2014 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. 

View our 2015 Special Emphasis Series!


Bird Migration and Conservation

Scott Weidensaul

Acclaimed Author, Field Researcher and Bird Enthusiast


June 2-5 at Camp Denali

June 6-8 at North Face Lodge


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; Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent’s Natural Soul; and Of A Feather: A Brief History of American Birding. His writing has appeared in a host of publications including Smithsonian, Audubon and the New York Times. His latest book is The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America.

A native of the Pennsylvania Appalachians, where he still lives, Mr. Weidensaul’s passion is birds, especially bird migration. A longtime bird bander, he directs a major research project tracking the migration of owls, and is part of a continental effort to learn why more and more western hummingbirds are wintering in the East. Mr. Weidensaul is a frequent visitor to Alaska, where his work has taken him into almost every corner of the state, including Denali.


Field trips will focus on Denali’s remarkable breeding birds, which will have just returned from wintering areas as far-flung as Asia, Africa and South America. Bird watchers of all skill levels should find these outings rewarding.

Mr. Weidensaul’s two evening presentations will explore the wonders and dynamics of bird migration, and a light-hearted look at his field research – a lifetime spent, as he says, "messing around with birds for fun and science."



Alaska’s Interior and Coastal Flora – Documenting the Diversity


Stacy Studebaker

Kodiak Naturalist, Botanist, Author and Environmental Educator 


June 9 - 12 at Camp Denali

June 13 - 15 at North Face Lodge


Stacy Studebaker has called Alaska home for the last 40 years and Kodiak Island her residence since 1980. As one of Kodiak’s leading naturalists and environmental educators, she has worked as a science teacher, musician, artist, photographer, and led the effort to rearticulate a gray whale skeleton for the Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center. Integrating natural history and science with art, music and writing, she reaches a wide audience of ages. She has researched and documented the flora of coastal Alaska since 1973 while working for the National Park Service in Glacier Bay and Katmai National Parks, as a field botanist for the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and Kodiak State Parks, and for the University of Alaska Museum of the North Herbarium. She published, “Wildflowers and other Plant Life of the Kodiak Archipelago – A Field Guide for the Flora of Kodiak and Southcentral Alaska”.

Stacy earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and Biology and a Master’s Degree in Science Teaching and Environmental Education. She continues to teach summer classes at The Kodiak College in Ethnobotany, Kodiak Flora, and Wildflower Photography while researching Kodiak flora. Stacy is an active member in Kodiak conservation organizations.


Field trips into Denali for botanizing and wildflower photography will explore the characteristics of subarctic flora. We will discuss how plants flourish despite the rigors of mountain weather, glacial terrain, permafrost, and the brief growing season.

Stacy's first evening program will emphasize the floral diversity of the Kodiak Archipelago, exploring how botanists work overtime to document the plant life of an area. Her second program will present Carl Linnaeus' Alaska. The great Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) is considered the father of taxonomy and modern ecology. He never visited Alaska, but many of the plants he first named, described and documented in Sweden have a circumpolar distribution. Many of Carl’s plants thrive in the tundra on which Camp Denali was built. 



Denali and the Alaska Range - Tectonics, Landscape, and Earthquake Hazards


Sarah Roeske, Ph.D.

Research Geologist, University of California Davis


June 23 - 26 at Camp Denali

June 27 - 29 at North Face Lodge


Widely recognized for her research in Alaska, Sarah Roeske brings 35 years of experience studying Alaskan geology and Cordilleran plate tectonics.  First introduced to Alaskan geology as an undergraduate at Middlebury College, she did field studies on the Kodiak Islands for her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Since the early 1980’s she has conducted annual fieldwork throughout Alaska, from Sitka in southeast Alaska to the Brooks Range in the north, using everything from llamas to helicopters to facilitate her work. She has been a research faculty member at the University of California, Davis since 1990 and has enjoyed the chance to introduce numerous students to the Alaskan wilderness and the wonders and mysteries of geology. Sarah’s research focuses principally on modern and ancient plate boundary faults and mountain-building processes, including the role of the Denali fault in the development of the Alaska Range. 


Dr. Roeske’s first evening program will present ideas on how mountains form, with an emphasis on why Denali (Mt. McKinley) is the highest peak in North America. This peak is unique for a number of reasons, and she will discuss the roles that plate tectonics, local faulting, and glacial activity have in forming it. The second program will examine earthquakes, what we know and don’t know about them and why they are difficult to predict. Alaska has more large earthquakes than all of the lower 48 combined each year, reflecting its active tectonic setting. She will also present on more unusual earthquakes, such as the Virginia August 2011 event.

Sarah looks forward to the daily field excursions as a chance to explore the local geology, including the history of gold discovery near Camp Denali, and an opportunity to discuss how glaciers, faults, and gravity form the local landscape.



