Butterfly Ecology and Identification

RGV BioU Mark

Instructor: Bryan Pfeiffer
July 6 - 8, 2024 | $385
Course size: 12 students
Financial support available (contact us)


esigned for naturalists and scientists of varied abilities and interests, this seminar covers butterfly taxonomy, biology, behavior, and identification. Our aspiration is to learn about and identify butterflies as much as possible in the field. If we have sunshine, and therefore butterflies on the wing, we will be out all three days (with students watching video lectures at their leisure). Otherwise, we’ll have ample learning opportunities indoors with lectures and vivid butterfly photography. This seminar is well-suited for most anyone participating in the Vermont Butterfly Atlas (2023-2027).

Course Goals & Objectives

Students will:

  • Learn or enhance their mastery of butterfly families and genera.
  • Become proficient with species-level identification (including the classic challenges of skipper identification).
  • Understand basic butterfly biology, including host-plant associations, voltinism, and reproductive strategies.
  • Learn rapid field-observation and survey techniques, including net-photograph-release.
  • Practice specimen preparation and curation (if there is interest and time permits).

About the Instructor

A field entomologist, writer, and consulting field biologist, Bryan Pfeiffer is perhaps more than anything a teacher. Over the course of three decades, he has guided thousands of people to the discovery of birds, insects, and other nature in various wild places. Bryan was a co-founder of the Vermont Butterfly Survey and its principal field lepidopterist. He has collected, watched, and photographed butterflies from the tropics of Central America to above the Arctic Circle. He’s a lecturer with the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Program and is a research associate at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. Find him online at www.bryanpfeiffer.com.

Physical Requirements

Participants must be able to walk 1-2 miles over the course of a day, sometimes off trail over uneven and potentially muddy terrain. Participants should be comfortable outside in potentially hot, muggy, rainy, and/or buggy 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

The course syllabus and packet will include a suite of readings suited to each student’s particular level of interest and expertise. It will also include recommended field gear.


Participants should bring their own lunches and snacks.


Course begins 9 AM on Saturday at North Branch Nature Center and concludes by 5 pm each day. Course concludes by 5 PM on Monday.

Academic Credit / Professional Development

This course may qualify for 1 graduate-level credit for an additional $200 course fee. All BioU courses may be accredited by Castleton University. Participants interested in receiving credit must contact us at one month 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 30 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