The Station offers several courses each summer at the advanced undergraduate/graduate level dealing with the ­special biological features of the southern Appalachians and with areas of study that are appropriate for investigation at a mountain field station.  Credit for all courses is available through either UNC-Chapel Hill or Western Carolina University.  Students may take courses for credit through these institutions and then transfer the credit to their home institution.  In addition to our regular summer courses, HBS often schedules one-week workshops that are tailored for non-traditional students.  These workshops provide opportunities for in-depth study of special topics of relevance to the southern Appalachians and are open to the general public.  Workshops, costs, and additional information can be found on this page below the course offerings.  Special events and occasional one-day educator workshops are also offered for teacher recertification credit (Science CEU), or NC Environmental Education Critera II credit, by the Nature Center.

Note: Workshops have the option to meet on the Saturday during the week that they are scheduled.  Please check the syllabi that interest you for questions about scheduling.

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On this page:

  1. Course schedule
  2. Workshop schedule
  3. Costs



Biology & Conservation of Birds

May 12-24 – Dr. Richard Bierregaard, UNC-Charlotte

Bird diversity is extremely high in the southern Appalachian mountain and Blue Ridge Escarpment region, an area that includes a wide range of plant community types over a nearly 4000-foot range in elevation.  This basic course in ornithology covers morphology, systematics, ecology, conservation, and behavior of birds.  Numerous field trips in the local area will acquaint students with the rich bird fauna of the region.

Prerequisites: Introductory biology, ecology, or permission of instructor. Syllabus.


Mammals of the Southern Appalachians

May 26-June 7 – Dr. Edward B. Pivorun, Clemson University

The southern Appalachian mountains support the richest mammalian fauna in eastern North America, from tiny shrews and bats to large carnivores and ungulates.  This advanced zoology course combines lectures with field and laboratory exercises designed to expose students to the remarkable diversity and importance of mammals in the southern mountain region, focusing on aspects of mammalian habitat requirements, reproductive and foraging behaviors, evolutionary relationships, and roles in regional ecosystems.

Prerequisites: Introductory biology, ecology, or permission of instructor.  Syllabus.


Climate Change Ecology

May 26-June 7 – Dr. Robert J. Warren, Buffalo State

Historical climate regimes, from early Tertiary tropical conditions to Pleistocene ice ages, have contributed to the distribution and legendary richness of species and communities in the southern Appalachians. We will examine how southern Appalachian biological communities may shift in location, composition and phenology as the current global climate rapidly warms. The course will include lecture and multiple field trips to locations that will illustrate past and present links between species (e.g., flowering plants, ants, salamanders, trees), ecological communities (e.g., spruce-fir forests, ephemeral herbs) and climate (temperature and precipitation).  Students will learn how to assess and quantify ecological effects of climate change, including the use of phenology gardens and construction of passive warming chambers.

Prerequisites: General biology, ecology, or permission of instructor. Syllabus.


Field Methods in Medical Entomology

June 9-21 – Dr. Brian Byrd, Western Carolina University

This course focuses on the natural history, taxonomy, collection, and preservation of arthropods of medical importance that are found in the Southern Appalachians.  Students will participate in a class field project investigating the ecology of rock pool mosquitoes within the Chattooga River watershed. Intensive field and laboratory exercises will accompany didactic instruction.  This course is designed for advanced students and K-12 educators with a strong biological background. Students should be prepared for moderate hiking and traversing some riverine environments.

Prerequisites: General biology, ecology, or permission of instructor. Syllabus.


Biology of Plethodontid Salamanders

June 921 Dr. Joseph Pechmann, Western Carolina University, and Dr. Kenneth Kozak, University of Minnesota

The southern Appalachians are renowned for the diversity of their salamander fauna.  This course acquaints students with plethodontid salamanders and shows how studies of these animals have enhanced our understanding of such major evolutionary and ecological topics as the reconstruction of evolutionary histories, species concepts, life history evolution, and community structure.  Each topic will include lectures, field and laboratory exercises, and discussions of original research papers.  Field trips to significant salamander locations in different southern Appalachian mountain ranges highlight the course.

Prerequisites: Introductory biology, ecology, or permission of instructor.  Syllabus.


