“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

Course Details

Who: Naturalists and educators (K-12). There are no prerequisite skills required for the course. Participants should expect some light hiking, off trail exploration, and canoeing.

When: July 18-22, 2022, 8:30am-4:30pm

Where: Burlington, VT with field trips to nearby natural areas

Cost: $650, includes lunch, transportation, and books.
Optional: $375 for graduate credits (3) through Castleton. Financial aid may be available.


Program Overview

During this 5-day intensive, you’ll learn to tease out the rich stories written in the fabric of Vermont’s unique landscape. It’s a story written in stone walls, old apple trees, sprawling oak trees, and valleys carved into sandy banks. Using a mix of field trips, hands-on science activities, and lectures, you’ll learn the tools and develop the capacity to weave together the stories in your own backyard (and schoolyard) and the confidence to share these skills with your students.

If you are taking the course for graduate credit, you will also need to register through Castleton: link.

Nuts and Bolts for the Course

If you’re looking for registration details, including dates, price, etc. and information on the course format, daily schedule and other nuts and bolts, check out the course overview page

Course Overview
Register for the course

Syllabus for the course

Use the sections 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. Please note that there are several required assignments for participants earning graduate credit that are optional for all other participants. 

Course Content


Because the class is an intensive, there are a few assignments and readings that you’ll need to do in preparation for our first class.


  • Tourist Test: please read the instructions. Do this before doing any of the readings, bring to our first day of class
  • Tree species profile (due by Day 1)
    • Sign up for your trees to profile here

Read the following by Monday: 

  • Wetland Woodland Wildland (pp 1-28, 36-43, 58-81)
  • Optional: Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels (Introduction + Ch 1-7)
  • Browse the Course Content folder.

Help identifying trees

Intro to Class + Hazards + Bedrock Geology
July 18, 2022

We’ll dive right in on our first day, exploring the basics of natural history and outline the bedrock story of Vermont. We’ll head out into the field to look at bedrock in a couple of different places, including a cave!! And of course we’ll talk about hazards of being in the field (like mosquitoes, poison ivy, and ticks). We strongly suggest wearing a light long-sleeve layer and pants to keep away mosquitoes.

Location: We will meet at the St Mark’s Youth Center (1271 North Ave) and then head to our field sites (Salmon Hole in Burlington and then the Lamoille Cave – see map below for field sites)


Read for today:

  • Natural History of Vermont Mountains by Nancy Bazilchuk (PDF)


Assignments Due Today:

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

Glaciers & Soils
July 19, 2022

No story of Vermont is complete without exploring the impact of the most recent glacial period. We’ll explore the last 100,000 years of change in Vermont’s Landcape and look out how yesterdays events influences today’s soils. Our field trip to Shelburne Bay and LaPlatte Nature Area will highlight evidence left behind by the glaciers.

Location: Shelburne Bay, LaPlatte Nature Area

Lectures: Bedrock Story & Glaciers

Presentations (description) for today:

  • Acer negundo
  • Pinus strobus
  • Juniperus virginia
  • Rhamnus cathartica
  • Thuja occidentalis
  • Tsuga canadensis

Read for today:

  • Read The Laurentide Ice Sheet and its Significance (PDF)
  • Ch 9 in Written in Stone by Chet Raymo (PDF)

Online Resources

Soils, Sediments, & Erosion
July 20, 2022

In the last 10,000 years since the glaciers retreated, the sediments they left behind have been transformed and moved around by time, water, and wind. We’ll look at topography and soils and the role they play in shaping plant communities.

Location: East Woods


Presentations (description) for today:

  • Betula alleghaniensis
  • Betula papyrifera
  • Fagus grandifolia
  • Fraxinus americana
  • Quercus rubra


Help identifying trees


Natural Communities
July 21, 2022

Natural communities represent the confluence of disturbance, climate, soil, bedrock, and water. We’ll highlight trees as indicator species and look at patterns in assemblages of plants as we explore the natural community concept.

Location: Wheeler Natural Area

Presentations (description) for today:

  • Acer saccharum
  • Rhus typhina
  • Robinia pseudoacacia
  • Tilia americana

Read for today:

  • Skim Wetland Woodland Wildland and bring your copy
  • Skim My Neighbor’s Woods (PDF)


  • VCGI (Natural Communities mapping program)

Humans + Disturbance
July 22, 2022

Our last day together is here already!! We’ll look at human disturbances to tease out how humans influence natural landscapes and what plants thrive in these types of conditions. We’ll test out our landscape interpretation skills by going to a mystery site and trying to tease out the natural history using our observation skills.

Location: Centennial Woods


Read for today:

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

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


For those taking the course for graduate credit, you will need to complete the Site Analysis assignment by the Sunday following the last day of class (July 31, 2022). You can find a full description of the Site Analysis assignment here.



All participants will be responsible for presenting on a tree species (details) on days 2, 3, or 4. You can sign up for your species here. You may also find the Tourist Test illuminating, but it is not required.

