Environmental Field Skills FAQ
First aid training may be obtained before or after this training program.
Ensure first aid training is recognized and endorsed by Worksafe agencies in North America. This one-day training program may be referred to by different titles, such as “Occupational First Aid” or “Standard First Aid”. Consult with your provincial or state Worksafe authorities for more information.
Course participants are required to provide their own personal protective equipment (PPE): chestwaders (with no leaks), wading belt, non-slip footwear, polarized glasses, and a hat with a brim (e.g., ball cap), as well as the following equipment: clinometer, compass, waterproof field notebook, Eslon or other 30m measuring tape, minnow trap, ziplock bags, meter stick (1.2m wooden doweling, marked in centimeters), and bucket.
You can purchase chestwaders from Canadian Tire, Cabela’s, or industry suppliers such as Dynamic Aqua Supply (Surrey, BC), IRL Supplies (Prince George, BC), Winners Edge (Lillooet, BC), Surplus Herby’s (Williams Lake, Kamloops, Vernon BC), Forestry equipment suppliers across Canada, and other outdoor equipment outfitters. Chestwaders can also be purchased from any flyfishing shop across Canada.
First, always ensure your chestwaders do not leak! You can do this easily by holding a flashlight (or your phone) in your waders in a dark room. Beams of light coming out in small pinholes might indicate a small hole. Patch using Aqua seal or Shoe Goo.
Neoprene chestwaders are appropriate for spring, fall and winter conditions but may be too warm for summer field work. Nylon chestwaders and Gore-Tex ® or breathable chestwaders are excellent choices for most seasons, where crew members wear warm layers (e.g., fleece, polypropylene) underneath during colder field conditions.
No, there is no requirement to recertify for this program. If there is a significant pause in your environmental monitoring fieldwork (e.g., four years or more), we would recommend that you recertify with NRTG. Note: all NRTG courses include free, lifetime certification. Enrol once – come back anytime.
NRTG’s Environmental Field Skills (EFS) Certificate program is accredited by BC’s College of Applied Biology (CAB). CAB will recognize graduates of the EFS program as meeting the core academic requirements for entry as an Applied Biology Technician. An ‘Applied Biology Technician’ designation qualifies an individual as a B.C. provincially recognized and certified technician and helps to expand their industry credibility.
NRTG also partners with post-secondary institutes across Canada, who offer their own non-credit Certificate of Completion for this program. Contact NRTG for further details.
Absolutely! First, identify an upcoming EFS program of interest and notify NRTG well in advance of the start date. We will do our best to create a free seat for past NRTG students and coordinate your attendance during the program.
There is an ‘Ask a Question’ form in the sidebar of each page in the course. When you submit a question it goes to the course instructors, who may answer it directly, or address it in one of the Zoom sessions.
Feel free to use this question form as often as you need!
The required gear depends on the activity, but here’s a personal field gear checklist:
- Leak-free chest waders
- Wading belt
- Wading staff
- Wading shoes (optional)
- Felt-soles or wading cleats
- Hat with a brim
- Polarized-lens sunglasses
- Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Yes, as long as your compass has a sighting mirror and the declination set.
For example, something like this compass:
When starting a new job, how much of the equipment do we provide ourselves and how much is provided by the company?
Your personal field gear should be enough to get you through the job, but it will also depend on the client and the job. Often if there is a higher standard set by the client then they will provide the gear that is needed.
It’s recommended that over time you set yourself up with enough gear to be ready for a wide variety of jobs.
At the start of the course, anything will work for a field site. Later on you’ll need to see some specific areas like forests, bodies of water, or other places that will be mentioned in class.
It’s always best to put your name on your submissions.
Yes, there will be a different field work activity assigned each week. Check the weekly course instructions to find out more.
Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) is a plane coordinate grid system, or another way to measure latitude and longitude.
A resource activity is any activity that might interfere with your work. If there is any other work happening in the area you’ll be doing your field work in you should do the following:
- Communicate with resource companies well in advance of field work
- Obtain radio frequencies for all road activity
- Equip all vehicles with suitable radio communication and verify radio channels and/or stations
- Provide field crews with hand-held, two-way radios (e.g. FRS or VHF radios) ensuring that the range of radios is sufficient
- Provide crews with backup communication (e.g. satellite phones)
- Conduct radio checks at the time of drop-off
- Acquire permission to access or travel across private property
Find an area that interests you. This is the base platform for learning a wide range of areas, from here you can pick one and pursue additional training. Talk to your teachers about what area(s) might be right for you.
There are a number of challenges that vary a lot depending on your situation. Trying to do the best work you can with limited support (either in resources, people, or training), working out in uncomfortable weather conditions, or having to reschedule work due to the weather and site conditions are all challenges you may have to face when doing field work.
We teach the principles of the job here. Other places might use specific tools or do things a certain way but the principles are the same across the board.
To add any missing files, go through submission process again and upload any that weren’t included the first time.
No. Field notes are just for observations and measurements while out in the field. Use different notes if you want to add any other information or work through equations.
