MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury College has named a 60-acre parcel on the eastern edge of campus in honor of Professor Emeritus of Biology and Environmental Studies Steve Trombulak, who retired in 2019 after a 34-year career. Faculty, students, and alumni gathered for a dedication reception on October 25 at Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest.

Professor Emeritus Steve Trombulak wearing field gear on a fall day at the Trombulak Nature Sanctuary.
Professor Emeritus of biology and environmental studies Steve Trombulak describes features of the Nature Sanctuary during a hike in October 2022. (Credit: Paul Dahm )

“This is a fitting tribute to Steve, who loved this land, recognized its teaching potential, and derived important migratory bird data from his and his students’ work there,” said Marc Lapin, associate laboratory professor and College lands conservationist. “We’re pleased to include a nature sanctuary in our wider land stewardship efforts and hope that current and future generations of Middlebury faculty and students connect to the beauty and rich educational experiences the sanctuary can provide.”  

The Stephen C. Trombulak Nature Sanctuary, with its rich biodiversity along the Otter Creek, offered a living research lab for Trombulak and his students, who banded more than 70 species of birds, including two-thirds of the warbler species known to live in Vermont. Generations of Middlebury science students participated in his predawn treks to the area each fall for six weeks of bird banding.

The sanctuary includes state-significant natural communities, especially a floodplain forest, along with shrubland and early successional forest habitats. Trombulak initially developed the site as a teaching and research natural area for his vertebrate natural history course, which he taught from 1985 until his retirement. The primary focus of his curriculum there was running the bird banding station with his students, in association with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, throughout fall migration each year.

Three people hike through the Trombulak Nature Sanctuary just east of the Middlebury College Campus.
The Stephen C. Trombulak Nature Sanctuary is managed by the College to conserve wildlife habitat, natural communities, wetlands functions, and other ecosystem services. (Credit: Paul Dahm )

The sanctuary was also the focus of numerous other field studies by Trombulak’s classes and those of other faculty for the study of small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, carbon sequestration, and wetland function.

Located less than a mile south of the center of the town of Middlebury, the sanctuary is bordered by Otter Creek on the east and railroad tracks to the west. The Trail Around Middlebury (TAM) divides the sanctuary into northern and southern portions. The TAM is a public-access recreational path maintained by the Middlebury Area Land Trust, but the old road is owned by Middlebury College and predates the TAM.

The sanctuary is managed by the College to conserve wildlife habitat, natural communities, wetlands functions, and other ecosystem services. The area is primarily a place for nature, yet important human uses include teaching, research, nature connection, and wildlife viewing.

Members of the public are allowed to enter the area, but only at their own risk and with the understanding that nothing present there is to be disturbed, including all natural features, equipment, and location markings. Collections of any kind are prohibited.

The Trombulak Sanctuary is part of Middlebury’s greater land stewardship efforts. For more information about the sanctuary, including its habitat features, natural history, and a trail map, click here.