Geology of Northern Vermont

RGV BioU Mark

Instructors: Stephen Wright
June 22 – 23| $295


his course is designed to introduce participants to the geologic materials and processes necessary to understand the framework of northern Vermont’s geologic history. Multiple field trips will take students to areas where key aspects of the area’s geology can be observed. These field trips will introduce students to many of the different rocks underlying the area and the sediments overlying the rocks that were largely deposited there by a large continent-scale ice sheet. Great emphasis will be placed on making observations and learning how to interpret different geologic processes from those observations. Using several fundamental geological concepts, students will be able to piece together some key aspects of the area’s geologic history. Field trips will be complimented by an evening presentation of the instructor’s research work in the area.

Course Objectives and Goals

  • Introduce students to fundamental Earth materials occurring in northern Vermont; the common minerals, sediments, and rocks that make up Earth.
  • Introduce students to a variety of geological processes, e.g:
    • The erosion and deposition of sediments by moving water
    • The formation of different types of rocks
    • The deformation of rocks when mountains form
    • Landforms produced by glaciers and melting ice
  • Geologic Time and Rates
    • How do we know when things occurred in the geologic past?
    • How do we know how fast things occurred in the geologic past?
  • Geologic history of northern Vermont
    • Understanding the fundamental events that formed the rocks and mountains in the region
    • Understanding the glacial history of northern Vermont


Saturday June 22, 2019

7:30–8:30 AM: Breakfast at North Branch Nature Center. Introductions, Outline for the Weekend

8:30: Geology Field Trip in the Burlington Area

We will carpool to Burlington and begin by looking at a sequence of rocks exposed along the Winooski River valley. From there we will drive a short distance to Lone Rock Point and most likely finish the day’s field activities there. The objective of the field stops is to show students how geologists use rocks to infer changing environments that existed when those rocks formed. We will bring along bag lunches, but the day may also include a coffee stop.

4–5 PM: Return to the North Branch Nature Center

6 PM: Supper at the North Branch Nature Center

7–8 PM: Geology Presentation: Current Research on Northern Vermont Glacial Geology

Sunday June 23, 2019

7:30–8:30 AM: Breakfast at North Branch Nature Center

8:30 AM: Geology Field Trip in the Montpelier Area

We will carpool to several stops between Montpelier and Northfield Vermont. The rocks in this part of the state are very different from those exposed in the Champlain Valley. We’ll learn how to “look” at these rocks and interpret many aspects of the area’s history from them. We will bring along bag lunches.

5 PM: Return to the North Branch Nature Center

About the Instructor(s)

Stephen Wright is a Senior Lecturer with the University of Vermont’s Department of Geology. While his early work focused on deciphering the deformational history of rocks in the Adirondack Mountains, Colorado Rockies, and northern Sweden, his current research utilizes extensive field work to further our understanding of the glacial history of northern Vermont. This work includes understanding the dynamics of ice flow and water flow within the big ice sheet that once covered Vermont and the histories of the many glacial lakes dammed by that ice sheet. Wright uses his background in both bedrock geology and glacial geology to unravel the geological underpinnings of Vermont’s many landscapes. Wright teaches field-based classes ranging from the introductory-level for non-majors to those restricted to graduate students.

Lodging Options

Biodiversity University is no longer offering lodging for participants. However, there are several nearby options at a similar price point. We recommend the following options:


Saturday breakfast, field lunch, and family-style dinner included.
Sunday breakfast and field lunch included.

Required/Recommended Readings

The Geology of Vermont - Doolan

Please read this article in its entirety.

Bedrock Geology of the Montpelier Area - Walsh
Please read the introduction.

Guidebook for Field Trips in the NE Kingdom of  VT - Westerman Coish
Please read the introduction.

The Nature of Vermont - Charles Johnson
Please read Chapters 1 and 2.
(Copies available for lending at NBNC)

Other suggested references related to our field sites

Mehrtens - Stratigraphy of the Cambrian Platform of NW Vermont

McHone - Mesozoic Dikes and Tectonic Features

Required Materials

Other than standard gear needed for spending most of the day outside, please bring a hand lens for examining rock samples up close.


Course begins 8 AM on June 22 at North Branch Nature Center. Course concludes at 5 PM on June 23 at North Branch Nature Center. Any participants arriving Friday evening will be met by a staff member for an orientation and welcome.

Academic Credit / Professional Development options:

This course qualifies for 1 graduate-level science credit for an additional $150 course fee. All BioU courses are accredited by Castleton University. It is each student’s responsibility to ensure that their home institution will transfer the credit. Participants pursuing academic credit will be required to complete an additional assignment above and beyond the course hours, including literature review, reflective writing, and/or a field-based project.

This course qualifies for 22 hours of professional development hours and continuing education units. Certificates of completion are included in the course fee, and are available upon request.

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7