Field Herpetology

RGV BioU Mark

Instructors: Kiley Briggs
July 11 - 12 | $265
Course size: 9 students

Adaptations and Expectations for our 2020 BioU Programs as of June 11, 2020:

  • We will no longer be serving food or drinks this season. We ask that you please bring your own food. We will be issuing a $30 refund to all those already registered who opted for meals.
  • Courses have been adapted to take place largely in the field or in our event tent, but there may be 60-90 minutes of lecture per day in our large indoor space.
  • Some courses have been rescheduled so that there are no longer two courses happening simultaneously on the premises.
  • Course size has been reduced to 10 participants or fewer.
  • If you will be traveling from out of state, please contact us before the course to evaluate the safety of your participation.

In order to keep you, our staff, and our community safe, NBNC is adhering to strict safety protocols based on CDC and VT Department of Health 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 participants or fewer, and designed them to take place outdoors, with the exceptions of bathroom access, thunderstorm contingencies, and (in some cases) short-term use of the community room.
  • Cleanliness: All potential shared surfaces will have been sanitized before and after each program. No two programs will share the same indoor space (including bathrooms) on any given day. 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), and 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 (inside and outside), during NBNC programs. Maintain at least 6’ distance from all other people, including staff, during the program. Follow all safety guidelines explained by our staff.
  • Cleanliness: Sanitize bathrooms and other common surfaces before and 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, and that our protocols are continually adapting to best available science and expert recommendations.

Thank you for your support in keeping our community safe!


mphibians are among one of the most imperiled groups of animals on earth and many reptile species are in sharp decline, even here in Vermont. Increasingly, reptiles and amphibians are receiving attention from state, federal, and non-profit conservation organizations, so knowledge of and experience with these secretive animals can be an asset in the fields of ecology, conservation, and education. Throughout this two-day course, participants will learn about the almost 30 species of frog, salamander, snake, and turtle found in Northeastern Vermont, including how to identify them, their ecology, habitat requirements, and the methodology used by biologists to sample their populations. The course will include a combination of active searches, standardized surveys, catch-and-release trapping, radio telemetry, and educational presentations such that participants become confident in their ability to identify each species occurring in Northeast Vermont, what their conservation needs and threats are, and some of the methods used by professionals to study their populations in the wild.

Note: Surveying for reptiles and amphibians does require traversing rugged terrain off trail, including on wet rocky surfaces that may be slippery, as well as wading through waist-deep water (we will provide chest waders), so feel free to reach out to the instructor for more information if you have concerns about the physical requirements and to get a better idea if this course is right for you.

Course Goals and Objectives

  • Learn how to identify and locate each of the reptiles and amphibians found in Northeastern Vermont.
  • Gain an understanding of the habitat requirements for each species and land management considerations.
  • Obtain experience using the methods used by professional herpetologists to study reptile and amphibian populations in the wild.

About the Instructor(s)

Kiley Briggs is a conservation biologist working for the Orianne Society, an organization dedicated to the conservation of critical habitat for imperiled reptiles and amphibians. A native Vermonter, Kiley first became interested in reptile and amphibian conservation at a very young age and studied wildlife biology at the University of Vermont. After several years working as a field technician studying species including Mudpuppies, Timber Rattlesnakes, Indigo Snakes, and Gopher Tortoises, Kiley moved to South Texas and obtained a Master’s degree studying how invasive grasses impact habitat use by Texas Tortoises. Kiley moved back to Vermont in 2016 and soon joined The Orianne Society as their Northeast Turtle Conservation Coordinator. In that role, he is spearheading a Wood Turtle conservation program focused largely in Vermont, and is also working with five states to advance Blanding’s Turtle conservation, working out of his home office in Woodbury, Vermont.


UPDATE 6/11/2020: Due to COVID-19 concerns, meals and beverages will not be provided this year. We ask that you please bring your own food. Students already registered who opted for meals will receive a $30 refund.

Required Materials and Recommended Reading

The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State: Identification, Natural History, and Conservation by James Gibbs et al.


Course begins 9 AM on Saturday at North Branch Nature Center. Saturday dinner is at 6 pm. An optional evening session follows dinner. Course begins on Sunday at a time of the instructor's choosing. Course concludes by 5 PM on Sunday.

Academic Credit / Professional Development

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 the student’s responsibility to ensure that home institutions will accept 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, or a field-based project.

This course qualifies for 20 hours of professional development hours and continuing education units. Certificates of completion are provided at the conclusion of the course.

Cancellation Policy

While we realize that unexpected circumstances arise that are out of our control, North Branch Nature Center cannot guarantee refunds for registrations cancelled within 30 days of the course.  If a cancellation occurs within this window, NBNC will attempt to fill the space from our wait list and provide a full refund.

North Branch Nature Center

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

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