On this page:

 Click here for information about tuition and other fees

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. Please follow the Apply Now link below.

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.Kindly call the Station, 828.526.2602, to inquire about workshop registration.

Special events and occasional one-day educator workshops are also offered for teacher recertification credit (Science CEU), or NC Environmental Education Criteria 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.



Accredited Courses

A Sense of Place [Science Writing]
January 3 -12 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.

Biology and Conservation of Birds
April 30 – May 12 with Dr. Rob Bierregaard, Drexel University & Academy of Natural Sciences

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.

Southern Appalachian Mayflies, Stoneflies, & Caddisflies
May 7-19 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.

Conservation Genetics of Salamanders
May 14-May 26 with Dr. J.J. Apodaca, Tangled Bank Conservation

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

Southern Appalachian Mammals
May 21-June 2 with Dr. Ed Pivorun, Clemson University

The Mammalogy course at Highlands this year will emphasize the mammalian fauna of the Southern Appalachians.   We will have traditional lectures on mammalian anatomy, evolution, orders, physiology and ecology for about 1 ½ hours almost every morning.  Mammals tend to be nocturnal. Thus all trapping efforts require us to examine traps set the evening first thing in the morning.  After a short break, we will move into the lecture setting. In the early afternoon, after lunch, we will spend another 1 ½- 2 hours to do some more of the traditional mammalogy labs on anatomy, identification and keying.  The ipad/Ipod App and the interactive DVD are  both excellent tools with high resolution images of the skulls displayed with all important diagnostic characteristics  emphasized.

Biology of Southern Appalachian Salamanders
May 28-June 9 with Dr. Ken Kozak, University of Minnesota, & Dr. Joe Pechmann, Western Carolina University

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.

Fish of Southern Appalachians
June 4-June 16 with Dr. Mollie Cashner, Austin Peay 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.

Ecology of Global Change
June 18 – June 30 with Dr. Robert 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.

Comparative Temperate-Tropical Biogeography Download Syllabus
June 28-July 6 [Highlands] & July 6-July 16 [Ecuador] with Dr. Jim Costa, HBS & WCU and Prof. Travis Knowles, WBS & Francis Marion University

An introductory exploration of the ecology and biogeography of temperate-zone and tropical biodiversity hotspots, from the southern Appalachians to Andean Ecuador.  Based at two mountain biological field stations (Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, NC and Wildsumaco Biological Station, Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, Ecuador), we will take a field-based comparative approach to exploring southern Appalachian and Amazonian Andean montane ecology and biogeography in the spirit of the explorer-naturalists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  We will consider the geological context of the Appalachians and Andes, comparative biogeography / ecology of these respective regions in terms of the ecological and historical factors that shape their biota, big-picture patterns of latitudinal and elevational diversity gradients, principles of forest community structure and function, and examine comparative species composition and interactions in selected groups as well as soil structure and microbiota.

Prerequisites: Introductory Biology sequence, at least one course at the 200 level or above in Biology, Environmental Science, or Geosciences/Natural Resources Management, or permission of instructor.

Click here for more information

Biology & Conservation of Lichens
July 2-July 14 with Dr. James Lendemer, New York Botanical Garden, and Dr. Jessica Allen Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research

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.

July 16-21 with Dr. Paul Davison, University of N. Alabama

The Highlands area harbors an incredible diversity and abundance of bryophytes and is the perfect setting for this course that will focus on the identification of mosses, liverworts, and hornworts.  Considerable time will be devoted to microscopic study and the techniques needed to successfully demonstrate character states.  Taxonomic keys to local genera will be provided.  Habitat requirements and local diversity will be explored during daily field trips. Lectures will explain morphological features used in identification.  In addition to morphology and ecology of bryophytes in general, participants will be introduced to regional species of conservation concern.  Participants will build a personal herbarium of reference specimens.  This course is suitable for naturalists, professionals, and advanced undergraduate/graduate students with a strong interest in practical taxonomy that relies on microscopic characters.

Prerequisites:  field botany, plant taxonomy, or permission of the instructor.

Fleshy Fungi of the Highlands Plateau Download Syllabus
July 9-21 with Dr. Andy Methven, Savannah State University

Students will be introduced to the fleshy ascomycetes and basidiomycetes that occur on the Highlands Plateau during peak mushroom season. Emphasis will be placed on the analysis of macro- and micro-morphological features in the identification of taxa. The daily routine will consist of a morning lecture followed by a field trip until early or mid-afternoon. Transportation on field trips will be in a station van. Collections will be examined and identified after returning from the field and an opportunity provided to assemble a collection of dried fleshy fungi. Microscopes and chemical reagents necessary for accurate species determinations will be available for use.  In the evenings, the laboratory will be open for additional work on collections.

Southern Appalachian Mayflies, Stoneflies, & Caddisflies
July 23- August 4 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/). 

 Rock Outcrop and Cliff Face Communities
August 6-August 11 with Prof. Laura Boggess, Mars Hill University and Dr. Gary Kauffman, USDA Forest Service

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.

PrerequisitesIntroductory biology, ecology, or permission of instructor.

Introductory Ecology
August 8-August 19 with Dr. Tuan Cao, UNC-Charlotte

Southeastern Grasslands:Ecology and Conservation
August 13 – August 18 with Dr. Dwayne Estes, Austin Peay University

Grasses of the Southern Appalachians
August 20-August 25 with Dr. Paul McKenzie, US Fish & Wildlife Services

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.