Accredited Courses

Our Summer 2022 course schedule is here! The Station offers several courses at the advanced undergraduate/graduate level dealing with the ­special biological features of the southern Appalachians, with areas of study that are appropriate for investigation at a mountain field station.

Please note the following information about receiving credit from HBS summer courses:

  • One week courses are worth 2 credit hours, and 2 week courses are worth 4 credit hours. 
  • Course descriptions and syllabi will be added as they’re approved. Courses may meet outside of normal working hours and on weekends – please check the syllabi of courses that interest you for a TENTATIVE schedule.
  • Credit for most 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. If you wish to receive academic credit you will need to submit a copy of your unofficial transcripts with your application. We recommend contacting your advisor and/or registrar prior to signing up for a course.

You MUST review the financial aid information as well as the “Course Fees” table prior to registering for a course. Our courses are listed below the table “Course Fee” table, and you can click on the (+) beside the course name to view the course description. After reviewing the information on this page you can click on the link below to register. If you do not have access to the requested documents you can still submit your registration, but your seat will not be confirmed until we have received all of your documents.

Registration is now CLOSED for summer courses. If there is a course you would like to register for you can contact the Program Assistant at However, please note that many courses are either full or you need to purchase specialized equipment that may not arrive in time.

Financial Aid Information

  • HBS offers limited in-house financial aid for each course, supported by the Highlands Biological Foundation, Inc.  Awards. Aid awards are made on a first-come/first-served basis. The maximum amount of financial aid you can receive is $300.
  • HBS financial aid is available primarily for credit-seeking undergraduate and graduate students.  Others may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Instructions for consideration of HBS financial aid are included in the on-line course application.  These include a statement of need from the applicant, and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member, academic advisor, or major professor.


Course Fees


Standard Rate Students/faculty from Member Institutions
1 week (2 credit hour) course fee $500 $400
2 week (4 credit hour) course fee $1000 $800
Registration fee for undergraduate courses through UNC- Chapel Hill (non-UNC students may transfer credit) $55 per course $55 per course
Application fee for undergraduate and graduate courses through WCU WAIVED FOR SUMMER 2022 WAIVED FOR SUMMER 2022
Registration fee for undergraduate and graduate courses through WCU $90 per course $90 per course
Housing (1 week course) $300 $300
Housing (2 week course) $600 $600


May Courses

Identification of Southern Appalachian Grasses: May 16-20

Dr. Paul McKenzie (Emeritus, US-FWS)

The purpose of this class is for participants to know the differences between grasses, sedges and rushes; obtain a thorough knowledge of the grass flower and variations among different grass Tribes in the SE Appalachians; have extensive practice using dichotomous keys in lab; and examine and identify grasses observed in the field using principles and concepts learned in class.

Prerequisites: None but participants who have experience using dichotomous keys in a plant identification class will be able to grasp the material sooner than those who don’t.

Click here for the syllabus.

Conservation Biology: May 16-27

Dr. Peter White (UNC – Chapel Hill, Emeritus)

The goal of this class is to review all the biological knowledge that is essential to conservation, ranging from genetics to populations to ecosystems and from small scales to broad ones, while focusing on the diverse and complex landscape of the Southern Appalachians.  Some of the material may be review from general biology or ecology classes, albeit with new conservation-themed examples, and some will be new to you because the work in question is only carried out in a conservation context.  Examples of competencies gained are the following: ability to evaluate the relative contributions of niche-environment relations and spatial-temporal constraints to biodiversity patterns and the consequence of these patterns for conservation design; understanding how genetic diversity is affected by effective population size; understanding how extinction risk is affected by the size, number, and distribution of populations; ability to construct, in a conceptual sense, population and metapopulation models; understanding concepts of ecosystem dynamics, resistance, resilience, and adaptability; ability to critically analyze modern conservation issues like invasive species, climate change and change in other ecological processes, habitat loss and fragmentation, trophic cascades, ecological restoration, and ex situ conservation.  The key competency to gain is to think critically about scientific findings, to see where uncertainties and opportunities for new research lie, and to use the findings of biological science as a conservation tool box. 

Prerequisites: General biology and ecology courses or permission of instructor

Click here for the syllabus.

Biology of Southern Appalachian Salamanders: May 23 - June 3

Dr. Joe Pechmann (WCU) and Dr. Ken Kozak (University of Minnesota)

The Southern Appalachians are renowned for the diversity of their salamander fauna. This course acquaints students with these salamanders and shows how studies of them 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 evolution, or permission of instructor.

Click here to view the syllabus.

Fish of the Southern Appalachians: May 30 - June 10

Dr. Aaron Geheber, University of Central Missouri

The southern Appalachians supports one of the richest freshwater fish faunas in North America and is part of an extensive southern/southeastern 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 ecology, evolution, biogeography and diversity of fishes primarily in the Southern Appalachians. During the course students will engage in a number of fish collection techniques, including seining, electrofishing, and in-stream snorkeling (these streams are cold, so wetsuits are a must). Students will learn to identify the major families and genera both in the field and in the lab, learn basic fish identification techniques with a subset of focal species, and conduct small field-based observational studies. Regular lectures and discussion of current peer-reviewed journal articles will enhance and compliment the field experiences.

Required materials for the course:

1. Full wetsuit (minimum of 3 mm thick), mask, and snorkel
2. Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America North of Mexico (2nd edition), Page and Burr 2011
3. Field Notebook (Write-In-Rain style) and pencil/ all weather pen

Prerequisites: General biology and ecology

Click here for the syllabus.