Biology of Southern Appalachian Fishes

June 23-July 5 – Dr. Mollie Cashner, APSU

The southern Appalachians supports one of the richest fresh water fish faunas in North America and is part of an extensive southern/southwestern area that has well over 600 species. This larger region has been compared to a tropical rain forest in terms of its diversity, which is not equaled by any other temperate area. The course will focus on the biology, evolution, biogeography and diversity of fishes primarily in the Southern Appalachians. During this course students will collect fishes from Appalachian streams, identify fishes in the field and lab, and conduct behavioral observations both underwater and at bank side. Daily lectures will enhance and compliment the field experiences.

Prerequisites: General biology, ecology, or permission of instructor.  Syllabus.


Conservation Genetics of Salamanders

July 7-19 – Dr. Joseph Apodaca, Warren Wilson College

The field of conservation genetics is rapidly emerging as an exceedingly vital component of conservation biology. This course focuses on salamanders, one of the most endangered vertebrate groups in the world, to immerse students in the fundamentals and cutting edge techniques, theories, and issues surrounding conservation genetics. Throughout the course, students will become familiar with how to design, carry out, and interpret a conservation genetics study. Students will also become acquainted with commonly used laboratory techniques and current literature pertaining to the conservation genetics of salamanders.

Prerequisites: General biology, ecology, or permission of instructor. Syllabus.


Spiders of the Southern Appalachians

July 7-19 – Dr. Kefyn Catley, Western Carolina University

This course will present a comprehensive introduction to spider systematics, morphology, behavior, physiology, and ecology. Afternoons are devoted to fieldwork, with the objective of assembling a significant collection of the extraordinarily rich local spider fauna while studying spider ecology and behavior. Most evenings will be available for students to work on identification.  Working in small groups students will be required to undertake a short, supervised self-selected research project investigating some aspect of spider biology, the results of which will be shared at the end of the course.

Prerequisites: Introductory biology, ecology, or permission of instructor. Syllabus.


Southern Appalachian Mayflies, Stoneflies & Caddisflies

July 21-Aug. 2; or Aug. 4-16Dr. John Morse, Clemson University

Natural history and taxonomy of mayflies (Ephemeroptera), stoneflies (Plecoptera), and caddisflies (Trichoptera), including systematics, ecology, and behavior of larvae and adults, with emphasis on those aspects important in ecological studies, biological monitoring of water quality, and sport fishing.  Insects will be collected from diverse mountain stream habitats, and identifications will be performed in the laboratory.

Prerequisites: General biology, ecology, or permission of instructor.  Syllabus (section 1); Syllabus (section 2).


*full* Fleshy Fungi of the Highlands Plateau

Aug. 4-16 – Dr. Andrew S. Methven, Eastern Illinois University

This course introduces students to the fleshy ascomycetes and basidiomycetes that occur in the southern Appalachian Mountains.  Emphasis will be placed on the analysis of macro- and micro-morphological features to aid in species identification.  Course activities will consist of a morning lecture on identification, ecology, and phylogeny of fleshy fungi, followed by field work in morning and laboratory identification in the afternoon.  Students will assemble an impressive field collection showcasing the rich diversity of fleshy fungi found in the Highlands region.

Prerequisites: Introductory biology, ecology, or permission of instructor. Syllabus.



Introduction to Natural Science Illustration

May 5-9Lore Ruttan, Lore Ruttan Illustration

Natural science illustration is the practice of conveying information about nature in an accurate, intuitive and visually appealing manner. In this course, you will be given help developing your own representational skills as well as instruction on the use of graphite, colored pencil, and if time permits, stippling with pen and ink. If weather permits, we will spend part of each day working outside and part working in the studio. Students can choose to work on a broad variety of natural subjects including plants, birds, insects, bones, or even rocks! The course is open to students at all levels of skill and prior experience and can be repeated. A list of required supplies will be provided upon registration.

Prerequisites: None. Click here for the materials list and syllabus.


*full* Sedges (Carex) of the Southern Appalachians

May 19-23Dr. Dwayne Estes, Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) and Austin Peay State University

This course focuses on the large complex genus Carex (sedges) of the greater Southern Appalachian region. Students will be provided with fresh samples of more than 100 species that can be used to develop a personal reference herbarium. In doing so, they will learn to recognize the 36 taxonomic sections most commonly encountered in the region. Much time will be spent learning characteristics and terminology of these sections for quick lab and field identification. Approximately 75% of this course will be dedicated to identifying species and sections in the laboratory using a dissecting microscope and taxonomic keys. Field trips to local natural areas will supplement lab study by training students to recognize common species. In addition, the distribution and habitat will be discussed for each species covered in the class. This course is designed for professional biologists, naturalists, and advanced undergraduate/graduate students that have had some formal coursework in plant taxonomy or field botany and who are experienced with dichotomous keys. No previous experience with sedges is required. This is a very demanding course that will require approximately 12 hours of work per day for the five-day course.

