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UNC Institute for the Environment Highlands Field Site
The UNC Institute for the Environment established the Highlands Field Site in 2001 as part of its effort to provide UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate students with opportunities for experiential learning in environmental studies. The Highlands Field Site invites students to participate in a semester-long investigation into the ways that humans interact with their environment in the southern Appalachian region and the tools we use to measure, understand, and communicate those impacts. Course work in this program ranges from a focus on understanding of the region’s unique biodiversity through on-the-ground field measurements to uses of satellite imagery and remote sensing tools to look at broader contexts and spatial scales, tracking change over time. It also considers how we communicate information and knowledge, and the importance of recognizing cultural and economic influences.
The HFS, located within the Highlands Biological Station, has a long tradition of research and education that takes advantage of the diverse and rich southern Blue Ridge Mountains that surrounds it. Located in the town of Highlands, N.C. (elevation 4,118 feet), the Station is equipped for scientific investigations and education, with modern classrooms, GIS lab, aquatic labs, seminar room, and library. The 23-acre campus, a short walk from downtown Highlands, also contains dorms, molecular genetics lab, WPA-built natural history museum (Highlands Nature Center) and Amphitheater, beautiful Lindenwood Lake, and the renowned Highlands Botanical Garden, a 12-acre native plant botanical garden now in its 55th year. Amenities further include the Weyman commons building, herbarium, firepit, outdoor classroom, boats for use on Lindenwood Lake and the HBS Bike Fleet – freely available bicycles for pedaling around campus or around town.
Coursework for this field site is suitable for students pursuing a concentration area in environmental science, geography, GIS, and communications/journalism. As a part of the curriculum, students are required to complete an internship with a local organization or an independent study with an HFS faculty member and participate in a Capstone project. A total of 17 credit hours are earned.
Coursework for the Fall 2021 field site is still being finalized. Tentative courses are listed below:
- ENEC 204: Southern Appalachian Environment & Cultural History (1)
- ENEC 256: Human Impacts in the Southern Appalachian (4)
- ENEC 264: Special Topics - Effective Science Communication/Communicating Science in the Anthropocene (3)
- ENEC 395: Research in Environmental Science and Studies (3)
- ENEC 479: Remote Sensing and Landscape Analysis (3)
- ENEC 698: Capstone - Analysis and Solution of Environmental Problems (3)
Courses in this program are UNC Graded Credit.
UNC Graded Credit Programs (often taught by UNC Faculty): No action required
- These courses automatically show up on your Tar Heel Tracker and UNC Transcript.
- You will receive a letter grade for those courses, and this does affect your GPA.
Students in the Highlands Field Site program live in a ca. 1880 home, Valentine House, on the Highlands Biological Station campus. Classes are based in the W. C. Coker Laboratory building, named for the noted UNC-Chapel Hill botanist, but we take full advantage of our rich natural surroundings and spend a great deal of time in the field. The program takes advantage of its proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Qualla Boundary (Reservation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation), Roan Mountain, Gray Fossil Site, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and other areas of interest to experience firsthand the complexities of environmental history and issues facing the southern mountains.
Review the Budget Sheet posted above for detailed information on costs and fees. Costs vary per term and are subject to change.
Tuition and fees for the program are based on current UNC tuition rates, the student’s NC residency status, and operating costs of the program. Tuition and fees will be charged to the participant’s UNC student account. Review the Budget Sheet for additional Cashier Billed Expenses and Out-of-Pocket Costs. The Study Abroad Office strongly encourages students to budget carefully for their time abroad.
Getting Started: Funding Study Abroad
Complete the required UNC application by clicking “Apply Now” at the top of the page. If you have not done so already, create a profile to start your application.
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For pictures, frequently asked questions, student testimonials, and more, visit the program’s blog
For information on requesting ARS accommodations (academic, health, and mobility concerns) for a study abroad program, contact the Advisor for Access