2015 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 2016 Special Emphasis Series Schedule


Denali Bird Life


Stan Senner

Director of Bird Conservation – Pacific Flyway

National Audubon Society


June 5 – 7 at Camp Denali

June 8 – 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 theExxon 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 Stan's great love, and his particular interest is in migration.  He holds a 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 15 – 18 at Camp Denali

June 19 – 21 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 the fall of 2000 and the completely updated second edition in 2014. Other books include a companion volume - The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior - in the fall of 2001, Sibley's Birding Basics – an introduction to bird identification – in 2002, and the Sibley Field Guides to Eastern and Western birds in 2003. 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.


Place, Fact, and Poetry: Inspiration in the North


Elizabeth Bradfield

Poet and Naturalist


June 29 – July 2 at Camp Denali

July 3 – 5 at North Face Lodge


Elizabeth Bradfield is a naturalist and poet who first came to Alaska as a deckhand on a small ecotour boat in 1994.  This experience, intended to be a rest stop on the path to academia, led her to a life that balances science and poetry, observation and reflection, boats and books.  She strives to bring poetry and science into conversation in her work and thereby broaden our understanding of place and our sense of wonder. 

Bradfield’s books of poems are Once Removed, Approaching Ice and Interpretive Work.  Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Orion and several anthologies, including The Ecopoetry Anthology.  Approaching Ice, which was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, focuses on the history of polar exploration. 

Bradfield teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the University of Alaska Anchorage as well as at Brandeis University, and she works as a naturalist on expedition ships in Southeast Alaska, the Atlantic Arctic, Antarctica and elsewhere.  She treasures her time in the high latitudes, particularly the far north. 


Evening programs will explore, through images and poems, the interweaving of fact and inspiration.  One evening, Bradfield will share images from her travels in the high latitudes, bits of natural history, and poems that both have engendered.  Another night, Bradfield will focus on the history of exploration in the far north and share poems inspired by those stories.  She will also be available to lead short writing exercises for those who wish to see how their own time exploring the Denali region might find expression on the page.


Alaska's Charismatic Microfauna: Our Mostly Six-legged Neighbors


Derek Sikes

Curator of Insects, University of Alaska Museum and Associate Professor of Entomology


July 6 – 9 at Camp Denali

July 10 – 12 at North Face Lodge


Dr. Derek Sikes obtained a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz where he took his first entomology course. He completed a M.S. degree at Montana State University focused on carrion beetle ecology in Yellowstone National Park, and received his Ph.D. in Systematic Entomology from the University of Connecticut. As Curator of Insects at the UA Museum, his efforts have been to improve and enlarge the insect collection to make it a valuable resource for research on Alaskan insects. The collection, now over 2,500 species, is the basis for documentation on Alaska's arthropod fauna which stands at approximately 8,000 species, over 300 of which are known from no other state.


Sikes’s first evening presentation will cover the varied arthropods of Alaska and the role he has played in documenting this exciting fauna all over Alaska.  His second evening presentation will focus on his research with the volcanic island Kasatochi in the Aleutians. Kasatochi volcano erupted violently in 2008 burying the island in ash and presumably destroying all life on the island. Sikes visited the island two months before the eruption and each year after to document the reassembly of the ecosystem.  The island has continued to surprise researchers with its rapid recovery. 

Field trips will entail active collections of insects and other arthropods. (If you join Derek, be prepared to do some sitting and kneeling!)  Derek will discuss the diversity and ecology of Alaska's arthropods such as pollination, predation, parasitism, overwintering strategies.


Ecosystem Conservation and Alaska’s Birds


Nils Warnock

Executive Director, Audubon Alaska


July 13 – 16 at Camp Denali

July 17 – 19 at North Face Lodge


Dr. Nils Warnock is a scientist and conservationist.  He attended the University of Colorado, Boulder as an undergraduate and has a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis and San Diego State University.  He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Wildlife at Humboldt State University.  Warnock has over 30 years of experience pertaining to the ecology and conservation of Pacific Flyway birds.  Warnock’s research on birds has taken him all over the world, from Alaska to Mexico, New Zealand, and China.  In particular, he has been and remains fascinated by the migration of shorebirds.  He and colleagues showed that Bar-tailed Godwits, a large shorebird, could fly 9 days non-stop from their Alaskan breeding grounds to New Zealand, the longest known non-stop migration by any bird. 

Currently, Warnock is the Executive Director of Audubon Alaska.  Work at Audubon Alaska focuses on conserving some of the largest intact, naturally functioning ecosystems in the world including the North Slope of Alaska, the Arctic Ocean, and the Tongass National Forest.


Warnock’s first evening presentation will discuss some of the key conservation issues and landscapes in Alaska including the vast Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; the rarely visited National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska, home to some of the most diverse and abundant breeding populations of Arctic waterbirds; and the Tongass National Forest, part of the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the world.  Warnock’s second presentation will talk about how Alaska is connected to the rest of the world from the perspective of birds. 

During the day, Nils will be happy to go birding with guests and discuss conservation issues in Alaska.



Where the Wild Things Are: Living with Wildlife in Alaska


Sherry Simpson



July 27 – 30 at Camp Denali

July 31 – August 2 at North Face Lodge


Sherry Simpson’s work explores the wildlife, history, people, and landscapes of Alaska, where she has lived since she was seven. Though she grew up in Juneau, her love of natural history was kindled when her family spent a summer in Denali. She has also lived in Petersburg, Fairbanks, and Anchorage, but her first career as a newspaper reporter took her throughout Alaska covering such exciting events as the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog race, the 1988 gray whale rescue in Barrow, and a sailboat race around Admiralty Island. In addition to four travel books, she has published two essay collections: The Accidental Explorer and The Way Winter Comes, which won the Chinook Literary Prize.  

