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Summer in Highlands, Biological Station courses and workshops

Workshops and Courses
Posted: 3/22/2017
Expiration Date: 8/12/2017

The Highlands Biological Station offers several courses each summer at the advanced undergraduate/graduate level dealing with the ­special biological features of the southern Appalachians and with areas of study that are appropriate for investigation at a mountain field station. Credit for all 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.     FAQ/Apply Now


Schedule of Accredited Courses:


May 8-13 with Dr. Hannah Rogers, Columbia University

Writing is fundamental to the practice of science. We observe, think, and write about individual organisms, ecosystems, patterns and anomalies, to record our findings, and to reach broader publics. This course will aim to make students better writers as they communicate both inside specialist knowledge communities and with other citizens. The course will introduce a variety of writers, past and present, who have worked on environmental and ecological topics and consider the careful observations writers have made about the natural world. Social media, creative non-fiction, video clips, graphical images, and podcasts have joined more traditional journalistic accounts in print media as the means by which science communicates with the public. Many of these methods are increasingly important as interscience communication as videos have become a major means of sharing data. At the same time, imagination is still shaping science in areas like nature writing, critical design, eco-art, and science fiction, and these genres offer important ways to think about the capacity for feedback in science communication. In this course, students will experience the field station environment of Highlands and use these experiences to create a portfolio using a range of science communication genres from websites and podcasts to environmental journalism pieces to share new information, begin conversations about scientific ideas, consider hooks and approaches to create audience interest, and think both practically and theoretically about the best ways to communicate science.



May 8-20 with Dr. James Costa, Western Carolina University & Highlands Biological Station

Charles Darwin’s epochal treatise On the Origin of Species is often cited but seldom read, even by biologists.  I have taught a seminar-style course on the Origin for nearly 20 years, yielding The Annotated Origin (Harvard, 2009), my annotated facsimile of the1st edition of the Origin designed to guide readers through the historical context, structure, and content of Darwin’s masterwork.  Many readers of the Origin are surprised at the extent to which Darwin backed up the Origin‘s arguments with novel observations and data from a diversity of home-spun experiments.  Traditional campus-based versions of this course offer little time to pursue these.  In this first-time field station offering of my Darwin course we will read and discuss the Origin in its entirety, but also build upon the readings with daily “Darwin-inspired” lab and field investigations.  Following Darwin’s lead, we will repeat key observations and replicate or emulate a host of Darwin’s insightful experiments, thereby coming to a deeper understanding of Darwin’s method and genius.  Prerequisites: Introductory biology, introductory ecology/evolution, or permission of instructor. 



May 15-27 with Dr. Bill Peterman, The 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 GIS exercises and field excursions. There will be an emphasis on the salamander diversity of the Southern Appalachians throughout the course. Prerequisites: Herpetology or Vertebrate Biology; Ecology or Behavioral Ecology or Population Biology; or permission of instructor.



May 22-27 with Dr. Paul McKenzie, US Fish & Wildlife Service

This class will include a detailed description of the grass flower, inflorescence type, habitat and ecological associations, Tribal affinities, distribution, and habit differences. The class will be taught in four parts: 1) power point presentation and classroom instruction, 2) examination of important features with hand lens and dissecting scope, 3) team keying of grass specimens, and 4) field identification. Dichotomous keys, hard copy print outs of power point presentation, and other handouts will be provided by the instructor. Tips for proper collection; processing; label development; herbaria deposition of grass specimens; and suggested websites/electronic tools helpful in grass study will also be discussed.



May 29-June 3 with Dr. Joey Shaw, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga

During this course, students will obtain a comprehensive understanding of the seedless vascular plants (the pteridophytes, including the ferns and fern allies). Within the framework of classification, taxonomy, and evolution, we will dive deeply into studies of life cycles, morphology, basic anatomy, ecology, taxonomy, and nomenclature.  We will take daily field trips within the Southern Appalachians to collect, bring back to the laboratory, and identify numerous pteridophyte species.  The majority of our time will be spent either collecting in the field or keying species in the laboratory; that is, we will use the exercise of keying collected plants to species and in so doing we will learn the important characters for identifying Southern Appalachian pteridophytes.  Students will be encouraged to assemble reference collections and the last hours of the course will be spent assembling these collections.  We will use various sources for species identification, but the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee will be the main key for species identification.  Prerequisites & Prior Training: This course is designed for professional biologists, naturalists, and undergraduate/graduate students who have an interest in ferns, plant taxonomy, or field botany and who have some experience with dichotomous keys.  No previous experience with ferns is required.  Depending on the different field trips, participants should be prepared to put in at least a couple of 12-hour days.



June 5-17 with 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 and field collections to identify species; and to better understand the ecology of the major plant communities of the region. Prerequisites: One course in introductory biology or ecology.



