2024 Special Emphasis Series


Throughout the summer, we invite specialists to share their expertise with our guests and staff, both in the field and through evening presentations. Consider timing your visit to coincide with one of our Special Emphasis Series speakers. 


The 2024 Series is presented in partnership with the Denali Education Center.

Click here to view our 2025 speaker lineup!

Dr. Jon Atwood

Conservationist & Ornithologist

June 3-6


Full-life Cycle Bird Migration & Changing Bird Names

Dr. Jon Atwood recently retired from his position as Director of Bird Conservation for Mass Audubon, where his work focused on grassland birds and full-life cycle conservation of Roseate and Least terns. He has been a practicing ornithologist and conservation biologist for more than 40 years, using behavioral studies of rare and endangered bird species to inform conservation planning.

After completing his master’s and doctoral degrees in southern California, where he studied Santa Cruz Island Scrub-Jay behavior, Least Tern breeding biology, and the taxonomy of gnatcatchers living in the deserts of North America, he moved to the East Coast in 1986. Building on his experience as a Master bird-bander, he worked at Manomet Bird Observatory and collaborated in the analysis of the first 30 years of Manomet’s land bird banding program. He also spearheaded federal protection of the California Gnatcatcher under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, led a long-term study of factors affecting Least Tern colony site selection, and contributed to early studies of Bicknell’s Thrush in New England.


Roger Robinson

Mountain/Rescue Ranger & Conservationist

June 7-10


Reflections on 40 years of Mountaineering the Alaska Range

Roger made his first climb of Denali in 1975 when he was 21. He and seven others from Oregon State University ascended the seldom-climbed South Buttress route. They used information for their ascent from the 1954 Thayer expedition. On their way down they descended the popular West Buttress where they attempted to clean up garbage abandoned by climbers. Roger was on the mountain again in 1976 where he contributed to a major cleanup and set into motion a lifelong passion to educate and
change the careless attitudes he witnessed. At that time the popular West Buttress was facing a crisis of rescues and was possibly the dirtiest mountain in North America.

Roger was hired as a Denali National Park climbing ranger for the 1980 season, which provided the opportunity to instigate the urgent changes needed to make climbing safer and slowly bring back a pristine mountain. In 2000 he tested a theory to remove all his NPS patrol’s human waste. With the success of this experiment he developed a portable toilet which became the Clean Mountain Can (CMC). Roger retired from Denali after working 40 seasons and contributed to many of the goals he set forth in

In between his many climbing exploits, Roger attained a degree in Resource Recreation Management from Oregon State. He was the 1999 recipient of the American Alpine Club’s David Brower Award for conservation and preservation of mountain regions worldwide, and is a recipient of the National Outdoor Leadership School’s Stewardship Award. He is also the co-founder of the Sustainable Summit Initiative, international conferences on environmentally sustainable solutions in
mountain areas.

Roger met his wife Pam in 1983 on a Sierra Club Service project that involved the clean-up of an old mine within a remote western area of Denali National Park. For over 30 years, they have traveled together on dozens of remote backcountry patrols within the Park. They live in Talkeetna, Alaska, in a log house they built themselves. Pam worked 16 seasons for Denali at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station. Their
lives are chronicled in the 2017 book, Denali Ranger: A Life of Drama and Adventure on America’s Tallest Peak, by Lew Freedman. They are excited to share their love of Denali National Park with Camp Denali’s guests and employees during their stay.


Sarah Roeske, Ph.D.

Research Geologist, Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Davis

June 24-27

June 28-30


The Geology Around Camp Denali: Mountain building, earthquakes & their role in shaping the Alaska Range

Widely recognized for her research in Alaska, Sarah Roeske brings more than 40 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. She has conducted fieldwork from Sitka in southeast Alaska to the Brooks Range in the north, using everything from llamas to helicopters to access remote areas. As a research faculty member at University of California, Davis since 1990 she 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, most recently focusing on the Alaska Range, which includes Denali, the highest peak in North America.


Susan Paskvan

Former Native Language Coordinator of Yukon-Koyukuk School District

July 1-4

July 5-7



Connections to the Land through Indigenous Language Revitalization

Susan Paskvan, known as “K’etsoo” in Denaakk’e (Koyukon Athabascan) is the daughter of Benedict and Eliza Jones of Koyukuk, Alaska.  

