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Biodiversity University offers in-depth nature study taught by the region’s finest experts and educators. Our students are weekend naturalists, working ecologists, and anyone with an insatiable drive to understand the pieces and patterns of our wild world.

You won’t find admissions committees, dean’s offices, or football teams here. At BioU, our star athletes swing insect nets. Our mascots are Arethusa orchids, Promethea silkmoths, and an orange slime of uncertain biological origins. Our campus comprises Vermont’s diverse wildlands, headquartered at the lab and classrooms of Montpelier’s North Branch Nature Center.

Spend a weekend or a week this summer immersed outdoors in a learning community of like-minded nature lovers.

Adaptations and Expectations for our 2021 BioU Programs:

We are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic response carefully, and adjusting our policies and protocols accordingly. The following considerations are subject to change:

  • We will no longer be serving food or drinks this season. We ask that you please bring your own food.
  • Courses have been designed to take place largely in the field or in our event tent, but there may daily use of  our large indoor classroom.
  • Course size has been reduced to 12 participants or fewer.
  • If you will be traveling from out of state, please contact us at least 30 days before the start of the course to evaluate the safety of your participation. NBNC may decline your participation according to state guidelines.

In order to keep you, our staff, and our community safe, NBNC is adhering to strict safety protocols based on CDC, Vermont Department of Health, and Vermont Agency of Education guidelines. We’re in this together, so here’s what you can expect from us, and what we ask of you as a participant of an in-person NBNC program.

What you can expect of us:

  • Breathing Room: We’ve capped all our programs at 10-12 participants or fewer, and designed them to take place primarily outdoors.
  • Cleanliness: All shared surfaces will have been sanitized before and after each program. We’ll start each program with a briefing to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding behavior, expectations, masks, distancing, etc.
  • Professionalism: We have completed state-mandated safety trainings, established a staff/board safety committee and a COVID-19 Task Force, and are adhering to strict workplace guidelines to make sure we are taking appropriate measures to make NBNC a safe place to work, learn, and play.
  • Honesty: Our instructors will be following state safety guidelines, and complete health screenings prior to each program to ensure a healthy staff and a safe space for each program.
  • Respect: Our staff and instructors will wear a mask at all times (inside and outside) when not able to maintain at least 6’ distance from all other people throughout all programs. 
  • Transparency: We want to make sure you are comfortable. If you’ve got questions or concerns about our programs and policies, please reach out to us at [email protected].

What we ask of you:

  • Honesty: Do not come to the program if you are feeling ill in any way. You’ll be asked to sign a waiver and health screening document upon arrival acknowledging that you are symptom-free and haven’t been at high risk of exposure to the coronavirus recently. If you develop COVID-like symptoms within 14 days after the program, notify NBNC immediately.
  • Respect: Wear a mask at all times indoors, and outdoors when unable to maintain at least 6’ distance from all other people (guidelines may be different for children Pre-K - 6th grade). Follow all safety guidelines explained by our staff.
  • Cleanliness: Sanitize bathrooms and other common surfaces after use, according to our guidelines posted in each space. Bring and use hand sanitizer, and wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Flexibility: Please understand that programs may be cancelled on very short notice.

These protocols are continually adapting to adhere to federal and state guidance. Please contact us if you would like to know more.

Thank you for your support in keeping our community safe!

2021 Summer Field Course Offerings

Nature Photography

Sean Beckett | May 27-28 | $265

Forest Mosses

Jerry Jenkins & Sue Williams | June 26-27 | $265

Bedrock Geology of Northern Vermont

Stephen Wright | July 10-11 | $265


Michael Sundue | July 24-25 | $265

Coevolution: A Model for Sustainability

Tom Wessels | August 28 | $125

Slow Birding

Bridget Butler | May 29-30 | $265

Aquatic Invertebrates

Declan McCabe | July 10-11 | *Cancelled*

Old Growth Forests

Liz Thompson & Bob Zaino | July 17-18 | $265

Wetland Sedges

Jerry Jenkins & Brett Engstrom | Aug 14-15 | $265

Mushrooms: Field ID and Ecology

Dave Muska | August 7-8 | $265

Vermont Biodiversity Educators Institute

NBNC Education Staff | July 26 - 30 | $1300

General Information

We've made a few changes to our BioU programs for the 2021 season (and additional changes due to COVID-19 considerations). If you're a returning BioU'er, please note the following:

  • Class sizes have been reduced. Courses are now capped at 12 participants.
  • Lodging is no longer offered due to lack of interest. Participants needing lodging are encouraged to explore options listed in the "Food & Lodging" tab below. We DO still allow onsite camping, but cannot guarantee use of NBNC facilities after hours.
  • We will not be providing any food or refreshments this season due to continued COVID-19 considerations. 
  • We are now able to offer financial aid to offset course tuition. See "Financial Aid" below.
  • Courses have been adapted to take place primarily outdoors, though our indoor classroom may be used for lecture and lab work.
  • We require participants to wear face coverings at all times during the course when unable to remain more than 6 feet from others.