Prerequisites: General biology, ecology, or permission of instructor. Syllabus.


Literary Journeys through the Western North Carolina Landscape: An exploration in cultural and natural history through fiction, non-fiction, and poetry

June 2-6Mr. Brent Martin, Wilderness Society

The purpose of the course is to introduce the participant to the rich literature of a particular Appalachian landscape, and, in a general sense, to explore the role of landscape within the literary arts.

Prerequisites: None.  Syllabus.

Credit information: This workshop can be taken for one undergraduate credit (HIST 493) or one graduate credit (HIST 593)  through WCU ($85 plus a one-time $50 application fee).


Buds, Berries & Bark: Wild shrub identification and natural history in the Highlands region

July 21-25 – Dr. Larry Mellichamp, UNC-Charlotte

Shrubs in the Southern Appalachians! They are all around you when you hike, mysterious and looking all alike. Yet they are as distinctive as the trees when you know what to look for. They provide the understory for the forest, cover the rocks, carpet the mountain wildlands, colonize the roadside, and reveal aspects of the habitat. They provide nuts and berries for humans and wildlife, nectar and pollen for insects and birds, cover for small animals, and fabulous fall colors. Plus, they are becoming more sought after for the home landscape. In this course you will learn to identify most of the native shrubs (common and rare) of the region in the field, learn something of their natural history and relationships, and tune in the beauty of their flowers, foliage and fruits. The course is aimed at students and laypersons interested in learning the flora and seeing what can be grown at home. Syllabus.


Butterflies & Moths of the Southern Appalachians

July 21-25 (Celebrate National Moth Week!) – Dr. David Alsop, Professor Emeritus, Queens College

Required text: “Butterflies of the Carolinas” by Jaret C. Daniels: ISBN: 1-59193-007-3,

The order Lepidoptera is truly diverse; in fact, there have been 176 species of butterflies and 869 species of moths recorded in North Carolina alone, according to Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA). This workshop will explore the diversity and identification of members of the insect order Lepidoptera. In order to gain quick visual identification of various butterfly families, prepared specimens of the families will be made available together with a discussion of the differences in flight habits of the various families. There will be afternoon collecting (mainly butterflies, but also some day-flying moths) and evening collecting (mainly moths) using black lights. The techniques for spreading Lepidoptera will be discussed.


Introduction to Southern Appalachian Insects

July 28-Aug. 1 – Dr. David Alsop, Professor Emeritus, Queens College

Required Text: “A Field Guide to the Insects of America North of Mexico” by D.J. Borrer and R.E. White: Peterson Field Guide #19.

This workshop will explore the most commonly seen and collected insects in the local area. Methods for preserving and identifying insects will be discussed. Environmental constraints on the localities in which insects will occur will be discussed. There will be afternoon collecting and evening “black light” collecting to demonstrate the great diversity of insects available around the research station.

E-mail: david_alsop(at)



Course fee:  $700 total per two-week course ($600 for students from HBS member institutions in good standing)

Workshop fee:  $350 total per workshop ($300 for students from HBS member institutions in good standing)

Course credit fee: Summer courses can be taken for 3 semester hours credit and workshops can be taken for one hour credit.  Receiving credit for these courses is optional.  Courses are accredited by your choice of UNC-Chapel Hill or Western Carolina University, and are usually transferable to other universities and colleges.

Courses are offered for 3 semester hours of credit through UNC-Chapel Hill (undergraduate credit) or Western Carolina University (undergraduate for current WCU students only; or graduate credit for all students).

Workshops may be taken for one semester hours of credit through Western Carolina University.  The fee is $55 per workshop plus a $50 application fee for non-WCU students.

Undergraduate credit:

UNC-Chapel Hill (non-UNC students may receive through UNC and then have it transferred to their home institution):  $55

Western Carolina University (WCU):  $55 (for current WCU students only)

Graduate credit:

WCU: $85 per course plus an additional $55 application fee that applies to non-WCU students (for a total of $135)

Housing fee:  $75-125 per week, depending on accommodations (optional)

Financial Aid:  The Highlands Biological Foundation, Inc. offers limited financial aid, typically a subsidy for a portion of the course fee, available to qualified students.  Contact the Station at 828-526-2602 for further information.