Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates

RGV BioU Mark

Instructors: Charley Eiseman
August 15 - 16 | $265
Course size: 8 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!


his course addresses the full spectrum of topics covered in the book by the same name, with an emphasis on signs found on plants. We will explore nearby habitats in search of leaf mines and other feeding sign, galls, eggs and egg cases, cocoons, nests, webs, burrows, and other objects and patterns created by insects, arachnids, snails, worms, etc. In the process of identifying these features we will discuss the life histories and ecology of numerous species. Back in the lab we will examine items collected in the field, both to observe details that require magnification and to investigate mysteries. Slideshow presentations will give overviews of most categories of invertebrate signs as well as introduce students to the often little-known creatures responsible for them.

Course Goals

  • Begin to make sense of the bewildering array of patterns and structures created by insects and other invertebrates.
  • Appreciate the diversity, ingenuity, and specificity of invertebrate lifestyles.

Course Objectives

  • Understand insect life cycles and associated terminology.
  • Recognize the different types of feeding sign and other damage to vegetation.
  • Become familiar with the major groups of gall-inducing invertebrates.
  • Become familiar with the major groups of leaf-mining insects.
  • Introduce participants to resources for pursuing invertebrate-related mysteries.

About the Instructor(s)

Charley Eiseman is a freelance naturalist based in western Massachusetts. He has been conducting plant and wildlife surveys and natural resource inventories throughout New England for over twenty years, as well as teaching courses and workshops on interpreting animal tracks and sign (both vertebrate and invertebrate). He holds an MS in Botany (Field Naturalist) from the University of Vermont and a BS in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation and Management from the University of Massachusetts. Charley is the author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), Leafminers of North America (self-published e-book, 2019), and an insect-themed blog called “BugTracks.” He has also published over 40 scientific papers on insect natural history, including the description of over 60 new species.


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

Required text:
Eiseman, Charley and Noah Charney. 2010. Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates. Stackpole Books, 582 pp.

Recommended text:
Eiseman, Charley. 2019. Leafminers of North America. e-book available from:


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. If the course needs to be cancelled within 30 days of the program, NBNC will 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