Ecological Land Classification for Southern Ontario

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This innovative, five-day certificate course is offered in a hybrid format that maximizes student learning and minimizes travel and accommodation costs. Students will spend three days in a virtual classroom where concepts will be coupled with expertly designed field assignments to strengthen understanding of techniques. The final two days will be hosted at the rare Charitable lands less than an hour drive from the Greater Toronto Area and will focus on field demonstrations and completion of Ecological land Classification in a group setting.

Ecological Land Classification practices in Ontario are presented through zoom instruction, independent assignments, and in-person field instruction. Participants will learn:

  • Interpretation of Air photos for preliminary vegetation polygon delineation
  • The relevance of physiography mapping to Ecological Land Classification and its’ application
  • How to determine soil types, moisture regimes, and drainage regimes
  • The principles of vegetation community classification
  • Effective vegetation inventories strategies including species abundance and distribution, community ID, tree heights/ diameters, and basal areas
  • Common species associations
  • Delineation of accurate community boundaries in the field
  • Significant Wildlife Habitat considerations and identification of potential Species at Risk habitats
  • How to document an Ecological Land Classification

Each NRTG course includes free, lifetime admission. Enrol once – come back anytime.

Who attends?

Students or graduates looking for hand-on training, field ecologists/ biologist or technicians in Ontario looking for training on the application of Ecological Land Classification practices in Ontario.

Course Format

This course will be offered in a hybrid format:
Days 1-3: Virtual Classroom (Zoom) with independent field-based assignments
Days 4-5: In person at 768 Blair Road in Cambridge, Ontario (rare Charitable Lands)

Please note: Participants will be expected to provide their own transportation to and from field sites, lodging (if required), and will be responsible for providing their own food and drink. For an additional fee, a packed lunch will be available on field days (must be purchased at the time of registration).


Familiarity with plant identification techniques specifically common trees and shrubs in Ontario. Knowledge and experience with basic field practices such as note taking, map reading, mapping software, and field safety is recommended.

For students new to plant identification and/ or tree and shrub identification, courses in plant identification are offered virtually by NRTG through the micro course platform, and in person through the University of Guelph Arboretum. 

What should I bring or supply?

  • Waterproof field notebook
  • Compass (on your phone is fine)
  • GPS (on your phone is fine)
  • Clinometer (phone app is fine)
  • Soil Auger (one per 5 participants)
  • Prism for (one per 5 participants, if possible)
  • Camera (phone camera is acceptable)
  • Suitable all-weather boots (waterproof)
  • Sturdy boots/ shoes, seasonally appropriate clothing
  • Plant ID Field guides/ apps are optional but recommended
  • Google Earth Pro (free download)
  • Tablet (for digital forms and resources, encouraged)
  • Laptop (for air photo interpretation, resources in class, optional)
  • Stable internet connection for Zoom sessions (days 1-3)

Instructor Profiles

Jennifer Dyson

Jennifer Dyson

Jennifer has been a Terrestrial Ecologist with a passion for botany in both the private and public sectors since 2009. Her formal botanical training in species identification and specimen collection came from Cape Breton University, Western University, and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Canada. Jenn’s career started in Nova Scotia, transitioned to Ontario after doing a M.Sc., and has now led her to Manitoba as a Terrestrial Restoration Specialist. She has continued to educate herself and grow her skill set through courses and certifications, such as becoming an ISA Certified Arborist and Butternut Health Assessor, as well as completing certifications in the Ontario wetland evaluation system (OWES) and ecological land classification (ELC) for both the southern Ontario and provincial systems since 2015. Her experience has included many, many hours of ecological land classification in Ontario, botanical inventories in several provinces, wetland and upland vegetation monitoring, Species at Risk assessments, tree health assessments, invasive and non-native plant control, and terrestrial reclamation work.  Jennifer has been teaching about ecological topics since 2012 and has been teaching with Natural Resources Training Group since 2021.

Maggie Pugh

Maggie is an Ecologist with nearly 20 years specializing in ecosystem assessment. Maggie is certified in ecological land classification (ELC), is an Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES) evaluator and is a registered Butternut Health Assessor (BHA). She has applied ELC to projects ranging from land development to energy sector works, provincial and municipal infrastructure. Maggie is a seasoned field biologist specializing in wetland and vegetation community assessments, flora and fauna inventories, seasonal wildlife surveys, significant wildlife habitat assessment, species at risk screenings and permitting, rare species monitoring programs, sediment/ erosion control and environmental monitoring. Maggie has been sharing her knowledge and expertise as an instructor throughout her professional career, most recently as part of the Natural Resources Training Group.

Next Available Course

Course NameEcological Land Classification for Southern Ontario - Online & Cambridge - August 26-30th, 2024
Course DatesAugust 26, 2024 - August 26, 2024
InstructorsJennifer Dyson
Margaret Pugh
ContactFor inquiries on this course, please contact NRTG at:

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