Doug was born March 14,1957, on the kitchen table in a little house in North Dakota that his parents rented, as they moved across the country to his father’s professorship at the University of Montana. While in labor with her third son, Doug’s mother held off on going to the hospital for a traditional delivery of the day. When at last she rang the doctors office to tell him of the impending birth, she could hardly speak. The doctor hung up and drove immediately to the home, lifted her up on the table, and delivered the boy.
Doug grew up among brothers and sisters and the beautiful wilderness of western Montana. Both of his parents, Robert and Carol Ammons, had Doctorates in Psychology, his father taught at UM from 1957-1990. The Ammons household was run like a graduate school, with all seven children having research projects. Their work led the Ammons kids to the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park to study climate change, Coppermine on the Arctic coast for solar eclipses, and the Columbia River Gorge to study fossil forests. Doug built telescopes, photographed solar flares and sunspots, and studied the evolution of the sun’s activity.
As a kid, he backpacked, swam, and sailed in the mountains and waters of western Montana. He explored both the currents and depths of Flathead Lake by becoming scuba-certified at the age of 12. A competitive swimmer for 15 years, he swam for the varsity Grizzly team at the University of Montana. As a teenager, he learned how to kayak. One of the first things he did was to take the boat up onto the high diving board and launch off, sans paddle and spray skirt. From that start he kayaked extensively throughout the Rocky Mountains, then expeditions around the world.
Doug received a Doctorate in Experimental Psychology from the University of Montana, with his main research in human motor skills – how people learn coordinated movements.
Learning is the key to all change, and Doug’s perspective is that understanding the dynamics of learning opens up your personal possibilities.
As a journal editor for 25 years, Doug has helped scientists technically evaluate their work and improve their logic, methods, and writing. He has also written two books and participated in making adventure films for National Geographic, ESPN, and Outdoor Life.
As a world-class kayaker, he is particularly known for his solo descents of wilderness runs. His solo of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River was equated by Outside Magazine to Himalayan climber Reinhold Messner’s epic solo of Mt. Everest, earning him a place in Outside’s “top ten game-changers in adventure since 1900”.
Doug lives in Missoula with his wife, Robin Ammons, their children, young grandchildren – welcoming family and friends visiting from far and near. He writes and speaks about how we fit in the natural world, how we become experts in what we do, and how challenge and courage belong in our everyday lives. He is passionately concerned about how the world works, and how to create a healthy, living, and beautiful world, respecting the natural environment while acknowledging our place within it.