The Snowy Owl Scientist: New book follows Denver Holt on a field season in Alaska

May 16, 2022


The Snowy Owl Scientist

cover of the book "The Snowy Owl Scientist." Cover is a close-up picture of a male Snowy Owl (completely white), zoomed in on yellow eyes and dark bill.

In 2019, wildlife photojournalist Mark Wilson made the trek up to northern Alaska to learn first-hand about ORI's Snowy Owl Breeding Ecology and Lemming Population Study, which was started by Denver Holt in 1992. This research is the longest-running Snowy Owl project in the world.

The result is this beautifully photographed book, which was released on April 19, 2022 by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books (like many things, publication was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Part of the Scientists in the Field Series, this book follows Denver on a field season in Alaska, describing what a typical day in the field looks like: slogging across miles of soggy tundra to monitor Snowy Owl nests, count lemmings, and band chicks. (Liberty DeGrandpre, ORI's former Development Director, also makes an appearance!)

The book, while written for ages 10 an up, is an excellent read for adults too! It's full of fascinating information about this iconic species and what Denver has learned about them in the last 30+ years, details about what it's like on the tundra and some of the other creatures who live there, a history of the area, a page on how to ID males and females, and more.

An all white male snowy owl flies away after an attack flight at a researcher, who is laying face-down on the tundra next to the snowy owl nest to avoid being attacked. There are  fuzzy chicks in the nest next to the researcher's head.
Denver hits the ground to avoid attack by a male Snowy Owl. From the book: "Particularly aggressive males will quickly fly toward Denver, making a direct pass at him. If he fails to duck, the male will strike, raking his talons across Denver's scalp or backpack. Denver has had more than one Gore-Tex jacket shredded by male snowy owls striking him as he measured eggs or weighed chicks in the nest."

From the book:

'Not everybody's doing this,' says Denver, breaking into a grin as we slog a transect, periodically stooping to check traps. Raindrops patter off our parkas and a cold wind cuts out of the east, fresh off the Arctic Ocean. Denver considers this just another day at the 'office.'