Highlands Biological Station is open to visitors. Masks are still required in the Nature Center, but are no longer required on campus, including the Botanical Garden. Highlands Biological Station is offering academic and public programming this summer. 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.

Since its inception in 1927, HBS has grown to a campus of 24 acres, with 4 residences sleeping up to 52, fully equipped research and teaching labs and classrooms, two outdoor classrooms, a historic WPA-built Nature Center, and a unique native-plant Botanical Garden. Today HBS realizes its educational and research mission broadly through (1) financial and facilities support for scientific research and graduate training, (2) academic courses in diverse areas of field biology, (3) hosting visiting classes and other groups, (4) partnering with local and regional conservation non-profits, and (5) offering diverse outreach programming for regional K-12 schools, the local community, and life-long-learners. 

Research conducted at HBS encompasses biological systems as diverse as the southern mountain region itself: plants, insects, fungi, mammals, birds, fish, fungi, terrestrial and aquatic ecology, and especially salamanders have been the primary areas of interest, with studies ranging from taxonomy, systematics, ecology and evolution to conservation biology, ecophysiology and ecosystem and community ecology.  The southern Appalachian region being a temperate zone hotspot for salamanders, notably the lungless salamander family Plethodontidae, research on this group has been a major research focus over the decades.

The Station’s rich research legacy is manifested in the lengthy record of scientific papers, graduate theses and dissertations, and research reports stemming from work based at or otherwise facilitated by HBS. The complete HBS database record of research products will eventually be available. For a complete listing of these works (since 2000), please click the links below.

History of Highlands Biological Station

Founding Figures at HBS

William C. Coker: 2nd Director of the Station; botany professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who was one of the first researchers to base his work in Highlands.

Clark T. Foreman: Founder and 1st President of the Highlands Museum Association; member of the Roosevelt Administration’s Interior Department from 1933 to 1941; Grandson of the founder of The Atlanta Constitution. Click here for an autobiographical memoir.

Clifford Pope: Herpetologist at the American Museum of Natural History that encouraged Foreman and the early Museum’s governing board to expand the scope of the organization to include research. Through his efforts, Coker and Reinke based their work in Highlands.

Edward E. Reinke: 1st Director of the Station; zoology professor at Vanderbilt University who was one of the first researcher to base his work in Highlands.

Historic Buildings at HBS

The Sam T. Weyman Memorial Laboratory (pictured here shortly after construction) was designed by architects Oscar Stonorov with Tucker & Howell. It received acclaim as the first example of the International Style of architecture in North Carolina and was often cited as a foremost example of the Modern Movement in the US.  It was later remodeled to be the Station’s dining hall after being the central research hub at HBS for over 30 years.

Officially named for visionary HBS founder Clark Foreman, today the Museum is known informally as the Highlands Nature Center.  Among its many public programs, the Nature Center is an important venue for scientists working at the Station to share their research and knowledge with the community at large.

Learn More About the History of Highlands Biological Station 

The long and rich history of the Highlands Biological Station has been documented in a variety of books, articles, and essays: 

Bruce, Richard C. 2017. Lungless in Highlands: A brief history of research and education on plethodontid salamanders at Highlands Biological Station. Herpetological Review 48(3): 576–581.  [PDF]  

Costa, James T. and Ralph M. Sargent. 2012. 2012. Highlands Botanical Garden: A Naturalist’s Guide. Highlands, NC: Highlands Biological Foundation, Inc. [Introduction, pp. 2-7] 

Costa, James T. 2013. Highlands Biological Station – Our “continuous project.”  Essay written at the completion of the 2013 HBS master site plan.  [PDF]  

Howell, Thelma. 1963. The Highlands Biological Station, Inc. American Zoologist 3(3): 342–343.  [PDF

Sargent, Ralph. 1977. Biology in the Blue Ridge: Fifty years of the Highlands Biological Station, 1927-1977. Highlands, NC: Highlands Biological Foundation. 

Shaffner, Randolph P. 2001. Heart of the Blue Ridge Highlands, North Carolina. Highlands, NC: Faraway Publishing. [ch. 17: pp. 343-354] 

Woodley, Sarah. K, James T. Costa, and Richard C. Bruce. 2017. Introduction to the Special Highlands Conference on Plethodontid Salamander Biology. Herpetologica 73: 177–179.  [PDF]