Welcome to the Natural History of Vermont

ENV 2050 / Spring / CCV

Printable Syllabus

“Wherever he goes, this winter, I will follow him. I will share the fear, and the exaltation, and the boredom, of the hunting life. I will follow him till my predatory human shape no longer darkens in terror the shaken kaleidoscope of colour that stains the deep fovea of his brilliant eye. My pagan head shall sink into the winter land, and there be purified.”

From The Peregrine by JA Baker


Use the section below to find due dates for assignments, readings for each weak (readings are listed on the day they are due), and lots of supplemental resources. Printable version of the syllabus.


Intro to Class

Our first day we’ll spend covering the different frameworks that we’ll use for the class, reviewing the syllabus, and going over the assignments for the course.

Location: CCV Winooski
Lecture: Intro to Natural History

Other resources: As general references in natural history, the following are wonderful resources


Tracking + Animals in Winter

The first part of class, we’ll touch on the changing history of Vermont’s wildlife. Assuming we have snow on the ground, we’ll be heading out to the woods to do a tracking survey of Casavant. We’ll use iNaturalist.org to check what species we think we observe with what others have seen.

Location: CCV Winooski
Lectures: Wildlife in Vermont
Due today: Tourist Test

  • Read ch 1 in Being a Beast Charles Foster (PDF)
  • Browse Secrets of a wildlife watcher by James Arnosky (PDF)

Help identifying animal tracks


Tracking & Wildlife in Winter

Having spent last week looking at how wildlife has changed in Vermont as well as spending some time in the field, we’ll talk about how animals cope with Vermont winters, then return to the woods looking for sign of wildlife.
Location: CCV Winooski
Lecture: Wildlife in Winter

  • Read ch 20 in Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat (PDF)
  • Read ch 2 in Why Big Fierce Predators Are Rare (ch 2) by Paul Colinvaux (PDF)

Help identifying animal tracks


Natural Communities + Trees

Animals don’t just move through an open canvas. They inhabit a real world, filled with knolls, and valleys, and downed trees and flowing water (video). We’ll move beyond an animal-centric perspective and enter the world of trees by talking about what a natural community is. I’ll also introduce Google Earth and how to create a map with layers. Please bring your Wetland Woodland Wildland book to class!

Location: CCV Winooski
Lecture: Natural Communities
  • Read Wetland Woodland Wildland pp. 7-20, 57-80



  • VCGI (Natural Communities mapping program)
  • ANR mapping of natural communities (link)


Trees + Disturbance

Telling one natural community from another is entirely dependent on our ability to discern one tree from another. This week we’ll begin our exploration of trees by going over the basics of tree ID in the classroom. BRING IN 5-10 DIFFERENT TWIGS!! Bring in wild twigs, not from ornamental trees. We’ll then head to Centennial Woods for some field experience.

Location: Meet at CCV. We’ll then head to Centennial Woods on Patchen Rd (see map below)
Lecture: Trees in Winter
Disturbance Tree Species Presentations: 

  • Hemlock (Keane)
  • Red maple (Ismail)


  • Read the Introduction to Reading the Forested Landscape

Help identifying trees


Uplands + Trees

As we continue to investigate trees we’ll look at upland trees of middle- to late-succession and identify a couple of different natural communities. See below if you’re presenting this week.

Location: Red Rocks (see map below)
Due Today: Tree profile
Upland Tree Species Presentations: 

  • Paper Birch (Serkan)
  • Red oak (Alex)
  • Beech (Eddie)


  • Read ch. 2 & 5 in Reading the Forested Landscape

WEEK 7 | March 5

Trees + Wetlands

With a better sense of tree ID, we can start to see patterns on the land. We’ll learn through presentations a bit about wetland trees and look at the role the Winooski River plays in shaping natural communities.

Location: Delta Park
Upland Tree Species Presentations 

  • Boxelder (Ryan)
  • Silver maple (Brian)
  • Quaking aspen (Garrett)


  • Read ch 4 & 6 in Reading the Forested Landscape

WEEK 8 | March 12

Bedrock Geology

“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.” – Will Durant. We’ll trace the geologic history of Vermont this week, looking at the early environment when our rocks were first formed and zipping through time past the powerful continental forces that forged the Green Mountains and right up to the edge of the age of the glaciers.

Location: Meet @ Salmon Hole

Online Resources

WEEK 9 | March 19

Bedrock Geology + Natural Communities

Translating books to the real world can be difficult. We’ll look at how bedrock can influence the shape of a landscape and therefore it’s natural communities.

Location: Lime Kiln

  • Ch 2, 3, and 4 of Written in Stone by Chet Raymo (ch 2, ch 3, ch 4)


  • White cedar (Akim)
  • Red cedar (Salma)
  • Staghorn sumac (Justin)

Online Resources

WEEK 10 | March 26

Glaciers + Surficial Geology

Glaciers have had a tremendous impact on both shaping the landscape but also creating the soils on which Vermont forests would grow.

Location: CCV Winooski
Lecture: Glaciers
Due today: What is a naturalist essay

Online Resources

WEEK 11 | April 2

Surficial Geology + Natural Communities

Back to the field we go. This time to look at the way that soils and topography impact vegetation.

Location: East Woods

  • Read ch 7 in Reading the Forested Landscape
  • Read “The Laurentide Ice Sheet and its Significance” (PDF)


  • White ash (Isabel)
  • Black locust (Tom)
  • Yellow birch (Brittany)


Online Resources

WEEK 12 | April 9

Humans on the Land

We’ll spend the next 3 weeks looking at how humans influence the landscape. This week we’ll look at farming and the process of revegetation at Wheeler Natural Area

Location: Wheeler Natural Area

  • pp. 1-24 in Time and Change in Vermont by Harold Meeks (PDF)

Online Resources

WEEK 13 | April 16

Special Collections

This week we’ll meet at UVM’s Special Collections and dig into some of the resources there to uncover the human history of your site.

Location: UVM’s Special Collections (Directions)
Due today: Story of Vermont

  • Ch 3 in Reading the Forested Landscape

Online Resources

Suggested Readings about Abenaki and early history

  • Voice of the Dawn: An autohistory of the Abenaki Nation by Frederick Wiseman
  • The Original Vermonters by Haviland & Power
  • The Story of Vermont: A natural and cultural history by Klyza & Trombulak
  • Changes in the Land by William Cronon
  • New England Forests Through Time by David Foster

WEEK 14 | April 26

Field Final

We’ll put our skills to the test and do a field final. Don’t worry, the final won’t be graded, but will be an opportunity to test out your ability to go into a landscape and interpret its history.

Location: My house

  • Read Ch 8 in Reading the Forested Landscape


Online Resources

WEEK 15 | May 3

Site Analyses

Synthesis! By now you’ve spent lots of time at your field site collecting data, making observations, interpreting evidence. You’ll presenting your findings to us in a short visual presentation (about 5-7 minutes). Submit your presentations before class begins so I can get those all queued up and ready to go.

Location: CCV Winooski
Due today: Site analysis


  • Week 1 Intro to natural history (ppt)
  • Week 2: Wildlife in Vermont (ppt)
  • Week 3: Wildlife in Winter (ppt)
  • Week 4: Natural Communities (ppt)
  • Week 5: Trees (ppt)
  • Week 8: Bedrock geology (ppt)
  • Week 10: Soils (ppt)


  • Intro to trees + leaves (ppt)
  • ID by Leaf (ppt)
  • Quick guide (.doc)
Wildlife Tracking (ppt)