Program overview

In this 5-day intensive course (July 15–19, 2024), we will use various scientific methods to study Vermont’s wildlife. Central to effective conservation and management of ecosystems is a deep understanding of the ecological needs and life histories of the wildlife that inhabits these landscapes. This course focuses on the ecology, life history, and management of Vermont’s wildlife and the scientific methods used to study our wild neighbors. The course provides a survey in the scientific techniques used by wildlife biologists (e.g. camera traps, tracking, etc.) to detect, study, and understand wildlife. Students will explore the impact of legal, cultural, and scientific management tools used at the local, state, and federal level to control human-wildlife interactions.

Topics and activities include:

trail cameras // tracking // bird ID // crayfish traps
population estimates // wildlife management // behavioral ecology

Wildlife Ecology Details

Who: Open to the public, with no prerequisite skills required for the course. Participants should expect some light hiking and off trail exploration.
When: July 1519, 2024, 8:30am – 4:00pm

Where: Burlington, VT with field trips to nearby field sites
Cost: $695, includes lunch.
Optional: $435 for graduate credits (3) through Vermont State University. Financial aid may be available.

Schedule

Below is a tentative itinerary for the week. Participants taking the class for graduate credits will be responsible for additional work before and after the course. You can find a detailed syllabus here.

Day Topic Activity
Monday Intro Trail cameras and tracking
Tuesday Fish ecology Fishing (tour of Ed Weed Fish Culture Station)
Wednesday Food Webs Setting crayfish traps
Thursday Citizen science Bird ID + bird language maps
Friday Populations Estimating squirrel populations

Course Format

  1. Experience with different field methods for detection and sampling of wildlife (camera traps, tracking, etc.)
  2. Develop scientific literacy through critical analysis of the scientific process and peer-reviewed articles
  3. Participate in community (citizen) science projects
  4. Understand life histories of various vertebrate species and how variability in life histories impacts the conservation and management of these species
  5. Identify and assess the weight of various ecological threats to wildlife (e.g. habitat fragmentation/loss, overhunting/exploitation, parasites, invasive species, etc.)
  6. Collect, analyze, and interpret quantitative data on wildlife populations and/or behavior
  7. Interact with wildlife professionals (in private, nonprofit, and government positions)
The video below is a “How To” video I recorded for an online Wildlife Ecology at CCV. It’ll give a good taste of what it’s like to be out in the field.

Want a more detailed look at the course

For prospective participants, check out the detailed syllabus, which has details on each day, resources to guide your study, sample worksheets, lectures, field sites, and plenty of other helpful information

Faculty

Teage O’Connor

Naturalist Educator

Teage is a professional naturalist, avid tracker, and author of the Wild Burlington Newsletter along with several guides to amphibians, leaves, fall foliage, and the etymology of scientific names. You can find his full bio here: Staff bio

Teacher Testimonials

“More than anything this course helped me develop a way of thinking about and discovering the stories of a place. Teage gave us so many tools – introducing us to possible sites for field trips, practicing rapid site evaluation and tree ids, but also group discovery process to build our capacity to recognize patterns and unearth what’s happened here.”

Brian, Middle School Teacher

“This course is definitely in my top 3 courses of all time! I loved everything about it–the structure (lectures followed by most of the day outside in the field), then content, and the activities. It felt like summer camp for adults. It’s hard to pick one highlight. I really enjoyed learning more about sites around our community–most of which I have never been to. Going to the Lamoille Cave was probably the biggest highlight for me, although I truly enjoyed learning about each site. The food was incredible, too!”

Sarah, High School Teacher

“It deepened my sense of place and understanding of the natural communities in which I teach. I will be able to help kids ask questions, look for evidence, and make their own guesses about what is going on in the natural communities around them, how things got that way, and what they might look like in the future.”

Dylan, Middle School Teacher

“This course gave me a huge content boost that I needed. While I may not get to the depth of this content with elementary students, it’s important to understand the bigger picture context and details. The hands-on exploration and analysis of field sites is a perfect model to use with students to enable them to apply their knowledge to construct a deeper understanding of landscapes. I can envision using these models with elementary students. I will also take and share the online activities (Where’s Waldo, image identification, etc.) to use with students in the event of continued remote learning. I know colleagues were struggling with ideas to keep kids engaged as time went on.”

Courtney, Elementary School Teacher