Natural Sciences


Research Takes Students to Panama

Students Angela Golding, Cassidy Yrsha, and Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Christine Palmer joined a group of researchers at Barro Colorado Island, home of a Smithsonian research facility, where they spent ten days collecting and studying katydids.

The Natural Sciences Department at Castleton University combines solid scientific understanding with practical skills and valuable field experiences.

Natural Sciences faculty members involve students in their own professional research projects, such as evolutionary genetic research in plant adaptation, the effects of quercetin and other substances on aerobic performance at high altitude, geological mapping in the Adirondack Mountains, and collecting animal diversity data on Caribbean reefs.

The Natural Sciences Department is known for its friendly and collegial atmosphere and opportunities for students to participate in a variety of activities sponsored by the Student Science Association, Geology Society, and Sigma Zeta Honor Society.

The Natural Sciences Department offers degree programs in:

Internships and Research in Natural Sciences

Internships and other forms of independent study are available for students wishing to deepen their understanding of a particular discipline and better prepare themselves for post-graduate life.

Faculty lead their own field trips, from weekly labs to programs in the Virgin Islands and the Mojave Desert. Many students work with faculty on independent research projects during the academic year and present their work at the annual Castleton Scholars Celebration.

All of our students in the Natural Sciences Department are encouraged to participate in either a relevant internship or research project. An independent research experience provides a basis for deeper understanding of science career choices, improvement of marketable technical and research skills, and experience with communication and the larger scientific community.

College faculty members and all of society benefit from undergraduate student engagement in research. The research mentoring process not only produces new data and scientific understanding, it informs the broader teaching activities of the faculty members and provides a continuing link to the scientific community.

Our faculty have been awarded several grants from the National Institute of Health (via the Vermont Genetics Network), the National Science Foundation (via Vermont EPSCoR), and the United States Geological Survey (ED Map) that been used to purchase state of the art instrumentation and offer paid summer research positions.

Natural Sciences Lab Facilities

The Jeffords Science Center houses teaching laboratory space for lab courses in the Natural Sciences Department as well as dedicated research lab space for conducting student-faculty research.

Research Lab Spaces

  • Computational Chemistry Cluster
  • Environmental Chemistry Lab
  • Exercise Science Lab
  • Microbiology and Genetics Lab
  • Petrology and Tectonics Lab

Teaching lab spaces

  • Anatomy and Physiology Lab
  • Biology/Ecology Lab
  • Exercise Science Lab
  • General Chemistry Lab
  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Lab
  • Geology Lab
  • Microbiology Lab
  • Organic/Analytical Chemistry Lab
  • Physics Lab

Greenhouse & Gardens

The Castleton Greenhouse and Gardens hosts a botanical collection that serves the entire Castleton community as an educational resource for the study, observation, and aesthetic enjoyment of plant specimens from all over the world.

The collection is available to enrich the curriculum across the college community, from biology to art. The outdoor gardens currently include over 100 different species of medicinal, culinary, butterfly, and ornamental plants. Many plants are identified with labels giving common and scientific names.

Inside the greenhouse, the permanent collection resides in the south half of the greenhouse while the north end is used as growing space for class projects. The greenhouse hallway that connects to the Jeffords building provides space for faculty and student research. 

The indoor permanent collection houses over 100 plants that touch our lives every day, including plants that give us food, drink, spices, and fiber. The collection also has specimens that represent major plant adaptations such as aquatic and wetland plants, plants adapted to dry climates (cacti and succulents), and the always-popular orchids and air plants.


Castleton has an active student Greenhouse and Garden Club that has helped fund two major campus improvements: the garden patio that seats 14 and is open to everyone, and a three-season greenhouse that provides students even more growing space.

The Greenhouse and Garden Club engages in a variety of growing and educational opportunities.

  • Grows plants for club plant sales
  • Plan events such as plant sales, greenhouse events, and the spring Greenhouse open house
  • Plan and attend field trips to nurseries and botanical gardens
  • Help develop educational materials for the campus and local community on botanical topics
  • All students, staff and faculty are welcome to join the Greenhouse and Gardens club

For information on joining the club contact Club Advisor Mary Droege.