June 12-24 with Dr. Thomas Martin, Western Carolina University

The purpose of this course is to provide a basic understanding of the ecology of individual organisms, populations, communities, and systems. The field/lab component will focus on ecological sampling, modeling, and data analysis, interpretation, and reporting. A typical day will consist of two sessions, the first beginning at 8:00 AM, the second after lunch. Each session may begin with lecture & discussion, but will also involve lab and/or field experience that takes advantage of our location in the southern Appalachian highlands. Prerequisites: Introductory/general biology.



June 26-July 8 with Dr. Peter White, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

This course has two objectives: to go over all of the biological science that informs successful conservation efforts and to apply and illustrate this science while living and learning in one of the world’s hot spots of biological diversity, the Southern Appalachian Mountains.  Conservation biology seeks principles for all fields of biology: genetics, population biology, ecology, and evolution.  On the one hand, conservation biology is an applied field, but, on the other it is aimed at the basic understanding of how nature works.  We will find that there are interesting unanswered questions to ponder as we think about the research questions of the future.  We will discuss conservation ethics, the definition of biological diversity, patterns of species richness, island biogeography, population genetics, population biology and modeling, metapopulations, and community and ecosystem ecology.  We will spend time both in the classroom and in the out-of-doors along the mountain trails so accessible in the Highlands area.  Prerequisites: Generally I have advised general biology and a sophomore level class in ecology as a starting point, but many students–particularly those that are interested in the subject matter–have done very well, so no prerequisites (email peter.white@unc.edu if you have questions about this).



July 17-29 with Dr. Rich Baird, Mississippi State University, and Jay Justice, Arkansas Mycological Society

This course is designed to familiarize the beginning mushroom enthusiast with the biology and ecology of fleshy fungi within the different forest types of Highlands and the surrounding area. Students will learn the basics of macrofungi identification to genus level, using selected keys for macroscopic and microscopic features.  Students will practice using microscopes and preparing slides in order to become proficient with using microscopes and preparing fungal tissues properly for identification. Daily activities will include lectures and field trips followed by laboratory time for the remainder of each day. Training obtained from this course will provide a firm foundation for those students that choose to take the advanced two-week course on fleshy fungi at HBS taught by Dr. Andrew Methven during alternate years.  Prerequisites & Prior Training:  This course is designed for amateur-minded biologists, naturalists and undergraduate/graduate students that have had field biology or botany courses and exposure to dichotomous keys and microscopes.  No previous experience with fleshy fungi is necessary. Willingness to work long full days and into the evenings as needed.



July 24-August 5 with Dr. Stephanie Jeffries, North Carolina State University, Dr. Alan Weakley, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Dr. Julie Tuttle, Duke University

This course will teach students how to read the forested landscapes of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Understanding the patterns and processes in forested ecosystems will require students to focus on vegetation, with an emphasis on natural communities. We’ll introduce topics such as biogeography, paleo-ecology, classification of vegetation, regional environmental patterns, succession and community dynamics, vegetation/environmental relationships, and current threats to the integrity of these systems across a variety of field sites, which will take us on two multi-day field trips away from the Station. We expect students to actively immerse themselves in the fascinating ecology of the southern Appalachian Mountains, through their enthusiastic participation, keen observation, and careful field notes.  Special Note: We will go on a few overnight trips during this course which will require off-site lodging. Students must pay these extra lodging fees ($75, subject to change) when you pay for the course.  Prerequisites: an introductory, college-level ecology course, or permission of the instructors.



July 31-August 12 with Dr. John Morse, 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 diverse mountain stream habitats, and identifications will be performed in the laboratory.  Students may opt to take the Society for Freshwater Science’s Taxonomic Certification exam of eastern EPT to genus at the end of the course (http://www.sfstcp.com/). Prerequisites: General biology, ecology, or permission of instructor.



August 7-12 with Dr. Dwayne Estes, Austin Peay State University and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT)

This course will introduce students to the various wetland communities of the Southern Appalachians. We will focus on classification of different types of wetlands using hydrogeomorphic and vegetation-based systems. Wetland types to be studied include bogs, fens, seeps, meadows, marshes, swamps, and flatwoods. Within each type, we will focus on field identification of wetland plants, with an emphasis on dominant species, rare species of conservation concern, and invasive species. Students should expect to learn 200-300 wetland species during this course. For the various wetland types, we will also discuss abiotic characteristics, biogeography, paleo-ecology, succession, and conservation concerns. This class is a 100% field class with all instruction time spent in the field on long fieldtrips. Grading will consist of periodic field quizzes.  Special Note: We will spend two nights away from the Highlands Biological Station campus which will require off-site lodging. Students must pay these extra lodging fees ($75, subject to change) when you pay for the course. Prerequisites: introductory, college-level courses in ecology and field botany, or permission of the instructors.


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