2021 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 to coincide with one of our Special Emphasis Series sessions. Our regular program of guided hiking occurs simultaneously.

David Sibley

Ornithologist, Author and Illustrator

June 4-6

June 7-10



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 Deerfield, Massachusetts, where he continues to study and draw birds and trees.


Dr. Patrick Druckenmiller

Director, University of Alaska Museum

June 11-13

June 14-17


DENALI DINOSAURS: Revealing Alaska's ancient life and landscape

Dr. Patrick Druckenmiller is Associate Professor of Geology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Director of the University of Alaska Museum. His research focuses on Mesozoic marine reptiles and dinosaurs, particularly those from high latitudes. Dr. Druckenmiller is currently involved in serveral field-based research projects in the far north; he collects and studies marine reptiles from Svalbard, Norway, and he leads expeditions to numerous dinosaur sites across Alaska, including Denali National Park and Preserve. He also oversees the largest collection of Alaskan fossils, ranging from Ice Age mammals to polar dinosaurs.


Debbie S. Miller

Alaska Author and Wilderness Advocate

June 18-20
June 21-24



A lover of wilderness, Debbie is a 45-year Alaskan who has explored the Arctic and other wild places for decades. Alaska’s wilderness and its rich diversity of wildlife are the inspiration for her many nature books for adults and children. She enjoys partnering with scientists to gain a deeper understanding of the natural world, then weaving that important knowledge into her narratives.

As a teacher, Debbie has traveled extensively to schools throughout the country sharing her books and stories about Alaska’s natural world and its people. A wilderness advocate, she is a co-founder of the Alaska Wilderness League, a national organization whose sole mission is to protect Alaska’s wilderness, including some of the wildest and most beautiful places on the planet.


Chris Rose

Founder and Executive Director of Renewable Energy Alaska Project

July 2-4


Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP), is a non-profit coalition of over 75 diverse energy stakeholder organizations working to increase the development of renewable energy and promote energy effciency across Alaska. REAP has been instrumental in helping to establish and fund clean energy programs and projects across Alaska, including the creation of the state's Renewable Energy Fund in 2008 and the Emerging Energy Technology Fund in 2010.

Before establishing REAP in 2004, Mr. Rose had a private law practice that included work in remote Northwest Artic villages and the mediation of disputes around the state. He has written a monthly opinion column for Alaska's only statewide newspaper, served on various statewide boards and committees, and is currently the chairman of the state's Renewable Energy Fund Advisory Committee. Since 2008, that Fund has granted over $270 million to 80 renewable energy projects that today are displacing the equivalent to 30 million gallons of diesel fuel each year. He lives 65 miles northwest of Anchorage, and is also a fledgling farmer.


Scott Weidensaul

Author, Field Researcher and Bird Enthusiast

July 9-11

July 12-15



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; Of A Feather: A Brief History of American Birding; The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America; and Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean. His writing has appeared in a host of publications, and he is a contributing editor to Audubon magazine and a columnist for Bird Watcher's Digest.


James Edward Mills


July 16-18

July 19-22



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.


Mary Pipher

Clinical Psychologist, Writer

July 26-29


Mary Pipher graduated in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969 and received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in Clinical Psychology in 1977. She has worked most of her life as a therapist and she has taught at the University of Nebraska and Nebraska Wesleyan University. She was a Rockefeller Scholar in Residence at Bellagio and has received two American Psychological Association Presidential Citations, one of which she returned to protest psychologists’ involvement in enhanced interrogations at Guantanamo. She is the author of ten books including Reviving Ophelia and her latest Women Rowing North. Four of her books have been New York Times best sellers. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times.


Dr. Natalie Dawson

Executive Director, Audubon Alaska & Professor, Institute of Culture and the Environment, Alaska Pacific University

August 2-5


LEARNING FROM MOUNTAINS & RIVERS: Journeys across Alaska's wild places and a new generation of conservation

A teacher, advocate, writer, and life-long learner, Natalie Dawson believes Alaska’s greatest teachers are wild lands and unruly waters. She is currently the Alaska state director for the National Audubon Society, a professor in the Institute of Culture and Environment at Alaska Pacific University, and a freelance writer for a number of publications that focus on higher education, wilderness studies and conservation.

