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 to 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

 Click here for information about tuition and other fees


Courses (2 weeks)

Biology & Conservation of Birds

May 9-21 with Dr. Richard Bierregaard, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

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

Climate Change Ecology (Cancelled)

May 16-28 with Dr. Robert J. Warren, Buffalo State University

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

Biology of Southern Appalachian Fishes

May 23-June 4 with Dr. Mollie Cashner, Austin Peay State University

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

Biology of Southern Appalachian Salamanders

May 30-June 11 with 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 southern Appalachian 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

Southern Appalachian Mayflies, Stoneflies & Caddisflies

June 6-18 or June 20-July 2 or September 12-24 with Dr. John Morse, Clemson University

First session rescheduled for September 12-24. Our apologies for any inconvenience!

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.  Students may opt to take the Society for Freshwater Science’s Taxonomic Certification exam of eastern EPT to genus at the end of the course ( 

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

Conservation Genetics of Salamanders

June 13-25 with 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

Biology and Conservation of Lichens

June 27-July 9 with Dr. James Lendemer, NY Botanical Garden; Jessica Allen, New York Botanical Garden and The City University of New York

Lichens grow all over the world, from the arctic to the tropics, where they are important as shelter for small invertebrates, and food for animals from snails to caribou. In this course you will have a chance to learn about lichens in one of their centers of diversity, the southern Appalachians. We will take field trips to a variety of habitats to explore the biological and ecological diversity of lichens. Lab work will cover lichen identification, chemistry, and morphology. At the end of the course you will have a new perspective on the diversity, evolution, ecology, and conservation of lichens.

Prerequisites: general biology, ecology or evolution, or permission from instructors. Syllabus

Fleshy Fungi of the Highlands Plateau

July 4-16 with 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 | Schedule

Spiders of the Southern Appalachians

July 11-23 with Dr. Kefyn Catley, Western Carolina University, and Dr. Sarah Stellwagen, US Army Research Laboratory

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

Mammals of the Southern Appalachians

July 18-30 with 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


Workshops & Short Courses

Identification & Ecology of Spring Wildflowers (not for academic credit)

May 2-6 with Dr. Timothy Spira, Clemson University

This course is designed to benefit a wide audience, including college students, amateur naturalists, and wildflower enthusiasts. Participants will learn to identify common (and not-so-common) plants of the southern Appalachian Mountains as well as learn about their ecology and natural history. We will emphasize flowering plants, including both herbaceous and woody species.

Prerequisites: One course in introductory biology or ecology or permission of instructor. Syllabus

Sedges (Carex) of the Blue Ridge

May 16-20 with Dr. 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.

Biology and Diversity of Harvestmen (Opiliones) (Cancelled)

May 23-28 with Dr. Marshal Hedin, San Diego State University, Dr. Jeff Shultz, University of Maryland, Dr. Mercedes Burns, San Diego State University, Shahan Derkarabetian, San Diego State University

The arachnid order Opiliones is a megadiverse group, with almost 50 families and over 6500 species. Most familiar are “daddy longlegs”, but the group also includes many small-bodied cryophilic taxa. This workshop will focus primarily on the harvestmen diversity of the Appalachian fauna, but will also include lectures and seminars on other aspects of biology, such as their unique morphological features and diverse chemical defenses. Participants will collect and identify harvestmen using keys and exemplar specimens, as well as key papers from the primary literature. Daily lectures will provide background for these activities, as well as explorations of various research problems involving harvestmen as model organisms. Evening meetings will focus on current research by the instructors. Regional studies of harvestmen evolution and biogeography will be emphasized.

Prerequisites: introductory biology plus entomology/systematic biology, or permission of instructor. Syllabus

Natural Science Illustration I: Black & White (not for academic credit)

June 20-24 with Dr. Lore Ruttan, Lore Ruttan Illustration

Natural science illustration is the practice of conveying scientific information in an accurate, intuitive and visually appealing manner. Some illustrations, e.g. taxonomic descriptions, are created for a highly specialized audience, while others are used to convey scientific information to the public and still others would be considered fine art.

