NS 360 - Winter Ecology & Lab 
Winter Intensive    


Organisms that inhabit northern climes face the incessant challenges of dramatic seasonal changes, intense cold, limited energy resources, reduced light levels, and long-term snow and ice. Winter ecologists investigate physiological and behavioral adaptations of organisms to winter conditions. During this course we survey biotic communities of Vermont from coniferous boreal and deciduous broad-leaved forests, mountains and cold pockets to benthic invertebrates of streams and lakes. 

Winter Ecology
Spring 2013


Faculty:                Jeff Parsons         jeffparsons@gaw.com

                                    Michael Gaige     gaige.michael@gmail.com


Texts:                   Marchand, Peter. 1996. Life in the Cold: An introduction to Winter Ecology.



Campbell, Hyland, and Campbell. 1975. Winter Keys to Woody Plants of Maine.

Heinrich. 2003. Winter World

Rezendes. 1992. Tracking & the Art of Seeing

Other Resources:        

Elbroch. 2003. Mammal Tracks and Sign

McClung and Schaerer. 2006. The Avalanche Handbook.

Note: Selected readings from current periodicals will be available electronically



This four-credit, intensive course combines seminar-style discussions with time spent in the field (including Zealand Hut, NH) and laboratory.  Students should be prepared for fieldwork daily. Snowshoes are required (they maybe rented through Sterling or the Outdoor Center).


Course Objectives: Students will...

  • Observe and explain physiological and behavioral adaptations of organisms to winter conditions.
  • Experience alpine and forested wildlands in winter
  • Compare subnivean and supernivean environments.
  • Apply knowledge of dichotomous keys.
  • Investigate ice-covered lakes and streams, and interpret temperature and dissolved oxygen patterns.
  • Evaluate winter ecology research as reported in current journals.
  • Understand climate patterns and their effect on regional ecosystems.



Winter Ecology entails both process and product assessments, with different elements contributing to student grades as follows:

  • Tracking (15%)
  • Twig collection (10%)
  • Field Journal (15%)
  • Limnology (10%)
  • Research Project (15%)
  • Engagement, participation, attendance (15%)
  • Synthesis Questions (10%)
  • NH Trip (10%)


Detailed expectations will be provided for:

  • Twig identification and key (8-10 woody plant species)
  • Tracks and sign collection
  • Research project
  • Field Journal