BioU is headquartered at Montpelier’s North Branch Nature Center, where students can learn and dine* together in the center’s comfortable classrooms, lab, and kitchen. The atmosphere is innovative and entertaining, fostering education, discovery, and personal and professional growth. NBNC’s beautiful facilities and 28-acre property complement BioU’s wider “campus” – the fields, forests, mountains, and wetlands of Vermont. The bulk of each course is spent outside, returning to NBNC for lab work and lecture.

*food and refreshments not offered this year due to continued COVID-19 concerns.

BioU invites instructors who are renowned for both their topical expertise and their prowess as educators. We’ve all taken classes by geniuses who can’t explain themselves, or terrific teachers with limited content knowledge – not at BioU. We prioritize in-depth learning from the best instructors in the business.

We give our instructors the reins to design their ideal course, and work with them to sculpt a program that fits our participants’ interests, budgets, and busy schedules. Courses are one to five days long, and include full days of learning.

BioU students are retirees discovering birdwatching, finance officers learning watercolors, professional ecologists curious about edible plants, or graduate students practicing sedge identification. Students are not expected to have prerequisite expertise in the topic. The only course prerequisite is a desire for in-depth learning. BioU draws participants from around New England and across the east coast.

Participants must be 18 years or older.

Graduate-level credit is available for most BioU courses with an additional $150 per-credit fee. Our courses are fully accredited by Castleton University. Weekend-length courses qualify for one graduate-level science credit. Longer courses qualify for two to three graduate-level credits. Credits can generally satisfy undergraduate requirements as well. Students are responsible for ensuring that their home institutions will accept the credits.

Participants seeking credit will be required to complete additional reading and writing assignments to satisfy the requirements of our accrediting institution.

All BioU courses qualify for Continuing Education Units. A certificate of completion, indicating CEUs and professional development hours are provided following each course.

Enrolling for academic credit? If you have already enrolled in a BioU course, and are seeking academic credit, you must also register with Castleton University. We will provide instructions for doing this.



BioU offers coffee, tea, and light breakfast fare each morning, as well as delicious field lunches and buffet-style dinners catered by our favorite local businesses.

Recognizing that some would rather bring their own food, participants may now opt out of the meal package. Those declining the included meals will be reimbursed for a portion of the course registration fee. If you choose to provide your own food, we encourage you participate in mealtimes, as they are a favorite part of the BioU community-building experience.


Biodiversity University does not offer onsite lodging for participants, but there are several nearby options covering a range of styles and price points. We recommend the following options:

Capitol Plaza ($200/night; Montpelier)
The Inn at Montpelier ($200/night; Montpelier)
High Hill Inn ($150/night; East Montpelier)
Comfort Inn and Suites ($120/night; Berlin VT)
Marshfield Inn and Motel ($100/night; Marshfield, VT)
AirB&B ($60-$150+/night; options vary)

Participants may camp at NBNC with permission.

Please Click Here to see course offerings from previous seasons.

We now have limited financial aid available for most courses. Please contact [email protected] to request more information about financial aid options for the course you in which you are interested.

BioU satisfies a strong demand for in-depth, immersive nature study. This university has no sports team, no admission’s office, and no deans or provosts. Instead, BioU has Vermont’s rich and varied assemblage of natural communities – wild places well-suited to intensive field study and creative learning – and a community of passionate and renowned instructors.

We recruit skilled and enthusiastic biologist educators to lead field-based seminars across a range of disciplines rarely found at academic institutions. BioU offers insights into the forces of nature: the harmony and diversity in groups of organisms, the simple and complex interactions between the biological and the physical, and the skills for identifying life in the natural world.

RGV BioU Mark

Connecting People with the Natural World

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206
[email protected]

Office Open Monday-Friday from 9 am to 4 pm
Trails Open 24/7