A Short History

The Highlands Biological Station was founded in 1927 as a small private research facility by a group of amateur and professional biologists and concerned citizens in the Highlands, North Carolina area. Organized initially as the Highlands Biological Laboratory, Inc., its first laboratory building was built in 1930. The rich diversity of the region attracted researchers working on many different taxa and systems; this led to growing support from the State of North Carolina and the National Science Foundation, with additional labs and dorms built in the 1950s and 60s, land and building acquisition in the 1980s, and further infrastructure and facilities improvements beginning in 2001 and again in 2012.

In the mid-1970s HBS was acquired by the University of North Carolina, and is now administered on behalf of the university system by Western Carolina University. At that time the original non-profit research laboratory was reorganized into the Highlands Biological Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization that remains closely associated with HBS. The Foundation is governed by a 32-member Board of Trustees consisting of academics and members of the Highlands community. Its mission is to raise funds in support of the Station including a research Grant-in-Aid program and annual scholarships to summer courses, which have supported hundreds of researchers and students over the years. The Foundation is sustained by donations, memberships (including a consortium of 28 regional colleges and universities), and fundraising. HBS realizes its mission of education and research broadly through (1) support of scientific research and graduate training, (2) Station-sponsored field-centered courses and hosting visiting academic groups, and (3) diverse outreach programming for regional K-12 schools and the local community and life-long-learners.


The three panels of the HBS logo symbolize the key facets of the Station: The Nature Center is represented by the salamander panel, the Botanical Garden is symbolized by Oconee bells, and the research and educational dimensions of the Station and Foundation are represented by the central panel signifying the ecology of the Highlands Plateau.

Housing and Facilities

The Station is a fully-equipped scientific research station that can house up to 40 people and accommodate a wide variety of research needs.  In the William Chambers Coker Laboratory, major renovations have been recently completed, including significant upgrades to the Station’s walk-in environmental chambers, research labs, office space, and equipment. The Richard C. Bruce Biodiversity Laboratory contains a full molecular lab on the second floor that is suitable for DNA/RNA extraction, quantification, PCR, visualization, and cloning in both independent research and in a classroom setting. Both laboratory buildings also contain ample classroom and seminar space.


Lab and Administration Building © Kevin Fitzpatrick 2016

Funding for Researchers

The Foundation offers grants-in-aid-of-research to pre-doctoral and postdoctoral students and researchers.  For more information, visit the link at the bottom of this page.

Summer Courses and Workshops

We offer intensive courses and workshops in field biology every summer.  The Highlands Biological Foundation offers limited financial aid, typically a subsidy of up to one-half of the course fee, available to no more than one or two qualified students per course.



research facilities

summer courses and workshops