Simpson’s recent book Dominion of Bears was described by bear researcher Andrew Derocher as a “wonderful addition to the bear literature that sparkles throughout with a combination of scholarship, personal experience, dashes of history, a hint of poetic license, and insights from a host of people past and present that all have something to say about Alaska’s three bears.” Her work has appeared in numerous magazines, literary journals, and anthologies and has won Sierra magazine’s nature writing contest, among other awards. Simpson teaches nonfiction writing in the MFA programs at the University of Alaska Anchorage and Pacific Lutheran University.  


Simpson’s evening program "The Unseen Bear" will draw from her book and her experiences to describe the ways in which the bears inhabiting our imaginations are profoundly different from the bears inhabiting the lives of Alaskans from Kodiak to Kaktovik. A second program, “Natural History, Or What Happens When We’re Not Looking,” will feature selections from her work exploring what it means to share urban and wild landscapes with ravens, moose, wolves, bears, and other northern creatures. During the field excursions Sherry looks forward to sharing some of the fascinating insights and information about bears that wildlife biologists, bear-viewing guides, and other Alaskans contributed to her book. 


Exploring and Photographing Alaska's Remote Mountain Wilderness


Carl Battreall

Mountain and Glacier Photographer and Explorer


August 10 - 13 at Camp Denali

August 14 - 16 at North Face Lodge


For the past fifteen years, Carl Battreall has explored and photographed over two hundred different glaciers in twelve mountain ranges throughout Alaska. For his work photographing the unprotected mountain regions of Alaska, Battreall received the Daniel Houseberg Wilderness Image Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation. In 2008, he was granted a Rasmuson Artists Fellowship to spend a year photographing Alaska's glaciers.  

Battreall's photography and writing have appeared in countless books, magazines and other publications. His first solo book, Chugach State Park: Alaska's Backyard Wilderness was published by Greatland Graphics in 2011. His upcoming solo book on the Alaska Range is scheduled to be released in Spring 2016.  Tim Woody, Senior Editor of Alaska magazine, declares, “There are photographers with great vision, and there are adventurers with the skills to find the hidden beauty of the backcountry. Carl Battreall is both.”


Battreall will share images and tales from his work in Alaska’s mountains.  One evening, he’ll discuss his conservation motivated exploration and photography of the Alaska Range, home of the highest mountain in North America, Denali.  Another evening, he’ll focus on glaciers as a vanishing landscape.  


Co-evolution, Self-organization, and a Sustainable Future


Tom Wessels

Author and Professor Emeritus


August 17 – 20 at Camp Denali

August 21 – 23 at North Face Lodge


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 former 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 also former chair of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation that fosters environmental leadership through graduate fellowships and organizational grants. Wessels served as an ecological consultant to the Rain Forest Alliance’s SmartWood Green Certification Program.  He has conducted ecological workshops throughout the United States for over 30 years. His books include: Reading the Forested LandscapeThe Granite LandscapeUntamed VermontThe Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future, andForest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape.


Wessels will explore some of the foundational principles of natural systems and how our adherence to these principles can help human economies become sustainable.  Even though his topics sound technical, Tom promises to engage people without strong science backgrounds.



Autumn Nature Photography Workshop*


Ralph A. Clevenger

Professional Nature Photographer


August 28 – 30 at Camp Denali

August 31 – Sept. 3 at Camp Denali


Ralph A. Clevenger holds degrees in both zoology and photography and is a senior faculty member at the prestigious Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA.  He has followed his passion for the natural world by specializing in photography and video projects of wilderness travel, natural landscapes, wildlife and undersea subjects.  He has photographed assignments and led workshops around the world and this will be his seventh trip to Alaska.  Clevenger’s book, Photographing Nature, features many images from Denali. Some of his clients include MacGillivray-Freeman Films, The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, National Science Foundation, and the National Park Service.  His publication credits include Audubon, Islands, Oceans, Outside, Orion Nature Quarterly, National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Terre Sauvage, Nature’s Best, National Geographic Books, Smithsonian Books, and Sierra Club Books.  Clevenger’s stock images are represented worldwide by Corbis Images.


Fieldwork and two evening presentations will explore ways to improve one’s photography, learning to see beyond preconceptions and translating visual impressions into creative images.  Ralph will emphasize the importance of pushing your boundaries to create an opportunity for new ways of seeing. And, he realizes that understanding those complex cameras and flashes is critical to capturing great images.

*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 7 - 10 at Camp Denali


After receiving a B.A. in physics from Washington State University in 1961, Dr. 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.

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.

Brown is a consummate teacher and has been featured on PBS, the Discovery Channel, and Good Morning America.


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!


Visiting Guest Speakers

Julie Collins

Subsistence Living in Interior Alaska

June 27 & 28


Frank Soos

Alaska State Writer Laureate

July 18 (Camp Denali only)


Hank Lentfer

Writer and Soundscape Recorder

July 22 & 23


Stephen Lias

Composing Music in the Parks

July 25 & 26


Kelly Sivy

Coyote Research in Denali National Park

August 26 & 27


(907) 683-2290

for availability and reservation information

Reservation Information

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