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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 short 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: Courses and 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.
Creatively Communicating Biology & Ecology
May 8-13 with Dr. Hannah Rogers, Columbia University
Writing is fundamental to the practice of science. We observe, think, and write about individual organisms, ecosystems, patterns and anomalies, to record our findings, and to reach broader publics. This course will aim to make students better writers as they communicate both inside specialist knowledge communities and with other citizens. The course will introduce a variety of writers, past and present, who have worked on environmental and ecological topics and consider the careful observations writers have made about the natural world. Social media, creative non-fiction, video clips, graphical images, and podcasts have joined more traditional journalistic accounts in print media as the means by which science communicates with the public. Many of these methods are increasingly important as interscience communication as videos have become a major means of sharing data. At the same time, imagination is still shaping science in areas like nature writing, critical design, eco-art, and science fiction, and these genres offer important ways to think about the capacity for feedback in science communication. In this course, students will experience the field station environment of Highlands and use these experiences to create a portfolio using a range of science communication genres from websites and podcasts to environmental journalism pieces to share new information, begin conversations about scientific ideas, consider hooks and approaches to create audience interest, and think both practically and theoretically about the best ways to communicate science.
Darwin and the Origin of Species: A Field Course
May 8-20 with Dr. James Costa, Western Carolina University & Highlands Biological Station
Charles Darwin’s epochal treatise On the Origin of Species is often cited but seldom read, even by biologists. I have taught a seminar-style course on the Origin for nearly 20 years, yielding The Annotated Origin (Harvard, 2009), my annotated facsimile of the1st edition of the Origin designed to guide readers through the historical context, structure, and content of Darwin’s masterwork. Many readers of the Origin are surprised at the extent to which Darwin backed up the Origin‘s arguments with novel observations and data from a diversity of home-spun experiments. Traditional campus-based versions of this course offer little time to pursue these. In this first-time field station offering of my Darwin course we will read and discuss the Origin in its entirety, but also build upon the readings with daily “Darwin-inspired” lab and field investigations. Following Darwin’s lead, we will repeat key observations and replicate or emulate a host of Darwin’s insightful experiments, thereby coming to a deeper understanding of Darwin’s method and genius.
Prerequisites: Introductory biology, introductory ecology/evolution, or permission of instructor. Syllabus
Landscape Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians
May 15-27 with Dr. Bill Peterman, The Ohio State University
Amphibians are among the most imperiled taxa globally, with habitat loss and degradation posing the greatest threats. Landscape ecology and conservation biology provide an appropriate lens to address these threats. This course will provide an overview of landscape ecology and conservation biology principles as they pertain to amphibian ecology and life history. Students will gain an understanding of course topics through lecture, discussion of primary literature, as well as hands-on GIS exercises and field excursions. There will be an emphasis on the salamander diversity of the Southern Appalachians throughout the course.
Prerequisites: Herpetology or Vertebrate Biology; Ecology or Behavioral Ecology or Population Biology; or permission of instructor.
Grasses (Poaceae) of the Southern Appalachians
May 22-27 with Dr. Paul McKenzie, US Fish & Wildlife Service
This class will include a detailed description of the grass flower, inflorescence type, habitat and ecological associations, Tribal affinities, distribution, and habit differences. The class will be taught in four parts: 1) power point presentation and classroom instruction, 2) examination of important features with hand lens and dissecting scope, 3) team keying of grass specimens, and 4) field identification. Dichotomous keys, hard copy print outs of power point presentation, and other handouts will be provided by the instructor. Tips for proper collection; processing; label development; herbaria deposition of grass specimens; and suggested websites/electronic tools helpful in grass study will also be discussed.
Biology & Identification of Ferns
May 29-June 3 with Dr. Joey Shaw, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga
During this course, students will obtain a comprehensive understanding of the seedless vascular plants (the pteridophytes, including the ferns and fern allies). Within the framework of classification, taxonomy, and evolution, we will dive deeply into studies of life cycles, morphology, basic anatomy, ecology, taxonomy, and nomenclature. We will take daily field trips within the Southern Appalachians to collect, bring back to the laboratory, and identify numerous pteridophyte species. The majority of our time will be spent either collecting in the field or keying species in the laboratory; that is, we will use the exercise of keying collected plants to species and in so doing we will learn the important characters for identifying Southern Appalachian pteridophytes. Students will be encouraged to assemble reference collections and the last hours of the course will be spent assembling these collections. We will use various sources for species identification, but the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee will be the main key for species identification.
Prerequisites & Prior Training: This course is designed for professional biologists, naturalists, and undergraduate/graduate students who have an interest in ferns, plant taxonomy, or field botany and who have some experience with dichotomous keys. No previous experience with ferns is required. Depending on the different field trips, participants should be prepared to put in at least a couple of 12-hour days.
