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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.

COVID-19 UPDATE - May 5, 2020 - Click to Open

We wish you peace and health, and hope that you are taking a moment to get outside each day to enjoy the arrival of spring. We are writing to explain our timeline for running or postponing our eleven upcoming BioU programs taking place this season.
We are evaluating whether to proceed with, postpone, or cancel each course, and making our decisions at least one month prior to each course’s start date. If the course is postponed, we will announce a rescheduled date at that time, and hold your payment and place in the course. If you cannot attend the rescheduled date, please contact us and we will provide a refund.
The safety of our participants, instructors, and staff is paramount. Our decisions will be guided by updates from the Office of the Governor and our own safety protocols. If we choose to run a course, and you no longer wish to participate for health reasons, please contact us.
While we are unsure exactly what the summer will bring, we are fortunate that our programs have small class sizes and take place largely outdoors. We are optimistic that, with some adaptations and rescheduling, our BioU season will take place with no sacrifice to safety or quality.
  • Digital Photography for Naturalists is rescheduled for September 5-6.
  • Glacial Geology of Vermont is rescheduled for August 29-30.
  • Slow Birding with Bridget Butler is rescheduled to a Fall 2020 date TBD.


  • Coevolution with Tom Wessels has been cancelled. Keep an eye out for this course in our 2021 offerings.
Looking to pursue your naturalist education in an online format this season? Check out our Nature Now online offerings. Courses in Amphibians, Birding, Butterflies, Photography, Botany, and Wild Edibles.
Finally, please consider contributing to the NBNC Resiliency Fund. Your support helps us steady the waters and continue working hard to connect our community to nature, and to one another, in these challenging times. Thank you on behalf of all of us at NBNC to all those who have contributed.

2020 Field Course Offerings

Dragonflies and Damselflies: Identification and Field Techniques

Bryan Pfeiffer
July 10 - 12 | $425

Forest Mosses: An Ecological Introduction

Jerry Jenkins and Sue Williams
July 18 - 19 | $295   

Vermont Biodiversity Educators Institute

North Branch Nature Center Education Staff
July 27 - 31 | $1300   

Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates

Charley Eiseman
August 15 - 16 | $295

Glacial Geology of Northern Vermont

Stephen Wright
POSTPONED to August 29-30 | $295        


Slow Birding: Reconnecting with Nature and Self

Bridget Butler
POSTPONED to September 12 - 13 | $295

Coevolution: A Model for Sustainability

Tom Wessels - *CANCELLED*
June 7 | $125    


Field Herpetology

Kiley Briggs
July 11 - 12 | $295   

Freshwater Macroinvertebrates

Declan McCabe
July 18 - 19 | $295    

Mushrooms: Field Identification and Fungal Ecology

Dave Muska
August 15 - 16 | $295

Wetland Sedges: An Ecological Introduction

Jerry Jenkins and Brett Engstrom
August 29 - 30 | $295

Digital Photography for Naturalists

Sean Beckett
POSTPONED to September 5-6 | $295       


General Information

NEW IN 2020

We've made a few changes to our BioU programs for the 2020 season. If you're a returning BioU'er, please note the following:

  • Class sizes have been reduced. Most of the courses are now capped at 12 participants. Those with higher capacities are noted accordingly.
  • Lodging is no longer offered. Participants needing lodging are encouraged to explore options listed in the "Food & Lodging" tab below. We DO still allow onsite camping.
  • All courses begin at 9 am instead of 8 am.
  • A full breakfast buffet is no longer available.  We will provide coffee, tea, pastries, and other light fare each morning.
  • Participants may now opt out of meals and be reimbursed a portion of course fees. See "Food & Lodging" below.
  • We are able to offer limited financial aid this year to offset course tuition. See "Financial Aid" below.


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, meals, and evening programming.

Course Design and Instructors

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 and evenings of learning.

Our Participants

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.

Academic Credit and Prof. Dev.

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.

Food, Lodging, and Camping


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.

Past Courses

Please Click Here to see course offerings from previous seasons.

Financial Aid

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
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