Valerie Banschbach Profile


Dr. Valerie S. Banschbach

Professor - Environmental Studies

Chair - Environmental Studies

Department: Environmental Studies
Office: 107 Annex (Courthouse)



Ph. D. University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida

B.A. Pomona College, Claremont, California

Research & Teaching Interests

Wildlife conservation; animal behavior; agro-ecology; social insects (esp. ants and bees); tropical ecology; pedagogy and curriculum development in environmental studies and science; entrepreneurship for scientists

Scholarly Activities

U.S. Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Wildlife Institute of India, July 2013 - December 2013, Uttarakhand.  Taught graduate-level Wildlife Science courses. Conducted research on ants as bioindicators of the impacts of organic farming.  My blog about the Fulbright experience and work is available at:

Environmental Studies Program Director, Saint Michael's College, Colchester, Vermont.  2010-2013.  Led the development of a new Environmental Studies Program at the College and became its founding director.

Chair of the Biology Department, Saint Michael's College, Colchester, Vermont.  2005 - 2010.  Served two terms as Chair of one of the largest departments at the College.

Research on ants as bioindicators in a fire-dependent, threatened ecosystems: Sandplain forest in Vermont.  Since 2010, I have studied the ant biodiversity of burned and unburned plots of land in one of the most threatened forest types in the Northeastern United States, sandplain pine-oak-heath forest.  This work is done in collaboration with the Vermont Army National Guard who own and manage the largest remaining parcel of sandplain forest in the state of Vermont.  I have engaged 9 undergraduates in this work, and we have presented invited lectures, posters and talks at regional and national conferences in the USA and in India about the work. A peer-reviewed journal article describing some of our results appeared in the Northeastern Naturalist in 2014.  In 2015, I worked with a Roanoke College student who received a Summer Scholar grant to and accompanied me to Vermont for fieldwork for his project for Honors in the Environmental Studies major.

Research on ants as bioindicators in agro-ecosystems.  I began this work as a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar collaborating with researchers at the Wildlife Institute of India and at Navdanya, an NGO founded by Dr. Vandana Shiva.  To date I have studied ant communities of rice paddies in Uttarakhand.  Ongoing work will include the study of the roles of ants in local agroecosystems in Virginia. In Summer 2016, I am working with students on the ant communities of community gardens in urban and suburban settings to address the question of how urban biodiversity is affected by garden projects.


Elected and served as a public school board member and board chair in the Underhill ID District, Jericho, Vermont, for 6 years.

Hiking and outdoor exploration.  Travel. Yoga.

Recent Publications

*Denotes undergraduate co-author.

Banschbach, V.S. 2016. Small liberal arts colleges foster success in STEM and Entomology.  American Entomologist 62(2):125-126. Summer 2016. Invited as part of peer- reviewed symposium: Partnering with Liberal Arts Colleges.  Edited by K. Larsen, D. Howard and C. Hall.

Banschbach, V.S. and *E. Ogilvy.  2014.  Long-term impacts of controlled burns on the Ant Community (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of a Sandplain Forest in Vermont.  Northeastern Naturalist. 21(1): NENHC-1-NENHC-12.

Banschbach, V.S., *Yeamans, R.L., *Brunelle, A., *Gulka, A. and *M. Holmes. 2012. Edge effects on community and social structure of Northern temperate deciduous forest ants. Psyche. vol. 2012, Article ID 548260, 7 pages, doi:10.1155/2012/548260.  Available at:

Banschbach, V.S. and R. Letovsky. 2011.  Teaming Environmental Biology and Business Administration Seniors on “Green” Enterprise Plans at Saint Michael's College, Colchester, VT.  Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.  Available at:

Banschbach, V.S. and R. Letovsky.  2010.  The use of corn and sugarcane to produce ethanol fuel: A fermentation experiment for environmental studies.  American Biology Teacher, 72(1): 31 – 36.


Recent Presentations

*Denotes undergraduate co-author.

Organizer, Chair and Presenter in a session at the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences Annual National Meeting in Washington, D.C. on "Teaching about Animals in Environmental Studies: Collaboration across Disciplines, Empathy across Species”.  June 2016.  The session featured presentations by four scholars and three co-authors who spoke about case studies and connections in pedagogy across the fields of Environmental Studies and Human-Animal Studies. 

1. Council of Independent Colleges of Virginia, Solar Market Workshop for Curriculum Development, Presented with W. Mackay Pierce*, “Engaging  the College Community in the Movement toward Solar: Co-Curricular Efforts” at Marymount University, Washington D.C.
2. Entomological Society of America, National Meeting, Minneapolis, MN.
a) Invited presentation, “Standing out in a Crowd: How a Liberal Arts Education   Gives Students the Edge in Graduate School” at the, in a Member Symposium entitled, “Partnering with Liberal Arts Colleges”, Co-authors:  Abagail Davis* and Tyler Quigley* 
b) Co-author on Abagail Davis*’s contributed poster presentation, “Ant Communities of Cornfields in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia” at the Entomological Society of America, National     Meeting, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

Entomological Society of America, National Meeting, Portland, OR:
1. Presented a talk entitled, “Ant diversity in organic versus conventional rice paddies of Uttarakhand, India”, co-author: V. P. Uniyal, Wildlife Institute of India; Selected for a Member Symposium entitled, “Design and Management of Agroecosystems for Functional Biodiversity.” 
2. Co –author on Hillary Miller*’s poster presentation “Impacts of a Controlled Burn on Foraging Behavior of Ants in a Sandplain Forest in Vermont.”

1. Indian 10th National Symposium on Soil Biology, Ecology, Sustainable Agriculture and Social Insects.  National meeting of Indian Society of Soil Biology & Ecology and the Indian section of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects;  GKVK Campus of Univ. of Ag. Sciences, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.  Oral presentation entitled, “Ants as Bioindicators of Forest and Agro-ecosystem Health”.  
2. Invited presentation to the Dept. of Entomology, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Lecture entitled “Ants as Bioindicators of Forest and Agro-Ecosystem Health” 
3. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Uttarkhand, India.  Guest lecture on “Invertebrate Monitoring” in Training Program for Forest Officers from Bangladesh and Vietnam, primarily.
4. Invited Presentation at the Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.  Lecture entitled “Ants as Bioindicators: A Case Study from the USA and Ongoing Work in India”
5. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Uttarkhand, India.  Led workshop on “Ecological Importance of Ants” for Indian Forest Service Officers in a Conservation Biology Training Program.
6. Northeast Natural History Conference, Springfield, Massachusetts.  Oral Presentation entitled “Ant diversity in burned versus unburned sandplain forest in Vermont”.  Co-author Emily Ogilvy*.




Available as a Media resource for the following topics

Environmental issues.  Conservation of biodiversity.  Insects: ants, bees and wasps in particular.  Animal cognition, emotions and welfare. Impacts of forest fire. Agriculture and food, including organic farming.  Corn and sugarcane as biofuels. Environmental education.

Willing to speak to professional, social or civic groups on

Wildlife conservation.  Animal cognition, emotional capacities, and welfare.  Organic farming and food issues, with a focus on India and/or Vermont.  Ants: ecological and economic importance; use as bioindicators of ecosystem health.  Travel, teaching and research on wildlife and agriculture in India, as a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar. Behavior of social insects: ants, bees and wasps.  Forest restoration via fire.