Life on a Changing Land: Perspectives from the Arctic


Seth Kantner

Acclaimed Alaskan Author 


July 7 - 10 at Camp Denali

July 11 - 13 at North Face Lodge


Seth Kantner is a writer and photographer, born and raised in northern Alaska. His work reflects his love for the land, the animals that live on it, and his belief in the importance of wildness left wild. He was schooled at home and on the land, and later attended the University of Montana and received a BA in Journalism. He has worked as a trapper, fisherman, gardener, mechanic, igloo builder and adjunct professor. His writings and photographs have appeared in Outside, Alaska, Reader's Digest, New York Times, Alaska Geographic, and in literary journals and anthologies. He’s currently a columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, the Arctic Sounder, Bristol Bay News, and Dutch Harbor Fisherman.

In 2004 his debut novel, Ordinary Wolves, was released to literary acclaim. Publisher’s Weekly called it “A tour de force.” The Los Angeles Times named the book “A rare thing of beauty.” The novel won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, and Kantner received a Whiting Award naming him one of the nation’s top ten emerging writers. Since that time, he has had to incorporate national book tours and other publicity into a life previously focused on the land, sea, and daily weather conditions and movements of animals. Kantner was nominated in 2006 for the position of Alaska State Writer Laureate, which he turned down to work on his most recent book, Shopping for Porcupine, which was named University of Alaska Book of the Year in 2009.  He is presently at work on novel.


In Denali’s vast landscape, Kantner will focus on details—how to notice single details in a natural world bursting with them, and how to capture those with words and/or camera.

His two evening presentations will include readings from his essays and fiction, a slideshow of Arctic Alaska, and will explore the change—both cultural and climatic—that has and is taking place in Northwest Alaska.



From 'Last Frontier' to 'Last Wilderness:' Alaska's Environmental Evolution


Steve Haycox, Ph.D

Historian, Author and Professor Emeritus, University of Alaska Anchorage


July 14 - 17 at Camp Denali

July 18 - 20 at North Face Lodge 


Steve Haycox is Professor Emeritus at the University of Alaska Anchorage where he continues to teach intermittently.  He taught Alaska and national environmental history for 42 years before recently retiring.  Among other titles, he is the author of a new history, Alaska: An American Colony, and Frigid Embrace: Politics, Economy and Environment in Alaska, and a recent essay, "Fetch Up: The Unlearned Lessons of the Exxon Valdez."  In 2009 he was named the first "Distinguished Professor" at his university.  He has been awarded the University of Alaska system's annual prize for excellence, an Alaska Governor's Award in the Humanities, and was named Alaska Historian of the Year.  For ten years he has written a bi-weekly opinion column in the Anchorage Daily News.  He lives in Anchorage and Cologne with  his wife, Dagmar.  


When Congress granted Alaska statehood in 1959, the primary motivating notion was that Alaska is  America's "last frontier," the last place in the U.S. where people with courage, determination and a sense of adventure could go to claim still undeveloped land and bring civilization to the wilderness.  By 1980, when Congress passed the monumental Alaska lands act, setting aside over 100 million acres of new conservation units, the motivating idea had changed.  It is now that Alaska contains that last vast stretches of wilderness land in the country. But tension between economic development and environmental protection is persistent, both in the nation and in Alaska.  

Program emphasis will examine the definition and evolution of the "wilderness idea" as it applies to Alaska, and some of its implications and consequences. A second program will present "Battleground Alaska:" establishing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; recognizing Alaska Native Land Claims; authorizing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline; enacting the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act; protecting the Tongass National Forest.  Who won? Who lost? What was the cost?



Bubble Trouble: Methane Release from Alaska's Lakes


Katey Walter Anthony, Ph.D.

Ecologist and Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks


July 21 - 24 at Camp Denali

July 25 - 27 at North Face Lodge


Katey Walter Anthony is an aquatic ecologist and assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who discovered methane bubbling hotspots in arctic lakes. Her scientific research has led to breakthroughs in understanding the role permafrost thaw plays in methane release.  By studying the effects methane release has had on climate change during the past 10,000 years and the present-day, Dr. Anthony can piece together the potential impacts of this process on scenarios of future climatic warming. Dr. Anthony spends much of the year collecting information about methane and permafrost at remote locations in Alaska and Siberia. Being fluent in the Russian language has enabled Dr. Anthony to live and research in Siberia for the past twenty years. Her work has also taken her to numerous frozen lakes in other parts of the Arctic including Finland, Sweden and Greenland.

Dr. Anthony has published her research in leading scientific journals NatureScienceNature Geoscience, and Scientific American. She has been featured in numerous media publications and broadcasting stations including National Geographic Magazine and the BBC. She has reported to U.S. senators, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and contributes regularly to presentations by former Vice President Al Gore. 


Evening programs will explore topics about climate change, permafrost thaw and methane release from Alaska's lakes. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to rising global temperatures. The first evening will present methane emissions as positive feedback to climatic warming. Katey will discuss natural sources of methane in Alaska's lakes that come from both organic matter decay in lake bottoms, and from geologic sources deep within the Earth.

