2025 Special Emphasis Series

Stay tuned! Additional speakers forthcoming.

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, & Illustrator

June 6-8

June 9-12


Bird Identification & 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. His newest book - What It's Like to be a Bird - was published in 2020.

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 of the North

June 13-15

June 16-19



Denali Dinosaurs: Revealing Alaska's Ancient Life & Landscapes

Dr. Patrick Druckenmiller is Professor of Geology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North. His research focuses on dinosaurs and Mesozoic marine reptiles, particularly those from high latitudes. He leads numerous field-based paleontology projects across Alaska, from Southeast to the North Slope. Pat has conducted research on Denali dinosaurs since 2015. In 2018 he became museum director. In that role he oversees the state’s largest teaching and research museum that houses 2.5 million objects focusing on the cultural and natural history of the North and welcomes up to 90,000 visitors annually.


Nathaniel Herz


June 30-July 3

July 4-6



Nathaniel Herz is an independent journalist based in Anchorage, Alaska, where he publishes the Northern Journal news website, newsletter and podcast.

Nat graduated from Bowdoin College and spent two years covering Olympic level cross-country skiing and biathlon before receiving his graduate degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. After moving to Alaska in 2013, he spent nearly six years reporting on government and politics for the Anchorage Daily News and four years covering climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic for Anchorage’s NPR affiliate station before founding Northern Journal in 2022.

Nat now focuses his work on Alaska’s natural resources — namely its fisheries and its oil, gas, renewable energy and mining industries. His work has taken him from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to Southeast Alaska fishing towns. He spends a few weeks every summer harvesting salmon at a small commercial setnet site in Cook Inlet, near Anchorage, which supplies Camp Denali with some of its fish.


Klara Maisch

Visual Artist, Outdoor Educator, & Guide

July 14-17

July 18-20




Painting on Location in Alaska

Klara Maisch lives and works in Alaska, where she travels to remote areas to paint on location throughout the seasons. Her landscape-based work often features glaciers, geologic forms, and boreal and Arctic environments. Maisch has painted alongside scientific teams in the remote Arctic, packed paint into bear-proof containers, and painted at Denali Base Camp. Her methods, materials, and conceptual focus seeks to redefine Western traditions of plein air and expeditionary art through ethics of care, questioning, and collaboration.

She has worked on numerous interdisciplinary projects including with the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research program, "In A Time of Change.” Her work has been supported by Rasmuson Foundation, the Connie Boochever Fellowship, The Puffin Foundation, and the Alaska Wilderness League. Maisch works seasonally as a guide for Arctic Wild and has previously instructed for Inspiring Girls Expeditions.


Ben Rawlence

Writer, Activist, & Educator

July 25-27

July 28-31



The Treeline in Alaska: Seeing Change in the Landscape

Ben wrote two books about the human consequences of environmental catastrophe in Africa: Radio Congo about the people living in the wreck-age of Eastern Congo’s resource wars and City of Thorns about people fleeing famine and climate-driven war in the Horn of Africa. After moving to Wales and beginning to research the coming impacts of climate change closer to home, his attention turned to the Arctic Circle and the boreal forest. What he discovered led to his third book: The Treeline and to a dawning realization that we needed to prepare – and soon – for major changes to our ways of life. And to do that, we need new institutions that promote new ways of thinking and learning, new ways of seeing ourselves and new ways of interacting with the non-human world. Black Mountains College is committed to that task.


Ned Rozell

Science Writer

August 1-3

August 4-7


What Makes Alaska Unique and What's Changing? Observations from Across the State

Ned Rozell has twice — 20 years apart — walked across Alaska on a gravel road that parallels the trans-Alaska pipeline. In between those 800-mile walks, he has written a few thousand stories on Alaska science and natural history in his job for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Born in upstate New York where he lived for the first 18 years of his life, Rozell migrated north as a radio repairman for the U.S. Air Force in the 1980s. Now, he has lived in Alaska for more than half his life. He has seen a good spread of the state, a lot of it with scientists who have allowed him to tag along and write about their research.


Chad Brown

Photographer, Filmmaker, & Conservationist

August 8-10

August 11-14



Using photography and cinematography to advocate for BIPOC communities and connect with endangered places

An award-winning documentary-adventure photographer, filmmaker, and conservationist, Navy Veteran Chad Brown is the founder/president of non-profits Soul River, Inc. and Love is King. In addition, Chad’s latest efforts include outdoor adventure travel, threatened wild spaces, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities. Through his projects, he connects the public to endangered lands, capturing the true essence of their peoples in moments of passion and the indomitable human spirit. Utilizing striking documentary portraits, photographic exhibitions and film, Chad also advocates for social and environmental justice.

Chad’s pathway began as a conventional one, but took on a number of unexpected twists and turns. He studied communication and photography at American Intercontinental University, then moved onto the Pratt Institute in NYC earning his Master’s Degree in Communication Design. He went on to manage interdisciplinary teams in multiple agencies, serving in various roles including creative/art director and photographer, as well as a freelance artist and editorial photographer for the New York Times. His efforts crossed into the world of hip-hop fashion and culture, where he worked with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of PhatFarm and Rasheed Young of Run Athletics, photographing and developing creative campaigns for national hip-hop culture magazines.


Bathsheba Demuth

Associate Professor of History and Environment, Brown University

August 22-24

August 25-28



Alaska Animals & the Art of Paying Attention

Bathsheba Demuth is a writer and environmental historian specializing in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic. Her work addresses how ecologies and people change each other over time, paying particular attention to our relationship with animals, the role of ideas and law in shaping how we relate to the world, and Indigenous modes of science and history. Her interest in the north started when she was eighteen and moved to the Gwich'in village of Old Crow, in the Yukon, where she trained sled dogs for several years. Her first book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait, won multiple awards and was named a best book by NPR, Nature, and other publications. Currently she is writing a biography of the Yukon River watershed from the beginning of colonization to the era of climate change, and has spent the last several years traveling the river by boat and dog team, and in archives around the world.

Bathsheba's writing has appeared in publications from The New Yorker and Granta to The Best American Science and Nature Writing, as well as academic venues. She teaches creative writing alongside history and environmental studies classes, as well as a field-based course where students canoe 150 miles of the Yukon River through the University of Alaska Fairbanks Climate Scholars Program. When not in the north, she lives in Providence Rhode Island, where she is the Dean’s Associate Professor of History and Environment and Society at Brown University.



Ralph Lee Hopkins

Naturalist & National Geographic Photographer

September 1-4

September 5-7


Autumn Photography Workshop*

Colorado-based photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins was the founder and director of the Expedition Photography program for the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic alliance. For more than 30 years he has traveled the world leading photo expeditions from the Arctic to Antarctica and points in between. Back on land he taught workshops and seminars with the National Geographic Traveler magazine, 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 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.

Images from Ralph’s travels are published widely in National Geographic publications. His work documenting conservation issues in Baja California was featured in the National Geographic Traveler magazone story, “Is Baja on the Block?” A selection of his polar images were featured in the National
companion book to the major motion picture Arctic Tale, and included in the Best Wildlife and Best Landscapes book series. Ralph’s images are represented by National Geographic Creative and Fine Art Galleries. To view his online travel portfolio visit @RalphLeeHopkins on Instagram.

*additional fee applies to photography workshop participants