Coevolution: A Model for Sustainability

RGV BioU Mark

Instructors: Tom Wessels
August 28, 2021 | $125
Course size: 16 students
Please Contact Us to request scholarship assistance

Adaptations and Expectations for our 2021 BioU Programs:

We are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic response carefully, and adjusting our policies and protocols accordingly. The following considerations are subject to change:

  • We will no longer be serving food or drinks this season. We ask that you please bring your own food.
  • Courses have been designed 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 classroom.
  • Course size has been reduced. THIS COURSE WILL BE 16 PARTICIPANTS OR FEWER.
  • If you will be traveling from out of state, please contact us at least 30 days before the start of the course to evaluate the safety of your participation. NBNC may decline your participation according to state guidelines.

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 BioU programs at 12 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. Refunds will be provided in the event of program cancellation.

Thank you for your support in keeping our community safe!


his course will delve into the scientific principles of self-organization and coevolution. Specifically we will examine how self-organization works to create systems that are energy efficient, stable, and resilient. We will then examine how this process happens in ecosystems through evolutionary time via coevolution creating biologically diverse ecosystems with robust networks of mutually beneficial relationships. After gaining a theoretical foundation we will head into the field and examine numerous examples of coevolved, mutually beneficial interrelationships. We will then head back inside to discuss human systems from the perspective of coevolution to see ways we can create a far more sustainable future.

Course Goals and Objectives

  • To understand the principle of self-organization and how it works in ecosystems via the process of coevolution
  • To find examples of coevolved, mutually beneficial relationships in the field
  • To apply the model of coevolution to systems such as a school, business, organization, or an economy as a means to create more sustainable human systems
  • To understand that at its core sustainability is all about creating robust networks of mutually beneficial interrelationships

About the Instructor

Tom Wessels is a terrestrial ecologist and Professor Emeritus at Antioch University New England where he founded the masters degree program in Conservation Biology. He has conducted workshops on ecology and sustainability throughout the country for over three decades. He is author of numerous books including: Reading the Forested Landscape, The Granite Landscape, The Myth of Progress, Forest Forensics, and Granite, Fire, and Fog: A Natural and Cultural History of Acadia.


Due to continued concerns around COVID-19, meals and beverages will not be provided this year. We ask that you please bring your own food.

Recommended Reading

Chapter 4 in The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future by Tom Wessels


This one-day course begins promptly at 9 AM and ends at 4 PM on August 28th.

Academic Credit / Professional Development:

This course does not qualify for graduate credits. This course does qualify for 8 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. If you need to cancel due to concerns related to COVID-19, a full refund will be provided up to 48 hours before the course.

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