Flora of the Blue Ridge
June 5-17 with Dr. Paul Manos, Duke University
The course is designed for students of all sorts, professional biologists, and amateur enthusiasts. The goals are to introduce plant diversity with a community based approach through field observations of the flora of the Blue Ridge: to emphasize basic distinguishing features among lycophytes, ferns and seed plants; to focus on field characteristics of common and rare species and their habitats; to use keys and field collections to identify species; and to better understand the ecology of the major plant communities of the region.
Prerequisites: One course in introductory biology or ecology.
June 12-24 with Dr. Thomas Martin, Western Carolina University
The purpose of this course is to provide a basic understanding of the ecology of individual organisms, populations, communities, and systems. The field/lab component will focus on ecological sampling, modeling, and data analysis, interpretation, and reporting. A typical day will consist of two sessions, the first beginning at 8:00 AM, the second after lunch. Each session may begin with lecture & discussion, but will also involve lab and/or field experience that takes advantage of our location in the southern Appalachian highlands.
Prerequisites: Introductory/general biology.
Conservation Biology in the Field
June 26-July 8 with Dr. Peter White, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
This course has two objectives: to go over all of the biological science that informs successful conservation efforts and to apply and illustrate this science while living and learning in one of the world’s hot spots of biological diversity, the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Conservation biology seeks principles for all fields of biology: genetics, population biology, ecology, and evolution. On the one hand, conservation biology is an applied field, but, on the other it is aimed at the basic understanding of how nature works. We will find that there are interesting unanswered questions to ponder as we think about the research questions of the future. We will discuss conservation ethics, the definition of biological diversity, patterns of species richness, island biogeography, population genetics, population biology and modeling, metapopulations, and community and ecosystem ecology. We will spend time both in the classroom and in the out-of-doors along the mountain trails so accessible in the Highlands area.
Prerequisites: Generally I have advised general biology and a sophomore level class in ecology as a starting point, but many students–particularly those that are interested in the subject matter–have done very well, so no prerequisites (email email@example.com if you have questions about this).
Introduction to Southern Appalachian Fungi
July 17-29 with Dr. Rich Baird, Mississippi State University, and Jay Justice, Arkansas Mycological Society
This course is designed to familiarize the beginning mushroom enthusiast with the biology and ecology of fleshy fungi within the different forest types of Highlands and the surrounding area. Students will learn the basics of macrofungi identification to genus level, using selected keys for macroscopic and microscopic features. Students will practice using microscopes and preparing slides in order to become proficient with using microscopes and preparing fungal tissues properly for identification. Daily activities will include lectures and field trips followed by laboratory time for the remainder of each day. Training obtained from this course will provide a firm foundation for those students that choose to take the advanced two-week course on fleshy fungi at HBS taught by Dr. Andrew Methven during alternate years.
Prerequisites & Prior Training: This course is designed for amateur-minded biologists, naturalists and undergraduate/graduate students that have had field biology or botany courses and exposure to dichotomous keys and microscopes. No previous experience with fleshy fungi is necessary. Willingness to work long full days and into the evenings as needed.
Forest Ecosystems of the Southern Appalachians
July 24-August 5 with Dr. Stephanie Jeffries, North Carolina State University, Dr. Alan Weakley, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Dr. Julie Tuttle, Duke University
This course will teach students how to read the forested landscapes of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Understanding the patterns and processes in forested ecosystems will require students to focus on vegetation, with an emphasis on natural communities. We’ll introduce topics such as biogeography, paleo-ecology, classification of vegetation, regional environmental patterns, succession and community dynamics, vegetation/environmental relationships, and current threats to the integrity of these systems across a variety of field sites, which will take us on two multi-day field trips away from the Station. We expect students to actively immerse themselves in the fascinating ecology of the southern Appalachian Mountains, through their enthusiastic participation, keen observation, and careful field notes.
Special Note: We will go on a few overnight trips during this course which will require off-site lodging. Students must pay these extra lodging fees ($75, subject to change) when you pay for the course.
Prerequisites: an introductory, college-level ecology course, or permission of the instructors.
Southern Appalachian Mayflies, Stoneflies, & Caddisflies
July 31-August 12 with Dr. 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. 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 (http://www.sfstcp.com/).
Prerequisites: General biology, ecology, or permission of instructor.
Wetland Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachians
This course will introduce students to the various wetland communities of the Southern Appalachians. We will focus on classification of different types of wetlands using hydrogeomorphic and vegetation-based systems. Wetland types to be studied include bogs, fens, seeps, meadows, marshes, swamps, and flatwoods. Within each type, we will focus on field identification of wetland plants, with an emphasis on dominant species, rare species of conservation concern, and invasive species. Students should expect to learn 200-300 wetland species during this course. For the various wetland types, we will also discuss abiotic characteristics, biogeography, paleo-ecology, succession, and conservation concerns. This class is a 100% field class with all instruction time spent in the field on long fieldtrips. Grading will consist of periodic field quizzes.
