River Ecology and Adventure

Explore and discover our natural, aquatic world. Engaging field-based learning will pair with outdoor skills and trips. Learn about Southern Appalachian stream ecology while canoeing sections of pristine rivers, hiking to wilderness swimming holes and investigating local aquatic species, and be challenged to think critically about human impact on the environment while rafting exciting whitewater.

Students sitting in front of a waterfall

Registration Details

  • $1,750
  • Price includes lodging, meals, all course materials, activities, and excursions
  • A $500 deposit is due upon registration with remaining balance due by May 1, 2023. Click here to see our cancellation policy
  • Students reside in campus residence halls and dine in campus dining hall
  • Enrollment is open until spaces are filled
  • Registration is through the Camp Doc platform.  Detailed registration instructions can be found here.


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  • Aquatic Ecology: Intro to Southern Appalachian stream ecology, basic species ecology and identification, human impacts on aquatic ecosystems, field sampling and processing
  • Adventure/Outdoor Skills: Leave-no-trace ethics and outdoor stewardship, basic hydrology, watercraft travel/basic paddling skills, hiking and group management, river stewardship
  • Social topics: Building positive community, developing a sense of place/place attachment, reflecting personally on their role in and interactions with the natural world

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  • Fish and invertebrate sample collection and processing
  • Site visits (streams, waterfalls, service sites, etc.)
  • Adventure activities including: basic flatwater paddling, moving water tandem canoeing, swimming hole snorkeling/swimming, waterfall hiking/exploring, whitewater rafting

Sample Schedule

  • Morning

  • 8 a.m. – Breakfast
  • 9 a.m. – Intro to Southern Appalachian stream ecology session
  • 10:30 a.m. – Intro to field sampling techniques
  • 12:00 p.m. – Lunch
  • Afternoon

  • 1 p.m. – Travel to activity site
  • 1:30 p.m. – Introduction to paddling skills session, “Try It” event with canoes, stand up paddleboards and kayaks; on-water games and activities
  • 5 p.m. – Travel back to campus
  • Evening

  • 5:30 p.m. – Dinner
  • 6:30 p.m. – Activities / recreation / free time
    Options could include: beach volleyball, Asheville Tourists game, observatory, game night, movie
  • 11 p.m. – Lights out

Meet Your Faculty

Dr. David Gillette

Dr. Gillette has been teaching aquatic ecology and environmental science at UNC Asheville since 2008. He earned a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Oklahoma where he studied the importance of connections between terrestrial and aquatic habitats to stream fishes. Before coming to UNCA, Dr. Gillette taught for a year at Austin College in Texas. At UNCA, Dr. Gillette and his students are investigating the impacts of human activities on aquatic ecosystems in western North Carolina, and the effectiveness of practices designed to remediate those impacts. During the 2015/2016 academic year, Dr. Gillette traveled to Nepal with support from the Fulbright Foundation, World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic Society to investigate effects of environmental change on Himalayan fishes.

Rowan Stuart

Rowan Stuart is the Associate Director for Outdoor Programs in Campus Recreation at UNC Asheville. She teaches Outdoor Leadership classes at UNCA and trains student trip leaders to run programs in whitewater kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, caving, and more. An alumni of UNCA’s Psychology and Biology departments, she has a MS in Experiential and Outdoor Education from Western Carolina University. Outside of her work with UNC Asheville, Rowan is also a member of the International Freestyle Canoe & Kayak Committee, and spent five years on the USA Freestyle Kayaking Team.

Contact Us

Questions? Please contact us at camps@unca.edu.