June Courses

Vascular Flora of the Blue Ridge: June 13-24

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 to identify species; and to better understand the ecology of the major plant communities of the region and the biogeography of the species.

Prerequisites: One course in Introductory biology or ecology, training in natural history or permission of instructor

Click here for the syllabus.

Diversity and Identification of Southern Appalachian Leaf Litter Arthropods: June 20-24

Dr. Mike Caterino (Clemson University) and Dr. Paul Marek (Virginia Tech)

A hands-on introduction to field and lab methods for the sampling and identification of arthropods living in leaf litter. Litter sifting will be practiced in multiple habitats. Following Berlese extraction of specimens, students will learn to identify the major groups and conduct preliminary comparisons of diversity among samples and habitat types.

Prerequisites: General biology required. A course in general entomology would be useful, but not critical.

Click here for the syllabus.

Landscape Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians: June 27 - July 8

Dr. Bill Peterman (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 exercises and field excursions. Students will also obtain a foundational understanding of GIS technologies through lab exercises. There will be an emphasis on the salamander diversity of the Southern Appalachians and their habitats throughout the course.

Prerequisites: Zoology, Herpetology or Vertebrate Biology; Ecology or Population Biology; or permission from instructor

Click here for the syllabus.

July Courses

Comparative Temperate/Tropical Ecology: July 10-28

Dr. Jim Costa (WCU/HBS) and Dr. Travis Knowles (Francis Marion University)

Please note this is a study abroad course and registration is now CLOSED for this course.

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 the syllabus.

WAITLIST Southern Appalachian Mayflies, Stoneflies, and Caddisflies (Session 1): July 11-22

Dr. John Morse (Emeritus, 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 mountain stream habitats, and identifications will be done in the laboratory.

Prerequisites: Students are expected to have prior training in zoology, but not necessarily entomology.

Click here for the syllabus.

Cliff and Rock Outcrop Communities: July 18-22

Laura Boggess (Mars Hill University) and Gary Kauffman (USDA Forest Service)

Cliffs and rock outcrops host unique natural communities unique from the surrounding landscape. They are also beautiful, filled with rare and endemic species and are often hard to access. Highlands Biological Station is surrounded by these special communities, including high elevation granitic domes, high elevation rocky summits, montane cliffs, and montane red cedar woodlands. In this week-long course we will visit as many of these communities we can and offer you a solid foundation in the fledgling field of cliff ecology and conservation. You will learn about a broad swath of cliff and rock-outcrop community types through first-hand exploration as well as through lectures and paper discussion. We will learn some of the common species associated with cliffs (fauna too!) and explore the threats they face. By the end of the course, you will better understand and appreciate the diversity, ecology, and conservation value of Southern Appalachian cliff and outcrop communities. 

*May only be taken for undergraduate credit.

Prerequisites: Introductory biology, ecology, or permission of instructor

Click here for the syllabus.

WAITLIST Bryophyte Identification: July 25-29

Ed Schwartzman (Joe Pye Ecological Consulting)

The Southern Appalachians are an area of high bryophyte diversity, and this course will introduce students to common and some rare mosses, liverworts, and hornworts of the region. The class will survey bryophyte diversity by visiting and sampling from a variety of habitats in the vicinity around Highlands, NC. Laboratory work will involve extensive use of microscopes, and identifications will rely on microscopic characters and use of dichotomous keys. Students will explore diagnostic features for bryophyte identification and learn common taxa in the field and closeup using microscopes. Lectures will cover differences among mosses, liverworts, and hornworts as well as morphological features used to distinguish bryophyte taxa. No prior bryology experience or studies are necessary to take the course, though students should be willing to work with microscopes and use diagnostic keys for identification in the lab. The course is geared towards botanists, natural resource professionals, naturalists, and students. Prerequisites: a botany, plant science, or plant taxonomy course or permission of instructor.  

*May only be taken for undergraduate credit.

Prerequisites: A botany, plant science, or plant taxonomy course or permission of instructor.  

Click here for the syllabus.

Southern Appalachian Mayflies, Stoneflies, and Caddisflies (Session 2): July 25 - August 5

Dr. John Morse (Emeritus, 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 mountain stream habitats, and identifications will be done in the laboratory.

Prerequisites: Students are expected to have prior training in zoology, but not necessarily entomology.

Click here for the syllabus.

August Courses

Spiders of the Southern Appalachians: August 1-12

Dr. Sarah Stellwagen (UNC – Charlotte) and Dr. Kefyn Catley (WCU, Emeritus)

Spiders are one of the most diverse groups of animals, and the many different ecosystems within and surrounding the southern Appalachians provide an ideal setting for collecting and learning about these unique organisms. This course will present a comprehensive introduction to spider natural history including systematics, morphology, behavior, physiology, and ecology. Specimens will be collected during daily field trips, and identification skills practiced in the laboratory. This year, the course will also include a day which focuses on Opiliones (daddy-long-legs), a related arachnid order.

Scholarship Opportunity: Dr. Stellwagen and Dr. Mercedes Burns (guest instructor) have received a grant through the National Science Foundation to provide full scholarships for up to 4 students! For more information and to apply, visit Dr. Burns’ website.

Prerequisites: general biology, ecology, or permission of instructor

Click here for the syllabus.