Project Description

“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

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.

⤜ Register Now ⤛

Program objectives

  1. Provide an overview of Vermont’s natural history (we’ll cover bedrock history, glacial history, natural communities, the farmed landscape, and abiotic & biotic disturbance patterns)
  2. Understand the process of disturbance (both human and natural) as it relates to forest succession and the natural communities concept
  3. Draw connections between human activities and their impact on the natural world
  4. Learn how to use common field techniques to interpret landscapes based on evidence (e.g. indicator species, bedrock features, sediment types, etc.)
  5. Explore local field sites that highlight features of Vermont’s natural history
  6. Introduce accessible, free, and easy to use tools (digital maps, websites, apps, and field tools like clinometers) to study natural landscapes
  7. Develop awareness practices and observation skills to deepen connection to place and the wild world

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 builts, check out the course overview page

⤜ COURSE OVERVIEW ⤛

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. Click the icon below for a printable version of the syllabus:

Printable syllabus for Vermont's Natural History

Pre-class 

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.

Assignments: 

  • 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 email Friday before the program begins
    • Sign up for your trees to profile here

Read the following by Monday: 

  • Wetland Woodland Wildland (pp 1-28, 36-43, 58-81)
  • Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels (Introduction + Ch 1-7)

Help identifying trees

Day 1 | Intro to Class + Hazards + Bedrock Geology
July 13, 2020

We’ll diver 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 in the islands. We’ll visit a cave and see lots of fossils!! 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 Rock Point in Burlington and then head to Chazy Reef & Lamoille Cave (see map below for field sites)

Read for today:

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

Handouts:

Assignments Due Today:

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

Day 2 | Glaciers & Soils
July 14, 2020

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: Rock Point, Shelburne Bay, LaPlatte Nature Area

Presentations for today:

  • TBD

Read for today:

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

Handouts:

Online Resources

Day 3 | Soils, Sediments, & Erosion
July 15, 2020

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 for today:

  • TBD

Read for today:

  • None

Help identifying trees

Handouts:

Day 4 | Natural Communities
July 16, 2020

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

Location: Colchester Bog & Hinesburg Town Forest

Presentations for today:

  • TBD

Read for today:

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

Resources

  • VCGI (Natural Communities mapping program)
  • Slow Water Movement + ANR mapping of natural communities (link)

Day 5 | Humans + Disturbance
July 17, 2020

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: Wheeler Natural Area & Centennial Woods

Tree Species Presentations: 

  • TBD

Due Today:

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

Lectures

  • Day 1: Bedrock History of Vermont
  • Day 2: Glacial History of Vermont (sample presentation)
  • Day 3: Soils & Sediment
  • Day 4: Natural Communities
  • Day 5: Humans on the Land

Handouts

Coming soon…

Resources

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

 

AUDIO/VISUAL

BOOKS

  • 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

WEBSITES/BLOGS

YOUTUBE SERIES

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

 

AUDIO/VISUAL

WEBSITES/BLOGS

BOOKS

  • 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.

 

AUDIO/VISUAL

WEBSITES/BLOGS

BOOKS

  • 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.

AUDIO/VISUAL

WEBSITES/BLOGS

BOOKS

  • 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.

AUDIO/VISUAL

WEBSITES/BLOGS

BOOKS

  • 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

Field Guides

  • 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.

AUDIO/VISUAL

BOOKS

  • 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 intesection between plants and the environment

AUDIO/VISUAL

BOOKS

  • Wetland Woodland Wildland, Elizabeth Thompson & Eric Sorenson (free version)
  • 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.

 

 

Field Sites


Open map in Google Maps: link