The primary focus of this course is for students to develop their technical and observational skills while also gaining an appreciation for the history and variety of science illustrations. Instruction will be given in three main types of traditional black and white media; graphite, pen and ink, and scratchboard. Over the course of five days, students will observe and draw a variety of natural objects using these three media. Classes meet for six hours a day and students should expect to spend some of their evenings completing assignments.  Choice of subject matter is open and students are encouraged to pursue topics of particular relevance to their academic studies.

Prerequisites: The course is open to students at all levels of skill and prior experience and can be repeated. Syllabus | Materials

Natural Science Illustration II: Color (not for academic credit)

June 27-July 1 with Dr. Lore Ruttan, Lore Ruttan Illustration

Natural science illustration is the practice of conveying scientific information in an accurate, intuitive and visually appealing manner. Some illustrations, e.g. taxonomic descriptions, are created for a highly specialized audience, while others are used to convey scientific information to the public and still others would be considered fine art.

The primary focus of this course is for students to develop their skills using colored media. Colored pencil and watercolor are the media of choice for many botanical artists and wildlife artists and so we will focus on these two techniques. Classes meet for six hours a day and students should expect to spend some of their evening time completing assignments.  Students may bring photographic reference material for paintings and/or plan to work with the beautiful materials on view at the Highlands Biological Station.

Prerequisites: The course is open to students at all levels of skill and prior experience. This class may be repeated. Syllabus | Materials

Gardening with Native Plants in Highlands (not for academic credit)

July 11-15 with Dr. Larry Mellichamp, UNC-Charlotte

The best way to grow native plants in a garden setting is by understanding each plant’s requirements in nature. First, students will learn to identify common wildflowers, trees and shrubs of field, forest, and roadside using Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. This workshop will focus on what habitat factors define where plants grow, and look to see how these factors can be found (or created) in the botanical gardens of the Highlands Biological Station. Students will examine the underground parts of plants and see how they grow, followed by thinning-out and transplanting as part of a limited exercise in garden maintenance. Of primary concerns are site selection and propagation for showy native species of the Highlands region.

Prerequisites: No prior experience is necessary.

Rock Outcrop and Cliff Face Communities of the Southern Appalachians

July 25-29 with Dr. Gary Walker, Appalachian State University; Laura Boggess, Mars Hill University

Granite outcrop and cliff face communities represent a small fraction of land area in the southern Appalachians but contain a disproportionately large number of endemic plant species and unique community types. This workshop will encourage students to become familiar with the cliff-face and rock-outcrop literature as well as allowing first-hand exploration of these unique habitats. We will spend part of each day exploring some of the many rocky habitats in the Highlands area. Students will gain a better understanding of the diversity, ecology and conservation value of southern Appalachian outcrop and cliff communities.

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

Literary Journeys Through the Western North Carolina Landscape (Cancelled)

Due to unforeseen health issues, we regretfully must cancel this course. Please join us next time!

August 15-19 with Mr. Brent Martin, The Wilderness Society

The purpose of the course is to introduce the participant to the rich literature of western North Carolina and to explore the role of landscape within the literary arts. It is also an opportunity to learn more about the writing process of individual writers of place, and to practice place based writing as a participant. Students are expected to have read all assigned readings prior to attending the class, as there will be daily discussions on the assigned readings both within class and with authors. The class will meet each morning for discussion, and then leave for afternoon meetings and field trips with authors. There will also be short writing exercises each day, with an opportunity to share those writings with the class at the end of the week. Students should expect to finish the course with a general knowledge of the region’s literary significance along with its literary history and traditions, along with a keener sense of the power of place from wherever they may hail.

Prerequisites: None. Read all assigned readings prior to attending the class. Syllabus

Credit information: This workshop can be taken for one undergraduate credit (HIST 493) or one graduate credit (HIST 593) through WCU (an additional credit fee applies).



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

Workshop fee:  $400 total per workshop ($350 for students seeking credit; $300 for students from HBS member institutions in good standing)

Course credit fee: Summer courses can be taken for 4 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 four 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 two 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.