Reading the Landscape & Telling the Story

RGV BioU Mark

Instructor: Alicia Daniel
June 3 - 4, 2023 | $285
Course size: 12 students
Financial support available (contact us)
Convenes in the Greater Burlington Area


eading the Landscape & Telling the Story is designed to acquaint you with Vermont landscapes in the Champlain Valley and to provide you with an integrative framework for reading the land here and around the world. Based on an approach developed in the UVM Field Naturalist Graduate Program and used in the Vermont Master Naturalist program, this framework involves an understanding of the pieces, patterns, and processes that shape the natural world. 

We will visit field sites that showcase iconic natural processes, such as the world-famous thrust fault in Burlington, a pitch pine forest in Colchester, and/or Raven Ridge in Monkton.  At each site we will explore the geology, soils, plants and animals, human land use history; and signs of processes like wind, fire, or deer browse. We will think of these as the layers of a cake.  When we put them all together, we will have a good understanding of why each site looks the way it does. 

Walking through a forest without knowing how to read the landscape is like walking through a library without knowing how to read a book. This course will open up a whole new world. The weekend will involve learning to find and examine evidence, but we will also enter these places with an open heart, enjoying the beauty and connection to nature that draws us together.

Course Goals & Objectives

  • Discuss the processes that shape a landscape and learn a timescale for the major events that have created the landscapes we see in New England today.
  • Learn basics of geology, geomorphology, soils, plants, and wildlife of Vermont landscapes.
  • Learn to identify patterns created by human and natural “disturbance,” including logging, fire, and agriculture; and how environmental factors such as bedrock geology, soil parent material, soil pH, aspect, elevation and more affect natural communities.
  • Increase your confidence in using tools of the trade, everything from pH kits to plant keys.
  • Meet people who share your interests.
  • Enjoy spending the day outdoors.

About the Instructor

Alicia Daniel’s love of nature has taken her across the continent from tracking Alaskan black bears to surveying Mexican Freetail bats in Texas caves to seeing an arribada of Olive Ridley sea turtles on a moonlit beach in Costa Rica. Alicia teaches in UVM Field Naturalist Program, founded the Vermont Master Naturalist Program, and works for the City of Burlington managing forested parks for wildlife and plant diversity.

Physical Requirements

Participants must be able to walk at least two miles each day, off trail over uneven and potentially muddy terrain. Participants should be comfortable outside in potentially cold or wet conditions for long periods of time. Please reach out to us if you have any questions about mobility and/or other accessibility needs.

Recommended Reading

  • Wetland, Woodland, Wildland (Sorenson, Thompson and Zaino)- The go-to book on natural communities in Vermont
  •  Reading the Forested Landscape (Tom Wessels) - The sooner you read this book, the better–  it will help you to see new things in the field!


Participants should bring their own lunches and snacks.


Course begins 9 AM on Saturday in the Greater Burlington Area (location TBD). Course begins on Sunday at a time of the instructors' choosing. Course concludes by 5 PM on Sunday. There may be an optional evening lecture component, TBD.

Academic Credit / Professional Development

This course may qualify for 1 graduate-level credit for an additional $200 course fee. All BioU courses are accredited by Castleton University. Participants interested in receiving credit must contact us at least 2 months in advance so we have time to arrange course accreditation.

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 by NBNC, we 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