The second evening will showcase a new discovery that these very same permafrost thaw lakes have a natural process that mitigates greenhouse gas losses. We will look at the important balance between positive and negative feedbacks in fate of climate change.

Professor Anthony will also be available to work with any guests interested in collecting information on methane bubbling in lakes where they live. 



Field Notes from Denali: Wilderness, Workplace, Home


Christine Byl

Alaskan Author, Educator, and Trails Specialist


August 8 - 11 at North Face Lodge


Christine Byl is a writer whose work is deeply influenced by manual labor in wild places. Since 1996, she has earned her living doing trail work for the National Park Service in Glacier and Denali, the US Forest Service in Cordova, and now as the owner of a small business, Interior Trails. This year marks her eighteenth field season. Her home base is a few acres of tundra just north of Denali in the shadow of the Outer Alaska Range, where she lives off the grid in a yurt with her husband and an old sled dog. When she isn't doing trail work, writing, or teaching, she loves reading, homestead projects, wilderness adventures, and anything that happens in the snow.  

Christine's first book, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods, set in Montana and Alaska, gives a glimpse into the life of a "trail dog," incorporating tools, labor, wilderness and the oral culture of seasonal trail workers. In a starred review, Publisher's Weekly called Dirt Work "a beautiful memoir of muscle and metal." Dirt Work was chosen by Shelf Awareness as one of the 10 best non-fiction books of 2013, and has been a selection by book clubs, college classes, and trail crews across the country. Christine has an MFA in fiction from the University of Alaska-Anchorage and her prose has  appeared in literary magazines, journals, and anthologies including The Sun, Glimmer Train Stories, Crazyhorse, and others. She has received grants and fellowships from Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska State Council on the Arts & Breadloaf Writers Conference and she teaches widely, both on writing and on technical trails topics. Christine is currently at work on a novel.

Emphasis: Christine came to Denali in 2005 for a seasonal trails job and quickly fell in love with the area's complex magnificence. Her evening program will include selected readings from her book, Dirt Work, particularly focused on the Denali region, and a discussion of Denali's many facets: a wild ecosystem, a National Park, a job site, and a place to make a home.


Painting in the North


Kesler Woodward


Artist and Professor of Art Emeritus, University of Alaska Fairbanks


August 15 - 17 at North Face Lodge

August 18 - 21 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 is currently Professor of Art Emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he taught for two decades 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.  He has published six books on Alaskan art since 1990, including the first comprehensive survey of the fine arts in Alaska, Painting in the North. He has lectured on art of the circumpolar North from Alaska to Georgia, New England, and the British Museum in London.  In 2004, Woodward received the Alaska Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, and in 2012 received the Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Alaskan Artist Fellowship.


Evening programs will explore artist’s depictions of Alaska and the circumpolar North, with a special emphasis on historical and contemporary artists’ images of Denali and environs.  Professor Woodward will discuss the way individual and societal views of the relationship of people to the land subtly but inexorably shape the way land and animals are depicted by artists of all eras.  He will also be available to work with any guests interested in working on their own paintings and drawings of the Denali region.



Autumn Nature Photography Workshop*


Mark Kelley

Professional Nature Photographer 


August 25-28; August 29 - 31 at Camp Denali only


For over 35 years Mark Kelley has photographed the people, scenery and wildlife of Alaska. He graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1978 with a double degree in Photojournalism and Northern Studies, and then worked as a daily photojournalist at the Fairbanks News-Miner, The Ithaca Journal, and finally at the Juneau Empire for 13 years.  He left Juneau Empire in 1993 to freelance full-time.  Mark's photos have appeared on the covers of more than 200 publications including calendars, books, magazines, and brochures worldwide.  Ten photographic books on Alaska subjects have been published by Mark, along with Juneau’s 25th calendar edition and the Southeast Alaska Calendar, which is in it’s 20th year.

Over the years, he has led multiple weeklong photography trips throughout Southeast Alaska for a variety of tourism companies. Mark lives in Juneau with his wife, Jan and has two grown sons. 


Mark will present two evening programs: the first, celebrating the wild wonders of Alaska from the Arctic to Southeast Alaska including, of course, Denali.  A second program will present simple methods for taking quality photographs to remember your vacation by – whether of wildlife or daily activities – these tips will enhance your captured memories. During field trips, Mark will emphasize the compositional elements and creative perspective that shape a photograph, all while finding that decisive moment in each image. Denali’s vast landscapes, wildlife opportunities, and the intricate carpet of tundra turned vivid with autumn colors make for exciting opportunities around every bend.  

*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.



Curtains of Light: The Aurora Borealis


Dr. Neal Brown

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


September 5 - 7 at North Face Lodge

September 8 - 11 at Camp Denali


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!


Call us at

(907) 683-2290

for availability and reservation information

Reservation Information

A few spots are still available in our 2015 autumn photography workshop.

Book now to join us for the season of fall colors!