She was the Native Language Coordinator of Yukon-Koyukuk School District, which serves ten Interior Alaska Schools. In this role, Susan taught Denaakk’e over two-way video-conference; developed the curriculum, lessons and materials; and coordinated professional development workshops for language speakers and educators. She believes there is no greater joy than watching a child having fun learning their language.

Throughout her fifteen years at Y-KSD Susan has worked with many elders, most often with her mother, Eliza Jones, to document Native place names throughout the Interior; genealogy; traditional memorial songs and stories. These hundreds of hours of recordings have led to an increase in the number of people who are able to sing their traditional songs at memorial potlatches. Additionally, Susan has been learning more Denaakk'e through the Mentor Apprentice Program with Doyon Foundation's Native Language Program.


Christine Byl


July 22-25


Excerpts from Dirt Work and Crane, Water, Change: A Migratory Essay

Christine Byl, a writer and a professional trail-builder, lives on a few acres of taiga just north of Denali National Park, on Dene homelands. Christine's prose is fueled by a deep attention to place, weather, animals, seasons, and the work we do with our hands. She is interested in the inner lives of rural people and communities, and how class and work affect the ways in which people grow to know the natural world, and the other beings with whom we share it. Her first book, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods, is a book about trail crews, tools, wildness, gender, and labor, and was a finalist for the 2014 Willa Award in nonfiction. Her most recent book is the novel Lookout, the coming-of-age story of a close knit and complicated family, set in Northwestern Montana; Lookout was short-listed for the Center for Fiction’s 2023 First Novel prize, and received a 2023 Montana Book Award Honor.

Christine's fiction and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, The Sun, Crazyhorse and Brevity, and other literary journals, in addition to several anthologies, including Denali National Park's project of commissioned works on climate change. Christine has received grants from the Rasmuson Foundation, and won the Alaska Literary Award in 2015. She has also worked on public lands as a professional trail-builder since she started on a trail crew in Glacier National Park in 1996, and has spent the past 15 years in the private sector as an owner-operator of a full service-trail design and construction company, Interior Trails LLC. She lives with her spouse in a yurt on the edge of the tundra, balancing field work with writing, cabin construction with homestead chores, and being a human neighbor with being a wild creature in the living world. She acknowledges the past, present and on-going stewardship of Ahtna, Tanana, Dena'ina, Koyukon, and other Dene people on the lands she loves. 

To find out more about Christine's writing or trail work, please visit www.christinebyl.com or www.interior-trails.com


Carolyn Finney, Ph.D. & James Edward Mills

Carolyn Finney: Author and Storyteller & James Edward Mills: Journalist and Author

July 15-18

July 19-21


A Celebration and Continuing Conversation: The 10th anniversary of Finney's Black Faces, White Spaces and Mills' The Adventure Gap

Carolyn Finney, Ph.D. is a storyteller, author and a cultural geographer. She is deeply interested in issues related to identity, difference, creativity, and resilience. Carolyn is grounded in both artistic and intellectual ways of knowing - she pursued an acting career for eleven years, but five years of backpacking trips through Africa and Asia, and living in Nepal changed the course of her life. Motivated by these experiences, Carolyn returned to school after a 15-year absence to complete a B.A., M.A. (gender and environmental issues in Kenya and Nepal) and a Ph.D. (where she was a Fulbright and a Canon National Science Scholar Fellow).

Along with public speaking, writing, media engagements, consulting & teaching, she served on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board for eight years. Her first book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors was released in 2014. Recent publications include Self-Evident: Reflections on the Invisibility of Black Bodies in Environmental Histories (BESIDE Magazine, Montreal Spring 2020), and The Perils of Being Black in Public: We are all Christian Cooper and George Floyd (The Guardian, June 3rd 2020). She is currently working on a performance piece about John Muir (The N Word: Nature Revisited) as part of a Mellon residency at the New York Botanical Gardens Humanities Institute this summer and is the new columnist at the Earth Island Journal. She is also an artist-in-residence in the Franklin Environmental Center at Middlebury College.

James Edward Mills is a freelance journalist who specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving, and practices of sustainable living. He has worked in the outdoor industry since 1989 as a guide, outfitter, independent sales representative, writer, and photographer. He is the author of the new book The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors and the co-writer/co-producer of the documentary film An American Ascent.

