Our 2024 course schedule is here! The dates are firm for all courses, and we will be adding syllabi and course descriptions as they become available. Prior to registering, review all the information on the main Courses and Workshops page to ensure you know what to expect. You can also use the form on that page to sign up to be notified when the registration date has been set.

We are fortunate that we can offer limited financial assistance on a first-come basis. Assistance is only available to students pursuing academic credit, and it will not cover the entire cost of your class. You must request financial assistance when you register and not after. In addition to an unofficial transcript, you will also need to supply a Statement of Need and Letter of Recommendation. The deadline for requesting assistance is the course payment deadline and all materials should be submitted to hbs@wcu.edu

If you have questions regarding registration, contact us at hbs@wcu.edu.

Special Offering: 3 Week Travel Course (5 Credit Hours)

Comparative Temperate/Tropical Ecology & Biogeography

Dr. Jim Costa, WCU/HBS & Mr. Travis Knowles, Francis Marion University

Highlands Biological Station: July 9, 2024 – July 15, 2024

Wildsumaco Biological Station, Ecuador: July 15, 2024 – July 28, 2024

1 Week Courses (2 Credit Hours)

Bryophytes: An Ecological Approach

Dr. Sue Studlar, Consulting Bryologist

May 28, 2024 – June 2, 2024

We will investigate the rich bryophyte communities of the unglaciated Southern Appalachians during field trips around Highlands Biological Station and adjacent Sunset Rock, followed by laboratory identification sessions using microscopes. Aided by an ecological field guide that emphasizes habitat and multiple traits of bryophytes observable in the field or lab, students will collect and learn to recognize bryophytes of wetlands, mixed hardwood-conifer forests, rock outcrops, soil, peatmoss (Sphagnum) seeps, cascading streams, and an extensive mountain-top rock barren at Sunset Rock. A field trip to Dry Falls is also planned. In the laboratory, students will use dichotomous keys to identify species and prepare reference collections. Lectures will focus on bryophyte identification and ecology, including bryophytes as ecological indicators and their importance to succession and nutrient and water cycling, as well as to wildlife for habitat and food. The course is designed for students, botanists, naturalists, and resource professionals interested in bryophyte identification (using microscopes) and ecology. Prior exposure to plants in an introductory laboratory course is essential.

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Cliff and Rock Outcrop Communities

Ms. Laura Boggess, Mars Hill University, & Mr. Gary Kaufmann, USDA Forest Service

June 4, 2024 – June 8, 2024

Cliffs and rock outcrops are fascinating and beautiful ecosystems, home to rare and endemic species, and unique ecosystem processes.  They remain mysterious and inviting, partly due to their inaccessibility. Highlands Biological Station is in one of the densest rock outcrop plant communities of the Southern Appalachians, and the station offers access to diverse communities such as low- and high-elevation granitic domes, high-elevation rocky summits, montane cliffs, and montane red cedar woodlands. In this week-long course, we will explore as many of these community types as we can and offer you a solid foundation in the fledgling field of cliff ecology and conservation. Most of our time will be spent in the field, but we will also use readings, lectures, and discussions to build our skills and understanding. We will meet many of the species associated with cliffs (both flora and fauna, though we are admittedly lichen and plant-heavy) and learn how they depend on each other and on the physical environment to survive. We will also discuss human interaction with cliffs and how we can shift our relationship toward recreation in a way that fosters stewardship and reciprocity. We hope that by the end of the course, you will know the basic tenets of cliff ecology; meet like-minded friends; and better understand and appreciate the diversity, ecology, and value of Southern Appalachian cliff and outcrop communities.

Prerequisites: None

Note: this course is ineligible for graduate degree credit.
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Identification of Southern Appalachian Grasses

Dr. Paul McKenzie, USFWS (emeritus)

August 6, 2024 – August 11, 2024

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.

