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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.

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!

Other Important Adaptations and Expectations for our 2020/2021 BioU Programs

  • 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 will 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.
  • If you will be traveling from out of state, please contact us before the course to evaluate the safety of your participation.
We are evaluating whether to proceed with, postpone, or cancel courses 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.
Looking to pursue your naturalist education in an online format this season? Check out our Nature Now online offerings.

2021 Field Course Offerings

Winter Wildlife Tracking Immersion

Jonathan Shapiro & Dave Muska
Jan 16 | Feb 20 | Mar 20 | $235

Please check back in January for our Spring/Summer 2021 Course Menu

2020 Field Course Offerings

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Bryan Pfeiffer

Forest Mosses

Jerry Jenkins and Sue Williams

Freshwater Macroinvertebrates

Declan McCabe

Tracks and Sign of Insects

Charley Eiseman

Glacial Geology of Northern Vermont

Stephen Wright  

Slow Birding

Bridget Butler

Coevolution: A Model for Sustainability

Tom Wessels

Field Herpetology

Kiley Briggs

Vermont Biodiversity Educators Institute

North Branch Nature Center Education Staff

Wetland Sedges

Jerry Jenkins and Brett Engstrom

Digital Photography for Naturalists

Sean Beckett 

Mushrooms: Field ID and Ecology

Dave Muska

General Information

We've made a few changes to our BioU programs for the 2020 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. Most of the courses are now capped at 10 participants or fewer.
  • 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, but cannot guarantee use of NBNC facilities after hours.
  • All courses begin at 9 am and run to 5 pm.
  • We will not be providing any food or refreshments this season due to COVID-19 safety considerations. We ask that you please bring your own food. 
  • We are able to offer limited financial aid this year to offset course tuition. See "Financial Aid" below.
  • Courses have been adapted to take place almost entirely outside, either in the field, or under cover of our event tent, with limited use of our indoor classroom.
  • We require participants to wear face coverings at all times during the course and 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, meals**, and evening programming.****meals and evening programming have been reduced due to COVID-19 considerations.

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.

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 to the Natural World

North Branch Nature Center

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

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