For those completing the course for graduate credit, you’ll be responsible for the tree presentation as well as the following assignments:

Field Sites

Open map in Google Maps


GENERAL | Natural history and ecology resources in general. Usually have pretty wide scope in content.







  • I would suggest reading anything by Stephen Jay Gould or Bernd Heinrich.
  • Forest Forensics, Tom Wessels
  • Reading the Forested Landscape, Tom Wessels
  • Wetland Woodland Wildland, Liz Thompson, Eric Sorenson, and Bob Zaino
  • Nature Guide to the Northern Forest, Peter Marchand
  • Naturally Curious, Mary Holland
  • Life in the Cold, Peter Marchand
  • Winter: An Ecological Handbook, James Halfpenny
  • Macroecology, James Brown
  • Meditations at 10,000 Feet, James Trefil
  • The Way of Natural History, Thomas Fleischner
  • The World Without Us, Alan Weisman


GEOLOGY  | Covers rocks, dirt, deep time, evolution, and origins of life.





  • Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Vermont Mountains, Nancy Bazilchuk
  • The Nature of Vermont, Charles Johnson
  • Hands on the Land, Jan Albers
  • Written in Stone, Chet Raymo
  • Dirt: The ecstatic skin of the earth, William Logan
  • Call of Distant Mammoths, Peter Ward
HYDROLOGY  | Covers water, weather, glaciers, and Lake Champlain.




  • The Vermont Weather Book,
  • How to Read a North Carolina Beach, Orrin Pilkey & Tracey Rice
  • Weather Identification Book, Storm Dunlop
  • Lake Champlain: A natural history, Mike Winslow
  • After the Ice Age, E.C. Pielou
VEGETATION | Covers trees, forests, plants, plant communication.




  • Trees: Their natural history, Peter Thomas
  • Flora of the Northeast, Magee & Ahles
  • Field & Roadside,
  • Understanding Wood, Bruce Hoadley
  • American Canopy, Eric Rutkow
  • Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb
  • Bark, Michael Wojtech
  • Trees in My Forest, Bernd Heinrich
  • A Natural History of North American Trees, Donald Peattie
  • The Tree Identification Book, George Symmonds
  • Photographic Atlas of Botany & Guide to Plant Identification, James Castner
  • How to Identify Plants, HD Harrington

WILDLIFE  | Covers birds, mammals, and insects.





  • I would read anything by Peter Mathiesen, Richard Dawkins, or Stephen Jay Gould.
  • Natural History, Runtz
  • The Tracker, Tom Brown, Jr.
  • Song of the Dodo, David Quammen
  • Mammals of the Eastern US, Whitaker & Hamilton


  • Tracks and Sign of Insects, Charlie Eisenman
  • The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, David Sibley
  • Mammal Tracks & Sign, Mark Elbroch
  • Tracking & The Art of Seeing, Paul Rezendes
  • Animal Skulls, Mark Elbroch

HUMANS ON THE LAND  | Covers a mix of primitive skills, homesteading, and human impact on the land.



  • Everything by Eric Sloane
  • New England Forests Through Time (free online)
  • Time & Change in Vermont: A human geography, Harold Meeks
  • Changes in the Land: Indians Colonists & the Ecology of New England, William Cronon
  • Exploring Stone Walls, Robert Thorson
  • Stone by Stone, Robert Thorson
  • Field Guide to New England Barns & Farm Buildings, Thomas Visser
  • Hands on the Land, Jan Albers
NATURAL COMMUNITIES | general information about natural communities and the intersection between plants and the environment



  • Wetland Woodland Wildland, Elizabeth Thompson & Eric Sorenson
  • North Woods, Peter Marchand
  • The Succession of Forest Trees, Henry David Thoreau (link)
AUTOBIOGRAPHIES  |  autobiographies by famous (and not so famous) American naturalists from the last 200 years

  • The Tracker by Tom Brown Jr
  • Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper
  • Under a Lucky Star by Roy Chapman Andrews
  • A Country Life by Sue Hubbell
  • Suburban Safari by Hannah Holmes
  • Squirrels at my Window by Grace Spruch
  • Being a Beast by Charles Foster
  • Medicine Quest by Mark Plotkin
  • Trees in my Forest by Bernd Heinrich
  • Racing the Antelope by Bernd Heinrich
  • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  • The Wild Within by Paul Resendez
  • Jungle Lore by Jim Corbett
  • A Place in the Woods by Helen Hoover
  • Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
  • Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille
  • Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
  • Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez
  • The Peregrine by JA Baker
  • Forest Under My Fingernails by
  • Pilgrims of the Wild by Grey Owl
  • The Bears & I by Robert Leslie
  • My Family and Other Wild Animals by Gerald Durrell
  • The Naturalist On the River Amazon by Henry Bates
  • A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins
  • My Wild Kingdom by Marlin Perkins
  • Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie
  • Beaversprite by Dorothy Richards

TOOLS | the internet is a magical wonderland of digital resources to help the budding (and professional) naturalist. These are just a few places to look. The syllabus above has many more resources specific to each week.