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Introduction to Southern Appalachian Millipede Biodiversity
Dr. Bruce Snyder, Georgia College & State University

June 11, 2024 – June 16, 2024

Millipedes are one of the most dominant and conspicuous members of the soil fauna in southern Appalachian ecosystems. This course will introduce the biology and ecology of these detritivores through field and lab study. Participants will build an understanding of the biodiversity of millipedes through collection, preservation, and identification of local millipede species.
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Wetland Plant Identification
Dr. Joey Shaw, UT-Chattanooga

This class is designed for people looking to enhance their skills in observing, collecting, determining species identification, and assessing species “quality” of plants found in wetlands.  The ability to accurately identify wetland species increases one’s understanding of the ecological condition or integrity of the wetland.  Plant species identification is also of great importance to conducting wetland delineations. This course is designed for those who want to learn more about wetland plant species identification or to simply sharpen their skills.  Students should have a basic understanding of botanical terminology and plant parts, but please do not feel intimidated to be up to the same skill set as others in the class because we can all focus on different plant groups from woodies to graminoids.  That is, we can each collect our own different species of interest, and work on the those which we would like to focus.  Each day we will take a field trip to a wetland, collect wetland plants about which we are interested, and then return to the lab to use a combination of keying specimens, website and online herbarium study, and species assessments that we will assemble into a better understanding of the ecological integrity of the wetlands using various metrics, like coefficients of conservatism.  Of course, the kinds of wetlands we will see are those limited to within an hour or so of the Station, so we will not see a great diversity of wetland types, but more focus on developing wetland plant identification skills.

May 14, 2024 – May 19, 2024
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2 Week Courses (4 Credit Hours)

Biology of Southern Appalachian Salamanders

Dr. Joe Pechmann, Western Carolina University, & Dr. Ken Kozak, University of Minnesota

May 28, 2024  – June 9, 2024

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Southern Appalachian Mayflies, Stoneflies, and Caddisflies

Dr. John Morse, Clemson University & Dr. Alexander Orfinger, Dalton State

June 11, 2024 – June 23, 2024

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. Students will collect insects from mountain stream habitats and identify them in the laboratory.

Prerequisites:  Students should have prior training in zoology, but not necessarily entomology.

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Fish of the Southern Appalachians

Dr. Mollie Cashner, Austin Peay University

June 18, 2024 – June 30, 2024

Note: student must bring a wetsuit to this course.

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Spiders of the Southern Appalachians

Dr. Sarah Stellwagen, UNC-Charlotte, Dr. Alexander Sweger, Hartwick College & Dr. Mercedes Burns, Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore Co.

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. Prerequisites: general biology, ecology, or permission of instructor. This course can be taken for undergraduate or graduate credit.

July 23, 2024 – August 4, 2024

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Blue Ridge Flora

Dr. Paul Manos, Duke University

Section 1: Introduction to Flora of the Highlands Plateau July 23, 2024 – July 28, 2024

Section 2: Exploring the Flora of the Blue Ridge July 29 – August 4, 2024

Course description and goals: The course is designed for students of all sorts, professional biologists, and amateur enthusiasts. Session 1 will emphasize the local flora of the Highlands Plateau while serving as both an introduction and refresher on how to study vascular plant diversity. Session 2 will build on the basics through field trips to explore additional plant communities in the Blue Ridge. The main learning goal is to introduce plant diversity with a community-based approach through field observations of the flora of the Blue Ridge with the following objectives: 1) to emphasize basic distinguishing features among lycophytes, ferns and seed plants; 2) to focus on field characteristics of common and rare species and their habitats; 3) to use keys to identify species; and 4) to better understand the ecology of the major plant communities of the region and the biogeography of the species.

Daily schedule and expectations: Lectures and workshop activities starting @ 9:00, including field trips often with moderate to strenuous hiking; lab activities include workshops on plant diversity, keying out species, including discussions on plants as often as possible; group activities and occasional lectures on mountain flora, plant communities, and plant interactions. Students are expected to learn in the field and lab through activities and additional materials.

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

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