James has written for the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Magazine, and
Wisconsin Trails. He is currently a contributor to several outdoor-focused print and online publications such as National Geographic Adventure, Rock & Ice, Alpinist, SUP, Elevation Outdoors, Women’s Adventure, the Clymb, Park Advocate, High Country News, Land & People, Outside Magazine and The Guardian.


Dr. Nikoosh Carlo, Ph.D.

CEO of CNC North Consulting

July 29-August 1


Indigenous-led Climate Solutions in the Arctic & beyond

Dr. Nikoosh Carlo is Koyukon Athabascan and CEO of CNC North Consulting. Dr. Carlo guides clients to develop a vision for their climate change and Arctic priorities and build momentum to achieve their goals. She has worked across political divides for state senators, ambassadors, and governors on issues of Arctic governance. Her true passions are working with organizations that support climate change equity, and the well-being of Arctic residents and Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Carlo’s recent work focuses on driving transformative change in the finance sector to support Indigenous-led climate solutions in the Arctic and beyond. In April 2022, President Biden appointed Dr. Carlo to serve as an academic member on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, an independent federal agency that advises the president and Congress on domestic and international Arctic research. Dr. Carlo received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from University of California San Diego and a B.S. in psychology from University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Princess Daazhraii Johnson

Writer, Actor, Producer

August 9-12


Narrative Sovereignty: The power of telling our own stories

Princess Daazhraii Johnson (she/her) is Neets'aii Gwich'in and lives with her three sons, daughter, and partner on lower Tanana Dene lands in Alaska. She is humbled to serve on the boards of Native Movement and NDN Collective, and the SAG-AFTRA Native American Committee since 2007.

In 2015 she was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a Sundance Film Alum, a Nia Tero Storytelling Fellow, and Illuminatives/Netflix Producers Program participant and is an Emmy-nominated screenwriter and former Creative Producer for Peabody award-winning PBS Kids series Molly of Denali.


Pam Sousanes

Physical Scientist

August 16-19



The Science of Climate Change in Alaska & Beyond

Pam Sousanes has lived and worked in Alaska for more than 30 years. She's part of a team of scientists that gather and analyze information on natural resources in the Alaska national parks. Pam's focus is on weather and climate trends. She maintains ~ 50 remote automated weather stations in the eight northernmost national parks in the country, including Denali.

Pam was born and raised in New Jersey and spent her undergraduate years in Boulder Colorado and graduate time in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has always been drawn to the mountains and in 1992 she traveled to Alaska to work in Denali for the ‘summer’ and found home. Her love for science and the national parks has fueled her career for the past several decades. She lived in Denali for 20 years, but now calls Fairbanks home where she lives with her husband Ken and their golden retriever Luna. They enjoy all Alaska has to offer and love spending time floating remote rivers, camping, paddleboarding, kayaking and hiking. 


Ronn & Marketa Murray

Aurora Borealis Experts & Photographers

August 19-22

August 23-25



Northern Lights Exploration

Ronn & Marketa Murray are a husband and wife team, both in life and in business. They share a passion for many things, including photography, Northern Lights, nature, travel, and their dogs.

Ronn fell in love with photography in 2007 while working over the summer in California to pay his way through college. Later that year, he moved to Anchorage, Alaska, to follow his dream of becoming a professional photographer. It was then that he captured his first image of the Northern Lights and became entranced by their magic spell.

Marketa was born and raised in the Czech Republic. In 2002, she moved to Iceland and went on to manage TGI Fridays for several years. During that time she fell in love with the night sky, the Aurora, the beautiful Icelandic landscapes and photography. In 2011, she ventured to Alaska, where the two met and fell in love chasing the Aurora together. They were married a year later, beneath the majestic Aurora Borealis and have been “chasing the lights” together, ever since.


Ralph Clevenger


August 26-29

August 30-September 1


Autumn Photography Workshop*


Ralph Clevenger holds degrees in both zoology and photography and was a senior faculty member at the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA for 33 years. He follows his passion for the natural world by specializing in photography and video projects of ecotravel, wildlife and the undersea world. Ralph has photographed assignments and led workshops around the world, and this will be his ninth trip to Camp Denali. He is the author of the book “Photographing Nature”, a sponsored ambassador for Light & Motion, and is represented by Tandem Stills & Motion.

Ralph’s publication credits include Audubon, Islands, Oceans, Outside, Orion Nature Quarterly, National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Nature’s Best, National Geographic Books, Smithsonian Books, Sierra Club Books, and many other national and international publications.

*additional fee applies to photography workshop participants