Conservation by humans, for wildlife, necessitates interaction, or at least observation. So how can humans effectively protect animals that are hard to reach? Deep sea fish, polar bears, rare Amazonian amphibians. All of these are far off and dangerous to reach in one way or another. The protection of these animals requires the discomfort of conservationists. Deirdre Denali is pushing this discomfort to the limit for art and conservation.
Deirdre is an accomplished photographer residing in the San Juan mountains. Her website shows gorgeous landscape pictures and alpine textures, but her passion lies in wildlife photography. Mountain goats stare into the camera or move in silhouette against the darkness of the mountains. There are traditionally furtive red foxes, caught in states of play and repose. But the species that stands out for her and for her conservation work the most is the small American Pika.
The American Pika is a mountainous mammal most closely related to rabbits, usually weighing less than half a pound. They are uniquely adapted for colder temperatures above treeline, and as such have become an important indicator species for global warming concerns. There is a limited body of research on them, because of their solitary nature and their habitat in the alpine and subalpine. When asked what drew her to them, Deirdre said her interest in them was a “no brainer” since her passion already brought her to alpine environments. Her love of the high mountains and the creatures that inhabit them is what gives her the patience to lay still for hours in hopes of getting the best shot possible. A book called “American Pika: Notes from the Field'' was published in 2021 and added to the National Parks Research Library. It is currently in its second edition.
Wūru is the perfect company for Deirdre’s adventures. She only uses wool for the alpine, because it is anti-microbial and doesn’t smell after days awaiting the perfect shot. Wūru Wool specifically is the perfect lightness while providing reliable warmth for her long days high in the mountains. Product testing for Deirdre and her partner has been a great way to fine tune all of the wool Wūru uses for any kind of adventure.
Recently, Deirdre and her partner wore the Wūru Half-Zip for a week straight while tracking mountain goats for photography. The NuYarn Merino wool stayed clean and dried quickly in the changing conditions. They stayed between 11,000 and 14,000 feet during the week, and found the half-zip up to any challenge. She said she’s looking forward to incorporating it into autumn and winter layering as well.
Deirdre believes in creating a love for animals that causes people to care more about them. Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin are her two biggest inspirations. She is following in the footsteps of conservationists who spoke through images such as Ansel Adams, Carleton Waktins (whose images helped preserve Yosemite), and John James Audobon. These are big names in conservation, but it is the masses of people they inspired who made the difference. Deirdre believes the easiest way to make a difference in the modern conservation landscape is simply to give money or time to conservation organizations. Her work meets the intersection of art, creativity, and conservation, and inspires others to pursue their love of the land.
Deirdre's book on the American Pika can be found here, along with her other work.