Hokies and non-Hokies alike are invited to spend a week in Great Smoky Mountains National Park this summer, studying the area’s unique ecosystems and ecology in a course offered by Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.

Held Aug. 4-11 at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Tennessee, the three-credit course is open to anyone interested in learning about the natural environment. Join students from the University of Georgia and Purdue University for seven days packed with intriguing sessions taught by National Park Service personnel, institute instructors, and faculty from each university.

The course will be led this year by Alan Raflo, a former research associate with the Virginia Water Resources Research Center who participated in the course in 2014. Raflo believes that the Great Smoky Mountains provide the perfect environment for such a course because of their biodiversity, popularity, history, and vulnerability to modern environmental impacts.

“Learning can be enhanced, and potentially be deeper and more long-lasting, when the learner is actively engaged through various senses, is motivated and excited by a new experience, and helps shape the experience,” Raflo explained. “The Great Smoky Mountains have the lands, waters, atmospheric conditions, culture, and history to provide engaging experiences, and the arrangement of this course offers students time and techniques to be active participants in their learning.”

Course sessions for Natural History of the Great Smoky Mountains (course number FIW 2244, CRN 72160) will include such topics as:

  • Field journaling techniques.
  • Air quality.
  • All taxa biodiversity inventory.
  • Forest ecology.
  • Amphibians, reptiles, and birds of the Smokies.
  • Wildlife management.
  • High country ecology.
  • Bear research.
  • Tree identification.
  • Stream ecology.

The cost for the course is $590 for lodging and meals in addition to tuition and fees for students seeking academic credit. Elementary and secondary school teachers are eligible for reduced tuition. Virginia citizens age 60 or older may be exempt from tuition and fees.

Natural History of the Great Smoky Mountains has been approved as a substitute for Wildlife Field Biology (FIW 2324) at Virginia Tech.

For more information on course content and logistics, email Raflo at araflo@vt.edu. For details on course registration, call 540-231-3486 or email cnre_students@vt.edu.