In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. - John Muir
Explore the wonders of the natural world through the practice of field observation, description and interpretation. Study the life histories and ecology of North Woods flora and fauna, and take your field skills as a naturalist to far-flung corners of the globe. Hone your skills as a naturalist through traditional naturalist field journaling, original illustration, scientific study, as well as literary work. We train well-rounded field naturalists ready to go out into the world and become educators, interpreters, field ecologists, and liaisons between the scientific community and the natural world.
Beyond our 430-acre campus in northern Vermont, we offer field studies in northern, alpine, and marine environments. Field studies give students the opportunity to experience nature and culture in some of the least traveled and most unique environments in the world, including Interior and Maritime Canada, the Maine coast, Belize, the Bahamas, and the Sierra Nevada.
A Selection of Courses
Natural History of the North Woods
This course is a field-based exploration of the natural history and ecology of the North Woods, with an emphasis on the interplay between temperate, deciduous and boreal forest biomes. Students build on foundational principles of ecology through development and practice of observation, identification, and interpretation skills and the keeping of a refined naturalist field journal. Topics include natural community composition and structure, biogeographic concepts, ecological succession, identification and classification skills for flora and fauna (including an introduction to botanical keys, as well as extensive use of other types of field guides), and the history and philosophy of Natural History. Course format includes lectures, discussions, and a significant field component.
Marine Natural History of the North Atlantic
This field-based course is an exploration of marine environments with emphasis on the North Atlantic. We begin with an introduction to oceanographic topics such as sea floor spreading, wave dynamics, ocean currents and tides, and general marine ecology. We progress to a survey of marine algae and invertebrate phyla, and culminate with a treatment of marine vertebrates with a focus on sea birds and marine mammals. This course combines lectures and discussions with intensive field activities such as sea kayaking, tidepooling, and offshore excursions.
Seminar in Natural History
This course is intended to synthesize student's existing knowledge and experience in natural history and ecology through rigorous and critical examination of unifying themes in the field. Through lectures, discussions and review of primary literature, we explore questions that naturalists have grappled with for centuries: What is nature? What is life? What is a species? What is evolution? We will begin with perspectives of the early naturalists, from Aristotle to Darwin, continue with an investigation into modern evolutionary thinking, and culminate with a project-based exploration of current literature in the field.