Either one is acceptable, just be consistent and include units. You can always convert them later.
Sometimes. There’s some uncertainty in our measurements. Go to two decimal points but keep everything for what you’ve measured in case you need to double check.
Use your best estimation, whether it’s half a pace or quarter of a pace. When using paces you’re not looking for exact measurements, so your best estimation will work.
Estimate first, then measure. This will train you to get better results.
Your work starts when you leave the office so make sure you take good notes of travel time, time spent on-site, and anything else related to the job. Include details in case you or anybody else needs to refer back to those notes.
The answer involves compass use, map reading, and field notes.
When out on a trail or old road, pick a start point and take a compass bearing as far as the trail goes before turning. Measure that distance, and you’ve found the first leg (compass bearing & distance) of the trail. Then head to where the path turns and get a bearing facing back towards the starting point. Repeat this process for each leg.
You’ll also want to measure the width of the trail in two or three places on the first leg, and any other leg where the width noticeably changes.
A scale map is a drawing of a large area done on a piece of paper. The scale tells us what our measurements on the paper represent in the actual area being mapped.
ex) A 1:500 scale means that 1cm on the piece of paper represents 500cm in the area being mapped.
Put a dot on the bottom of the page and place the pivot point of your compass directly on top of that aligned to the North.
From there you’ll be able to mark off your first bearing and start creating the trail you mapped out previously.
Yes. Writing the degrees will help you keep track of where you are.
Using a backshot verifies our measurements and confirms that our first bearing was correct. The backshot should always be 180 degrees off of the first bearing.
By taking three different measurements, or bearings, from three different locations towards a signal (radio or other) you’ll have an overlapping area between these measurements. Where those three lines overlap is the area where that signal is coming from.
Yes. Each location will have its own declination.
Find a central location for the object or landmark and estimate the distance to both ends from that one location.
Using your watch, point the hour hand at the sun. Halfway between the hour hand and 12 on your watch is South.
Identify the stress. Is it the content? Or is there too much going on around you?
If it’s content, reach out to one of the teachers. They’re always willing to talk to you and help out.
Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The best way to learn is to try.
Take 10 steps, measure the total distance traveled, the divide that distance by 10. This will give you the average distance traveled with one step.
Keep this number in your field book to use when estimating other distances through pacing.
It’s recommended that you go for a walk and try to find a location where somebody or something has already cut into the ground so you can see the layers. Possible locations to keep an eye out for are trails, construction sites, or stream banks.
Remove an big organic pieces such as sticks, twigs, or leaves. It should be the dirt below the organic layer that you use for assessing a soil sample.
The contour lines on the map will show the vertical distance from one line to the next. To determine slope angle, add up the number of contour lines crossed to get the vertical distance, then measure the horizontal distance on the map with a ruler and check it against the scale on the map. Once you have these two values, use the Rise and Run formula to determine the slope angle.
There are a wide variety of areas where environmental impacts are considered. One example is when putting up wind turbines for alternative sources of energy, you need to consider the migratory patterns of birds and bats. There are many studies being done to determine the impact wind turbines have on these habitats and the ecosystem around them.
Using a background is often the best way to get a good picture. This can be your field notebook or a piece of cardboard, whatever you have with you that provides a solid background.
This separates it from other plants, leaves, or anything else that could obscure what you’re taking a picture of.
For any sort of high vegetation cover, carefully run a string across the area to do a line transect. If you come across this scenario and want to get it done there, it can help to have a second person with you. If you’re on your own you can use two shovels to elevate the string off the vegetation but you’ll have to use a plumb bob to weigh down the center of the line.
In any quadrant over 1m you’re better off averaging samples.
Take a look at this example from the course manual:
If you’re getting close to 50% coverage, or more, it can help to look at how much sky you can see or how much ground you can see, then work backwards from there to get the amount of coverage.
When averaging make sure that you not only average the overall area but also the individual plants because they may look like they take up more room than they actually do.
Keep in mind that averaging is an estimation. Get as close as you can, practice with pictures to hone your estimation ability, but know that it isn’t an exact science. There is no equation to follow to calculate coverage.
Yes. Always try to dry everything out. The better you treat your gear, the longer it lasts.
What should I do when trying to measure the depth or get the profile of a stream if I don’t have any small streams near me?
First, do not enter the water. This course is for training and even when on the job there are safety precautions that need to be taken for creeks over 8m wide. For the purpose of this course activity, you should estimate the depth as best as you can.
For this assignment we want you to find a body of water and take a picture of it. Then, come up with a recommendation for how you would propose catching fish there based on what age and species you suspect would be in that body of water.
Try to come up with a few different methods for this activity.
We don’t grade you on your artistic ability, just on getting the main components of what you’re drawing on paper. It’s more about getting the labels correct than anything else.
The standard is about 4 meters as the minimum height of a waterfall.
Yes! Angeline is the best person to write in for that.
It is not currently available remotely but it is something that’s on our To-Do list.
What would happen is that if a company went bankrupt, any work that needs to be done to clean the area falls to the public trust, which is gathered through taxes. There often wasn’t enough money there so the issue would get ignored.
