2023 Special Emphasis Series


Throughout the summer, we invite specialists to share their expertise with our guests and staff, both in the field on excursions and through evening presentations. Consider timing your visit to coincide with one of our Special Emphasis Series speakers. Our regular program of guided hiking occurs simultaneously.

Click here to see our 2024 speaker lineup!

Scott Weidensaul

Author, Field Researcher, & Bird Enthusiast

June 2-4

June 5-8




Scott Weidensaul is the author of nearly 30 critically acclaimed books on natural history, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist "Living on the Wind" and his latest, the New York Times bestseller "A World on the Wing." Scott is a contributing editor for Audubon and writes for a variety of other publications, including BWD and Living Bird, and is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society.

An active field researcher and longtime bird bander focusing on bird migration, he directs a major research project tracking the migration of saw-whet owls, and is part of a continental effort to learn why more and more western hummingbirds are wintering in the East. He is a cofounder of Project SNOWstorm, an ambitious effort to learn more about snowy owl migration. Scott is a frequent visitor to Alaska for more than 40 years, where his work has taken him into almost every corner of the state, including Denali, where he helps direct Critical Connections, a study of the park's migrant birds. A native of Pennsylvania, he and his wife Amy now live in New Hampshire.


David Sibley

Ornithologist, Author, & Illustrator

June 9-11

June 12-15



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.


Sean Asikłuk and Amelia "Amy" Ahnaughuq Topkok

Associate Professor (Asikłuk) and PhD Student (Ahnaughuq), Indigenous Studies Program of the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, University of Alaska Fairbanks

June 26-29


“Uvaŋa atiġa Asikłuk. Ataataga Sanguk. Aanaga Aileen. My Iñupiaq name is Asikłuk, which means ‘bad boy.’ My white-fox name is Sean Topkok. I am Iñupiaq, Sámi, Kven, Irish, and Norwegian.” Dr. Topkok is an Associate Professor for the Indigenous Studies graduate programs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies. His family is from Teller, Alaska, and are Qawiaraġmiut (people of the Kawerak). Dr. Topkok’s research interests include multicultural and Indigenous education, decolonization and Indigenist methods and methodologies, working with communities to help them document their cultural heritages, and community well-being. 

“Uvaŋa atiġa Ahnaughuq. My Iñupiaq name is Ahnaughuq, which means ‘Little Girl.’ I’m named after my paternal Ahna (grandmother) Katherine Koiyuk (Eningowuk) Barr of Shishmaref. My white-fox name is Amy Topkok.” Mrs. Topkok was born in Kotzebue, Alaska. Her parents are Delano Nanauq and Minnie Saumik Barr of Shishmaref and Noatak, Alaska. She is full-blooded Iñupiaq, and she speaks fluent Norwegian, little Iñupiaq, and grew up with English. Amy is currently in the Indigenous Studies Ph.D. program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her research interests are looking at Iñupiaq skin-sewing from a woman’s perspective through a family and regional approach related to cultural identity and values; and personal interests include skin-sewing, making atikłut (plural for atikłuk, Iñupiaq regalia), berry picking and making homemade berry jam, and drawing.


Danielle Stickman

Arctic Landscape Director, The Wilderness Society

July 7-9



In her role, as Arctic Landscape Director, Danielle leads the Arctic Landscape Team, a cross-functional, cross-departmental team within The Wilderness Society (TWS) working collaboratively with partners and stakeholders to develop and execute a landscape strategy that will materially advance TWS’s Strategic Framework in Alaska’s Arctic.

Danielle is of Dena’ina and Koyukon Athabascan descent and was raised in both rural and urban areas of Alaska. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. She began her professional career in the northern regions of Alaska, assisting in the documentation of Traditional Ecological Knowledge of polar bears. Over the last decade she worked across Alaska advocating for local and cultural subsistence rights, diversity, equity and inclusion in public policy forums and meetings, and acted as a liaison between tribes and state and federal entities.


Jonathan Waterman

Author, Adventurer, Photographer

July 10-14


Jon Waterman has worked as a wilderness guide and as a Denali mountaineering ranger, exploring—in boats, by foot, or on dogsleds—remote places and many of the 63 national parks. He has received numerous grants from the National Geographic Society Expeditions Council, a National Endowment of the Arts Literary Fellowship, and his award-winning writing and photography have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He has published 16 books on adventure and the environment, including four Denali titles, and is the world’s leading authority on that mountain. His most recent book, the National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks, is in its fifth printing. He lives in Carbondale, Colorado.


Jessica Rykken

Entomologist, Alaska Center for Conservation Science, University of Alaska Anchorage

July 17-20

July 21-23



Jessica Rykken began her career in entomology as a graduate student in Vermont where an elective class in Invertebrate Zoology led her to collect and identify more than 9,000 ground beetles for a final project. She hasn’t looked back. For the past 17 years, Jessica has been conducting insect inventories and research in national parks across the U.S., from Boston Harbor Islands to Gates of the Arctic. She has been working in Alaskan parks, including Denali, since 2012, focusing primarily on pollinators. Northern pollinators include a wealth of bumble bees, and Jessica has worked hard to get the public excited about these charismatic and supremely well-adapted insects, including the production of Alaska’s first illustrated field guide to bumble bees.

Jessica shares her passion and knowledge about Alaska’s “microwilderness” through writing popular articles, creating engaging outreach media, and leading educational activities such as bioblitzes, field seminars for adults, and programs for Alaska Native youth through the Murie Science and Learning Center.


George Bumann

Sculptor, Wildlife Biologist, Author

July 28-30

July 31- August 3



George Bumann (rhymes with ‘human’) is a professional sculptor living with his wife, young son, and black Labrador Hobbes, at Yellowstone Park’s northern entrance in Gardiner, Montana. A life-long observer of nature, George holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in wildlife ecology and has worked in the fields of wildlife research, taxidermy, back-country guiding, environmental consulting and has taught art and natural history programs for youth, adult, and university audiences for over three decades.

George’s work can be found in collections and exhibits throughout the United States and around the globe. His sculptures reside in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Brinton Museum in Big Horn, Wyoming, the Booth Museum of Western Art in Cartersville, GA, and the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. George’s art and educational outreach have been featured in publications such as the Salt Lake City Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, and on television, radio, and online through the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, and Tedx Bozeman. George is currently writing a book on the topic of animal language with Greystone Press.


Tali Lee

Plant Physiological Ecologist

August 7-10



Tali Lee is a professor at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with over 20 years of experience studying plant responses to the environment including climate change factors such as increasing atmospheric CO2 and temperature, Nitrogen deposition, and altered precipitation. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota where she began her research as part of a large-scale field study at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, which is one of the longest ongoing experiments on ecosystem response to climate change. Tali’s role in this experiment has been to discover how multiple interacting environmental factors impact grassland plant function.

In collaboration with a diverse group of researchers and students on this and other projects, Tali has published over 25 scientific publications, some appearing in the notable journals Science and Nature, and some that have helped inform modeling efforts to predict future global climate change.


Ronn & Marketa Murray

Photographers & Northern Lights Specialists

August 21-24

August 25-27




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 Angus, their wonderful Black Lab.

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.


David Shaw

Conservation Photographer, Science Writer, & Photo Educator

August 28-31

September 1-3



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.


Kesler Woodward

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

September 4-7

September 8-10



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. He has published six books on Alaskan art, including the first comprehensive survey of the fine arts in Alaska, Painting in the North. 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.