2017 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 our 2018 Special Emphasis Series schedule.

Stan Senner

Vice President for Bird Conservation – Pacific Flyway National Audubon Society

June 5-8 at Camp Denali
June 9-11 at Camp Denali

Bird Migration and Conservation

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.


David Sibley

Ornithologist, Author and Illustrator

June 12-15 at Camp Denali
June 16-18 at Camp Denali

Bird Identification and the Art of Observation

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.


Ute Olsson


June 23-25 at North Face Lodge
June 26-29 at Camp Denali

Ethnobotany: Plants for Food and Medicine

Ute Olsson is Chief Naturalist at Eagle River Nature Center where she serves as Director of Education and teaches programs on Alaska natural history.  Originally from Germany, Ute has been calling Alaska home for over 20 years. She holds a Master of Forestry degree from Duke University and a Master of Science in Environmental Studies from Colorado State University.  Ute and her husband Peter have raised three outdoorsy children in Eagle River; Ute enjoys introducing families and school children of the Anchorage area to their wild "backyard".  One of her special interests is ethnobotany and traditional uses of Alaskan plants. She leads walks on plant identification and teaches workshops on how to preserve plants for food and medicine.



Kim Heacox

Author, Photographer, Musician, and Climate Change Activist

June 30-July 2 at North Face Lodge
July 3-6 at Camp Denali

Writing on Alaska

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.



Rick Sinnott

Wildlife Biologist, Writer

July 14-16 at North Face Lodge
July 17-20 at Camp Denali

When the Beasts Come Marching In

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.


Eliza Jones & Susan Paskvan

Eliza is a Retired Koyukon Athabascan Linguist & Susan is a Native Language Coordinator, Yukon-Koyukuk School District

July 24-27 at North Face Lodge
July 28-30 at Camp Denali

Denaakkenaage' 'our language' and Deenaalee

Eliza Jones’ Denaakk’e name is Neełtenoyeneełno, which means “she has versatile talent”.  Her grandmother, Mrs. Cecelia Happy, who helped raise her, gave her this name.  The name is apt, because she often has more than one project going on at a time.  Eliza co-authored the Koyukon Athabascan Dictionary, a treasure trove of cultural and linguistic information.

Susan Paskvan's Denaakk'e name is K'etsoo, which means “someone's grandmother”.  Her grandmother, Julia Nelson, gave her this pet name as a child.  Susan teaches two Athabascan languages for the Yukon-Koyukuk School District to nine Interior Alaskan schools.


Dr. Alan Werner

Professor of Geology, Mount Holyoke College

August 11-13 at North Face Lodge
August 14-17 at Camp Denali

Climate Change: Ice Ages to Global Warming

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.


Dayton Duncan


August 18-20 at North Face Lodge
August 21-24 at Camp Denali

Centennial Celebration of Denali National Park

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.


Ralph Lee Hopkins


August 28-31 at Camp Denali
September 1-3 at Camp Denali

Autumn Nature Photography Workshop*

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.


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

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 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.