landscape offers something for everyone and, especially if the mountain is out, provides an awe-inspiring photographic experice that will challenge both beginning and advanced photographers. 

*Additional fee to participate in the photography workshop is $75 per person per night. 


Curtains of Light: The Aurora Borealis

Neal Brown

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


September 4-7 at Camp Denali

September 8-10 at North Face Lodge


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 2008, he retired from his faculty position in the Physics Department and Geophysical Institute at the University.  Brown is a consummate teacher and has been featured on PBS, the Discovery Channel, and Good Morning America.  2017 marks his 31st year as a Special Emphasis Series speaker at Camp Denali.


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 Neal in his enthusiasm for the north country’s mystical night skies!


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