Special Note: We will spend two nights away from the Highlands Biological Station campus which will require off-site lodging. Students must pay these extra lodging fees ($75, subject to change) when you pay for the course.
Prerequisites: introductory, college-level courses in ecology and field botany, or permission of the instructors.
Workshops (not available for credit)
Wildflowers and Waterfalls
May 1-5 with Dr. Timothy Spira, Clemson University
Waterfalls are natural magnets for hikers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts. The constantly falling water, sparkling light, and swirling spray associated with waterfalls is exhilarating, soothing, and inspiring. In this course, we will discuss the lure of waterfalls, including the plants associated with the spray cliff community, as well as a selection of interesting wildflowers one might encounter on several waterfall hikes in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Mountains Piled Upon Mountains: Exploring western North Carolina through William Bartram’s Travels
May 15-20 with Brent Martin, The Wilderness Society
The renowned 18th century naturalist and artist William Bartram provides western North Carolina with one of our most important literary and artistic renderings of this landscape with his 1791 publication, Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws. Participants will explore the western North Carolina landscape and writings of William Bartram through daily field trips, readings, and meetings with authors. At the end of the week, students will have experienced the landscape of Travels firsthand and will have gained insight into the 18th century literary and intellectual world of Bartram, along with the cultural and natural history of western North Carolina at that time. Syllabus
Macrophotography: A Bug’s-Eye View of Nature
June 5-9 with Dr. Kefyn Catley, Western Carolina University
This weeklong workshop focuses on the intersection of art and science as exemplified by the non-trivial task of making successful photographs of insects and other arthropods in their natural habitat. The aim is to create images that are at the same time rewarding works of art and pieces of scientific data to be shared in the biodiversity corpus. The uniqueness of this seminar is that it addresses the biology behind the photograph for photographers and the art behind the image for those with a biology background. The class is taught largely in the field, with lectures, post production work and group image critiques when the light and/or weather do not cooperate. It provides participants from a wide variety of photographic as well as scientific backgrounds an ideal forum for the synergism between photographic technique, scientific knowledge, and artistry to produce a memorable learning experience. All skill levels are welcome. Samples of my images can be found here: www.hiddennatureimages.com. Syllabus
Wilderness First Aid
June 10-11 with Landmark Learning
The Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course will help you prepare for the unexpected. This fast paced, hands-on training is designed to meet the needs of trip leaders, camp staff, outdoor enthusiasts and individuals working in remote locations. It will introduce you to caring for people who become ill or injured far from definitive medical care. Classroom lectures and demonstrations are combined with realistic scenarios where mock patients will challenge you to integrate your learning. At the end of the course, you’ll have the knowledge, skills and ability to make sound decisions in emergency situations.
This course is taught by seasoned instructors. Learning takes place both in the classroom and in outdoor settings regardless of weather conditions. Come prepared for wet, muddy, cold or hot environments.
Gardening with Native Plants in Highlands
July 10-14 with Dr. Larry Mellichamp, University of North Carolina-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.
Rain Garden Design
July 17-18 with Russell Funderburk, Highlands Botanical Garden
This workshop will present the practical and ecological benefits of adding rain gardens to urban and suburban landscapes. It will also investigate the current regional demand for fresh water and the impacts of simple conservation practices. Participants will learn the importance of holding and filtering surface water, flow diversion and erosion prevention, and how to design and install a functional rain garden. This experience will encourage individuals to take a proactive role in the management and conservation of water, a critical issue threatening many southeastern cities, towns, and communities.
Mushrooms of the Carolinas
August 14-18 with Dr. Alan Bessette, Arleen Bessette, & Michael Hopping
This course will focus on the varied mycological diversity of North & South Carolina. Macro- and micro-morphological features will be emphasized to aid students in identifying specimens. Activities will consist of lectures on topics such as: Key Identification Features, Major Groups of Fungi, Ecology, Edibility and Toxicity; field work (forays); and laboratory identification/study during which students will improve their skills in the use of field keys and microscopy, as well as photographic techniques as a means of documentation. Participants will also gather and record a field collection showcasing the rich diversity of fleshy fungi found in the Carolinas.
Designed for the beginner who wants a solid introduction to mycology and the fleshy mushrooms of the southern Appalachian Mountains, as well as for those participants looking for the opportunity to pursue their personal mycological interests, this seminar allows for individual guidance in a relaxed group setting with fellow mycophiles.
October 18-20 with Russell Funderburk, Highlands Botanical Garden
The forests of Appalachia are unique and majestic, in large part due to the abundance and diversity of trees. There are over one hundred tree species endemic to the Highlands Plateau and the surrounding forest, many possessing fascinating history and folklore. This three-day tour will present basic identification of the most common and iconic Appalachian trees and discuss historical uses and lore that raise their local grandeur. It will also identify some new arrivals in the Highlands area and investigate their distribution and potential ecological impacts.