Before her role with Audubon, Natalie spent many years in Alaska as a wildlife biologist which gave her the opportunity to spend time across the state. She chased weasels and wolves in coastal rainforests and counted birds on the Arctic coast. She was a professor of Wilderness Studies at the University of Montana, where she designed and taught field courses in Alaska, the western U.S., Europe, and South America for college students and international scholars.  Her love of Alaska’s wild places drew her back into environmental advocacy and education. She now splits her time between the banks of the Chilkat River in Haines, Alaska and the foothills of the Chugach Mountains near Anchorage.


Dr. Laura Prugh

Wildlife Ecologist, University of Washington

August 6-8

August 9-12



Dr. Laura Prugh is an Associate Professor of Quantitative Wildlife Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. Inspired by nature shows such as Jacques Cousteau and Wild America, Prugh decided she wanted to be a wildlife biologist at age 10 and never wavered. She became fascinated by population cycles and predator-prey interactions in college, which led her to Interior Alaska in 1999 to study how coyotes respond to the snowshoe hare cycle for her graduate work. She has led field studies of carnivores and their prey in Alaska and elsewhere for the past two decades, with a special emphasis on winter ecology. She received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2019 in recognition of her contributions to wildlife science. Prugh has studied carnivore community dynamics in Denali since 2012.


Rick Thoman

Alaska Climate Specialist

August 13-15

August 16-19


ALASKA'S WEATHER AND CLIMATE: Past, present, and future

Rick Thoman has worked as a weather and climate professional for more than 35 years, nearly all of that in Alaska. He served as a lead forecaster at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Fairbanks for two decades and finished his NWS career as the Alaska Region Climate Science and Services Manager. Since retiring from the NWS in 2018, he works as a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he focuses on delivering accurate, timely and relevant Alaska and Arctic climate information to a spectrum of stakeholders from national, state and local media, schools, academics, federal and state agencies and especially to communities and tribes in western and northern Alaska. He holds a B.S. in meteorology from Penn State and an M.A. in Athabascan Linguistics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Kesler Woodward

Artist, Professor of Art Emeritus, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

August 20-22

August 23-26



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 taught for two decades at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks 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.


David Shaw

Conservation Photographer, Science Writer, Photo Educator

August 27-29

August 30-September 2



David W. Shaw is a Fairbanks, Alaska based writer and photographer specializing in conservation imagery, science writing, and educating others about the art of photography. He has both undergraduate and master’s degrees in wildlife biology and applies this background to create in-depth stories of the natural world.

He has written over 100 articles for publications across the world. His images and writing about science and natural history have appeared in magazines like Sierra, Living Bird, UnDark, Defenders, Ensia, Resurgence and Ecologist, Birds and Blooms, Birdwatcher’s Digest, Birdwatching, Alaska, and others. While his instructional photography articles have been published in Shutterbug, Photographic, Photo Technique, Professional Photographer, Amateur Photographer and others. Dave is also an instructor at the Digital Photography School and Expert Photography. He leads small-group, active-learning photography workshops, and natural history tours in Alaska and abroad.


Amy Gulick

Nature Photographer and Writer

September 3-5

September 6-9


THE SALMON WAY: What the iconic fish of Alaska can teach us

Amy Gulick is an award-winning nature photographer and writer, and a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. Her images and stories have been featured in Outdoor Photographer, National Wildlife, Audubon, National Geographic NewsWatch, and The New Republic.

Her most recent book, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind, celebrates the relationships among salmon and people in Alaska, and is the winner of both a Nautilus and Independent Publisher Book Award, an INDIES Book of the Year Award, and has been named a Best Indie Book by Kirkus Reviews. Her book, Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest, is the recipient of both a Nautilus and Independent Publisher Book Award. Her work in Alaska has received numerous honors including the Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation and the Voice of the Wild Award from the Alaska Wilderness League.