Highlands Biological Station buildings remain closed to visitors with the exception of limited visitor hours for the Nature Center.  HBS Botanical Garden trails remain open, and in accordance with University policy masks and physical distancing are required on the HBS campus.  Highlands Biological Station currently plans to offer academic and public programming in summer 2021, observing University mandated Covid-19 safety protocols.  For the safety of the HBS summer community, before being permitted to work or study at HBS prospective summer students, teaching faculty, and researchers must provide documentation of (1) having received a Covid-19 vaccine or (2) a negative Covid-19 test taken within 3 days of planned arrival.  Please see the HBS website for full summer 2021 Covid-19 safety policies and procedures, and bear in mind that University policy and HBS program plans are subject to change in light of developments with the pandemic this spring. 

Zahner Conservation Lecture Series

Since its founding in 1927, the Highlands Biological Station has had a wider scope than research alone.

A quote from Ralph Sargent’s book “Biology in the Blue Ridge” (1977) summarizes this idea nicely – “[The Highlands Biological Station] has sought to interest local residents, visitors, and the general public in the full natural and cultural history of the region and to bring to them awareness of and care for the whole environment, physical, biological, and human of the southern mountains.”

One of the Station’s most enduring avenues for spreading this interest has been the tradition of weekly summer lectures. Every summer the Highlands Nature Center hosts evening lectures on Thursdays focused on the theme of natural history and conservation, a tradition that began in the 1930s. Today, these lectures are known as the Zahner Conservation Lecture Series. Named for the significant contributions of Dr. Robert Zahner and his wife Glenda, of Highlands, to land conservation efforts on the Highlands Plateau.

The Zahner Conservation Lecture Series serves to educate and inspire the public through a series of talks from well-known regional scientists, conservationists, artists, and writers. The series is made possible by the Highlands Biological Foundation, and from donations from numerous individuals and local organizations.

The public is invited to participate in these free lectures, which will be held each Thursday evening at 6:00pm at the Highlands Nature Center at 930 Horse Cove Road in Highlands. 

Summer 2020 Update: See our Zoom Zahner Lecture lineup below!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation had to adapt to new circumstances this summer and hosted three abbreviated virtual Zahner lecture webinars via Zoom. These lectures were free for all and a wonderful opportunity to get to know more about your local environment. The webinars are now available to watch any time. See video links below.

On August 13th: “I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird: A Daughter’s Memoir” with naturalist, activist, and Florida writer Susan Cerulean.

In this webinar, Cerulean will share readings and insights from her just-released memoir from University of Georgia Press. In Single Bird, Cerulean trains a naturalist’s eye and a daughter’s heart on the issues of caregiving and service, both of beloved humans and the natural world. She explores an activist’s lifelong search to steward and advocate for wild shorebirds, particularly in the face of the climate crisis, as she also cares for her father at the end of his life.

Click here to watch.


August 20th: “The New Pollution: Microplastics in the Little Tennessee River and its Tributaries” with Jason Love, Associate Director, Highlands Biological Station.

Since the 1950s, plastics have become an increasingly important and pervasive part of our everyday lives. However, the attributes that make plastics useful – they are durable, long-lasting, and cheap to produce – are the same factors that cause them to be persistent, major sources of pollution. This presentation will delve into some of the current research on plastic pollution. Emphasis will be placed on microplastics, those plastics that are <0.5 cm in length and include fibers from our synthetic clothes, fragments of plastic grocery bags, and microbeads from hand soap. The presentation will also include results from recent research from Macon and Jackson Counties in the Little Tennessee and Tuckasegee Rivers.

Click here to watch.


On August 27th: "Monitoring Bird Populations at Highlands Biological Station: A Long Term Survey" with Mark Hopey, Southern Appalachian Raptor Research (SARR).

In this webinar, Hopey will discuss the Highlands Biological Station’s newest research endeavor as it recently became home to a new bird banding station for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program – an initiative that began just over 30 years ago to assess trends in avian demographics in a wide range of habitats in North America.


Click here to watch.




Photo of Tufted Titmouse courtesy of Greg Clarkson.