© Ronan Dugan


It's one of the core tenets of the ORI. We spend hundreds of hours each year in the field and pride ourselves on the ability to operate in a variety of landscapes, uncertain conditions, and the ever-present logistical challenges that accompany working outdoors with wild animals. We often experience exhaustion, frustration, and exasperation. Things break, cars die on the side of the mountain, essential equipment gets stolen, and weather can stall our efforts at any time. Sometimes it all seems to happen at once.

But when it's all said and done, we love what we do. For all the challenges that we face in the field, we have at least as many moments that inspire us to look further and to go farther. We are grateful for the opportunity to study these owls in their natural environments and are compelled by each and every one of these species to continue to try to understand them.

The ORI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to owl and wildlife research, conservation, and education. 


It all began with a fascination for owls. In 1988 when the Owl Research Institute became official, we didn't really imagine ourselves as a conservation group. It was just about the owls. 

Climate issues, habitat loss and declining owl populations, however, have forced us to approach research in a new light.


More and more, a substantial portion of our work focuses on understanding causes behind trends in the data. It is our hope that this information be used to support better decisions for natural resources management.


After 30 years of field work and research, it is less about discovering owls, more about protecting their future.


We focus our time in the field, with the owls, making observations and logging data. Our commitment to long-term research is rooted in natural history and requires patience, dedication, and a vast awareness of ecosystems at large.

Our studies are conducted in natural, uncontrolled habitats. Wild owls are extremely difficult to find, not to mention capture, for research – none of our research is conducted on captive owls and we are very conscious of handling times. Study sites are always subject to change, due to owl behavior, migration, or human encroachment, and are unpredictable.

We share findings with resource managers, scientists, and the public, to improve environmental decision making. Our data assists with forest management plans, habitat conservation efforts, and the listing and de-listing of critical species.


The ORI intentionally maintains a small staff. Being small poses challenges, especially during the busy field season, but it also allows us to remain field-based and efficient. It would be remiss, however, to think that we do it alone.


Ranchers and community members keep us informed about what they see in their barns, fields, and creek beds; volunteers, interns, and seasonal employees contribute hundreds of hours every year to our projects; cam watchers send us important video highlights; and talented photographers capture the owls in the most incredible ways


They are all vital to our success. Their work and dedication are invaluable to us and we thank them all.


The ORI is headquartered out of a farmhouse near the small town of Charlo, Montana. Located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, we are surrounded by an ecologically diverse landscape containing unique habitat for most of Montana's 15 owl species. Important neighbors include the National Bison Range and the Ninepipe Wildlife Refuge.

The Institute houses office space, living quarters for visiting professionals, a lab and classroom, a writing hut, and many outbuildings and barns for equipment.

From the ORI researchers have close access to field sites and program participants have opportunity for in-the-field experience and wildlife observation. While most of our studies are based in western Montana, each summer we migrate to Barrow, Alaska to conduct our Snowy Owl research.



Denver Holt is the founder and president of the ORI, a nonprofit he started 30 years ago. Today, it is one of the premier owl research centers in the world, just as Holt is one of the leading experts. 

Holt is a widely published author and has been featured in countless articles from National Geographic to the New York Times, as well as many television programs. He has educated and entertained people from all walks of life and enjoys guiding, meeting new people, and expanding his knowledge of wildlife and the natural world.

Q & A with Denver Holt >>


Beth Mendelsohn earned her graduate degree from the University of Wyoming with a emphasis on Great Gray Owl genetics. While Beth has a long volunteer history with ORI, she officially joined our team in 2019. She is a lifelong naturalist and is passionate about all raptors and their conservation.  


Her research, focused primarily on North American owls, has afforded her the opportunity to travel and work throughout western Montana, Alaska, and Wyoming.  She shares her passion for field biology, natural history, and long-term research through public speaking, scientific papers, and bringing the public into the field to observe research in action.



Liberty DeGrandpre is the Development Director for the Owl Research Institute. A Montana native, she has lived in Charlo, just down the road from the ORI, for 20 years. 

Liberty is a graduate of the University of Montana - with a substantial portion of that time spent at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She has worked in business, design, and vocational training. 

In short, Liberty is the behind-the-scenes manager at ORI. And while the majority of her work happens from a computer screen, she helps out in the field whenever she can. 


Steve Hiro has been a volunteer with the Owl Research Institute for over 20 years. He assists with all field projects but has a special interest in Pygmy Owls - dedicating hundreds of hours each year to finding, observing, and documenting their behavior. 

Steve is a retired heart surgeon. He connected with the ORI when he won a Day in the Field auction item at a fundraiser. Since that time, his involvement continues grows and his knowledge continually expands. Steve leads the Pygmy Owl study has been instrumental in documenting several new discoveries about their behavior.


Kellen Beck is the Social Media Coordinator for Owl Research Institute. She uses her background in print and
photojournalism to create compelling images and engaging, educational content ORI’s 30,000-plus followers.
Kellen is passionate about conservation work and you can often find her in the field with ORI researchers, surveying and banding.


Her professional goals are to continue growing in the world of conservation and eventually make it her full-time job. When she isn’t out chasing owls, Kellen is the event coordinator and manager of a local brewery in Missoula, Montana.



ORI Internships are almost entirely on the job training with steep learning curves to be expected (and lots of fun to be had!). This year, with a busy season already underway, we needed someone with a great attitude who could catch on quick!


Enter Madison Henrie, Madi for short, a University of Montana student studying wildlife biology. Madi worked under Beth’s supervision where most days were spent in the field. Madi says her favorite species has always been the Barn Owl, but adds “since starting at ORI, the Short-eared Owl has stolen my heart.” Madi is now back to life as a full-time student, but says “I tried to soak up as much knowledge at ORI as I could so I can apply it to future endeavors working with wildlife.”



The Owl Research Institute is dedicated to owl conservation through research and education.


We conduct long-term research on owls, their prey species, and their relationship to the habitat in which they live. We use these data to help maintain viable populations. Additionally, we collaborate on strategic projects; educate the public about owls; and provide research data to land management agencies and conservation partners.















We welcome all media inquiries. If you are a credentialed member of the media and wish to set up an interview or request further information, please e-mail



We are so grateful to the photographers who capture owls, and our work, in the most amazing ways. They generously share their work with us, and you. Check out the works of some of the photographers whose work is featured on our site! They are incredible talented artists who are committed to wildlife conservation.

Thank you to:

Kurt Lindsay:

Daniel J Cox:

Radd Icenoggle:

Melissa Groo:

Ly Dang:

Tom Murphy:

Deborah Hanson



The ORI is a non-profit, 501(c) 3, tax-exempt organization. We are funded by individual and non-profit  group donations, grants from foundations and corporations, and occasionally agency contracts.

We accept donations of real property. Please consider us in your estate planning.

Donations are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. Our federal tax identification number is 81-0453479.





Charlo, MT 59824


Copyright © 2018 Owl Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

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