In accordance with Western Carolina University’s policies in response to COVID-19, the Highlands Biological Station is currently closed to the public, but is open to researchers and faculty on a limited basis. Researchers and faculty interested in reserving research and residential space should contact the HBS office (828-526-2602) for information on availability, rates, and reservations. Field courses, workshops, and HBS Nature Center programming are cancelled for the 2020 season. The HBS Botanical Gardens remain open, except for trails that are closed due to construction.

Grant-in-Aid of Research

Since 2006 the Highlands Biological Foundation Inc. has Awarded $248,875 for research conducted at the Highlands Biological Station.  


Spend Your Field Season with Us

For over 50 years the Highlands Biological Foundation, Inc. has provided grants in support of scientific research, bringing graduate students and research scientists to Highlands from all over the country.

Vetted by our Board of Scientific Advisors, members of which are drawn from member colleges and universities, these grants make it possible for researchers to conduct their research in residence at HBS, fostering an active research corps each summer that benefits all Station users. Our Grant-in-Aid program is a model of success, yielding hundreds of graduate theses and thousands of scientific papers over the years.

Grant recipients are expected to spend time in residence at HBS. 

Grant Applications

Grant support may be awarded for one to twelve weeks and grant recipients are expected to spend time in residence at HBS, as both they and other researchers and students benefit from such interaction.

Application cover sheets and text must be submitted before 5:00 p.m. EST on 1 MarchApplications for grants are reviewed by the Board of Scientific Advisors in March of the year for which support is requested.

Applicants are notified in early April, following final approval by the Board of Directors. Awards are based on the period of residence at HBS according to the following schedule: 

  • Graduate, $350/week
  • Postdoctoral, $450/week
  • Recipients of grants-in-aid are provided research space without charge


The Highlands Biological Foundation Science & Society Fellow will be awarded to a meritorious proposal that addresses an environmental problem or issue of local or regional relevance, and includes significant community engagement. This fellowship program is intended to promote the study or solution of environmental problems while affording opportunities to educate the public. 

We invite proposals from graduate or post-graduate researchers (graduate students, postdocs or faculty) for a project with relevance to local or regional environmental or conservation issues (e.g., invasive species, habitat fragmentation, watershed quality, etc.).

The Fellowship will support the successful applicant at the level of $450/week in support of residence at HBS, with a minimum residency of 4 weeks and a maximum residency of 12 weeks in the summer.

To be considered for the Highlands Biological Foundation Science & Society Fellow award, in addition to following the format and submission guidelines established for the standard HBS Grant-in-Aid program applicants are asked to provide a cover letter explaining:

  1. The significance of the proposed project in terms of local or regional environmental or conservation issues.
  2. How the applicant proposes to engage the Highlands community while in residence at HBS.

We see this fellowship as an opportunity to educate and inspire our community about the importance or significance of fellows’ work. Community engagement might take many forms, for example developing a special exhibit for the Highlands Nature Center, giving public presentation(s), and/or working with the local newspaper or new HBS Communications Director on articles. The applicant would also agree to make themselves available for interviews, etc.

For further information or inquires about project suitability, please contact HBS Executive Director Jim Costa at 828.526.2602, or


A number of named scholarships have been endowed at the Station and are described below.  These represent honors awarded to particularly meritorious projects.  They do not provide funding in addition to the basic stipend, which is calculated simply on the basis of number of weeks in residence.

  • Thelma Howell Memorial Scholarship “Doc”  Howell served with distinction as Executive Director of the Station from 1946 to 1972. Upon her death in 1979, the Highlands Biological Foundation, Inc., established a scholarship fund in her memory, to support investigators at HBS.
  • William Chambers Coker Fellowship in Botanical Research Dr. W. C. Coker, Professor of Botany at the University of North Carolina, served as the second Director of the Highlands Biological Station from 1936 to 1944.  His wife, Louise V. Coker, through a bequest of her will in 1983, established the William Chambers Coker Fellowship in Botanical Research to be awarded annually to an investigator studying plants or fungi.
  • Ralph M. Sargent Memorial Scholarship Dr. Ralph Sargent, Professor of English at Haverford College, was a naturalist, botanist, and conservationist who had a long association with the Station.  Upon his death in 1985, a scholarship was established by Dr. Sargent’s family and friends to support students conducting research at the Station.
  • Lindsay S. Olive Memorial Scholarship – Dr. Lindsay Olive of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was a distinguished botanist and mycologist.  A scholarship was established in his memory in 1993 by Ruth Gershon and Sanford Cohn of Atlanta and has been supported through generous gifts from Ms. Gershon, Mr. Cohn, and Anna Jean Olive.  The scholarship is awarded annually to a student whose research reflects the interests of Dr. Olive.
  • Charles W. Ash Memorial Scholarship Dr. Charles Ash was a statistician who had a strong interest in the natural world.  Following his death in 1993, a scholarship was established in his memory through the efforts of his family and friends.  The scholarship is awarded annually to a promising student whose research reflects Dr. Ash’s interests in statistics and experimental design.
  • Bruce Family Scholarship in Herpetology Dr. Richard C. Bruce served as Executive Director of the Station from 1972 to 1999, assisted by his wife Elizabeth. In 1997 they established a scholarship to support the research of graduate students, as well as postdoctoral investigators in the early stages of their careers, in the discipline of Southern Appalachian herpetology.
  • Martina Wadewitz Haggard Memorial Scholarship This scholarship was established in 2005 in memory of Martina Wadewitz Haggard of Asheville NC, who assisted Doc Howell at the Station in the early 1960s, was instrumental in establishing the Botanical Garden, and long served on the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of the Foundation.  It was established through generous contributions by Hugh A. A. Sargent, Lydia Sargent Macauley, and William Haggard.

All applicants for grants-in-aid are eligible for the Coker, Howell, Sargent, Olive, Ash, and Bruce awards, subject to any constraints described above. They will be awarded by the Highlands Biological Foundation, Inc., upon recommendation of the Board of Scientific Advisors and approval by the Board of Directors of the Station.  Announcements of the awards are made in early spring of each year, concurrent with notifications of grants-in-aid.

A note on permits: Researchers and instructors are expected to secure the appropriate Federal or State permits for work in the nearby National Forests or National Parks.  In accordance with Federal law, researchers planning on conducting any work involving vertebrates at HBS must also have an HBS IACUC application approved  prior to undertaking their research.  

Applicants are required to submit a letter of reference from their major professor or a faculty member familiar with their research. Please have the reference letter e-mailed to with subject line “GIA 2017 Letter of Reference” or mailed to 265 N. 6th St., Highlands, NC 28741.

The Highlands Biological Station Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee typically meets in early May of each year.  (Applications submitted at other times of year may be considered by special arrangement.)  If you plan on collecting or conducting research at HBS involving vertebrate animals of any kind, please download and complete an HBS IACUC Application and email to the attention of the Associate Director.  An approved IACUC application is a requirement of conducting such work at or out of HBS.  Researchers will generally have an IACUC application approved at their home institution.  Please include in your HBS IACUC application ONLY that information pertaining to work with vertebrate animals conducted while at HBS.  HBS Grant-in-Aid recipients working with vertebrates should note that their grant award is contingent upon approval of their IACUC application; you are strongly encouraged to submit via email a completed application by *15 April* in order to avoid delays with the review and approval of your application.