Now there are what’s called Reclamation Bonds, which is usually the cost that would be needed to reclaim 100% of the area the company plans to work with. A company is required to put up half of that amount before they start, then the other half on the day they break ground. That way if the company declares bankruptcy, the money in the Reclamation Bond can be used to fix up the affected areas.
If you can’t make it, send an email to an instructor and let them know. They’ll help you make sure you don’t miss anything while you’re away.
Common conversion formulas for metric
|mm||????||cm||=||mm ÷ 10|
|cm||????||m||=||cm ÷ 100|
|m||????||km||=||m ÷ 1000|
|cm||????||mm||=||cm x 10|
|m||????||cm||=||m x 100|
|km||????||m||=||km x 1000|
|m2||????||ha||=||m2 ÷ 10,000|
|ha||????||m2||=||ha x 10,000|
|mL||????||L||=||mL ÷ 1000|
|L||????||mL||=||L x 1000|
|cm3||????||mL||=||cm3 x 1|
|mL||????||cm3||=||mL ÷ 1|
|g||????||kg||=||g ÷ 1000|
|kg||????||Tonne||=||kg ÷ 1000|
|Tonne||????||kg||=||Tonne x 1000|
|kg||????||g||=||kg x 1000|
Perimeter formulas used with common shapes
|Shape||Dimensions||Perimeter (P) Formula|
|Square||Length, Height, or Width (a)||P = 4 x a|
|P = (L + W) x 2|
|Triangle||Side 1 (a)|
Side 2 (b)
Side 3 (c)
(Any side can be Side 1)
|P = a + b + c|
P = π x 2 x r
Note: π = 3.14
Area formulas for common shapes
|Shape||Dimensions||Area (A) Formula|
|Square||Length, Height, or Width (a)||A = a2|
|A = L x W|
|A = (b x h) ÷ 2|
|Circle||Radius (r)||A = π x r2Note: π = 3.14|
|A = L x W|
Volume formulas for common shapes
|Cube||Length, Height, or Width (a)||V = a3|
|Rectangular prism||Length (L)|
|V = L x W x H|
|V= (π x r2) x h|
When a slope gradient is measured as a percent, what is really being measured is the ratio of Rise to Run where Run is given the value of 100.
The formula for measuring slope is:
Slope = (Rise ÷ Run) x 100
Rise = Vertical measurement
Run = Horizontal measurement
The Rise and Run must both be in the same units (e.g., metres).
However, we often want to determine an unknown and hard-to-measure rise or vertical distance (e.g., the height of a tree or a cliff). To do so, we can change the formula above to:
Rise = (Slope ÷ 100) x Run
Slope in Degrees
Sometimes slopes need to be measured in units of degrees rather than percent. Drawings or work completed by engineers may be in degrees, so it is useful to know how to convert from degrees to percent slope. A degree is an arc representing 1/360 of the circumference of a circle.
To calculate the degrees for a slope we need to use trigonometry rules. If we know the rise and run, we can calculate the degrees by using the formula:
Slope degree = tan-1 x (Rise ÷ Run)
tan-1 = the arc tangent function on calculator
Rise = vertical measurement
Run = horizontal measurement
If we know the angle in percent, we can convert from percent to degree by using the formula:
Slope degree = tan-1 x (% slope ÷ 100)
tan-1 = the arc tangent function on calculator
% slope = slope angle in percent
If we know the angle in degrees, we can convert from degree to percent by using the formula:
Slope percent = [tan(degree slope)] x 100
tan = the tangent function on calculator
degree slope = slope angle in degrees
Forest Floor: The entire thickness of organic material overlying the mineral soil, consisting of litter and humus.
Litter: Undecomposed or only partially decomposed organic material that can be readily identified (e.g., plant, leaves, twigs, etc.).
Humus: The dark organic matter that forms in soil when dead plant and animal matter decays. Humus lies under the litter layer and is a more decomposed form of the litter.
Mineral Soil: A soil consisting predominantly of inorganic material (e.g., sands, silts, and clays).
Organic Soil: A soil containing a high proportion of organic matter. These soils are often common in wetland areas such as bogs, marshes, and swamps, or found on top of restrictive layers such as permafrost.
Peat: An accumulation of partially decomposed plant material deposited under saturated soil conditions.
Ped: An individual unit of soil structure. A natural agglomeration (‘clump’) of soil, formed as individual soil particles have a tendency to “stick” together to form larger masses of soil particles.
Soil: The upper layer of earth in which plants grow, a black or dark brown material typically consisting of a mixture of organic remains, clay and rock particles.
Soil Characterization: The process of determining the physical properties of the soil such as horizon thickness, color, structure, texture and consistency through observation and a series of simple hand and equipment tests.
Soil Horizon: A layer of soil or soil material approximately parallel to the land surface and differing from adjacent layers in physical, chemical, and biological characteristics such as color, structure, texture, and consistency.
Soil Profile: A cross section through the soil which reveals its horizons.