Introduction to Desert Tortoises & Field Techniques
The 2020 course is being planned for November 7-8. The information below provides details from the 2019 course. Dates, the new syllabus, and possibly costs will change. We intend to post the information for 2020 in mid June and open registration in early July.
About the Course
Introduction to Desert Tortoises and Field Techniques is a two-day basic course that includes important information on ecology, habitat preferences, life history, health, physiology, and threats; applicable state and federal laws and required permits; and two field sessions on surveys and identification of tortoises and tortoise sign. This comprehensive introduction to Agassiz’s (Mojave) Desert Tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, is designed for wildlife biologists, zoologists, natural resource specialists, wildlife managers, land managers, recreation specialists, persons dealing with the public, teachers, and the general public.
This course is recommended for entry-level tortoise field biologists looking to prepare themselves for the job of locating tortoises and sign in the field, and for seeking authorizations to do tortoise fieldwork. The course does not guarantee any authorization but is recognized by state and federal agencies as providing important information and skills training.
The course includes hands-on exercises in monitoring and surveying techniques for desert tortoises and an overview of the desert tortoise and threats to its survival.
To receive a letter affirming your completion of this course you must attend the entire course including the field portion, turn in a completed field survey form, and take the on-line test that will be available after November 11 and due on or about December 16. The open book test will take at least an hour, perhaps more and may cover concepts covered in lecture, in the field, and from selected readings.
After you attend the course you will receive a one-year free membership in the Desert Tortoise Council unless you decline.
An e-mail confirmation with a link to supplemental material will be sent to you after we receive your payment. You do not have to read everything or print it, it is for reference. We will add PDF files of this year’s lectures about a week before the course begins.
Desert Tortoise Council’s Introduction to Desert Tortoises and Field Techniques Courses are recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, BUT a certificate of attendance does not guarantee any USFWS authorization or permit. However, completion of the Course should help with the authorization/permitting processes.
The Early Registration fee is $285.00 ($185.00 for registered students) through Friday, September 20. You must register and pay by this date to receive the early registration fee. If you pay after September 20 the fee is $345.00 ($245.00 for registered students) (Exceptions for government offices with budget restriction and who will be given permission to hold payment until the annual budgets are approved).
Audit Option for Local Science Teachers
- Cancellations must be received three weeks prior to the course (Friday, October 11 at midnight) for a refund minus a $20.00 handling fee.
- After October 11, 75% of the registration fees are forfeit.
- After November 1, 2019 all funds will be forfeit.
Instructions for attending the course
- Read all the information about the course and what to bring to the course.
- Bring a SIGNED WAIVER (available below) to check-in; you cannot participate in the field sessions without this. Print a copy, sign it and bring it to the door. Do not mail it in.
- Students requesting the student fee will need a letter from their institution confirming that they are registered students for fall 2019. Bring that to the check in or you will be charged the regular fee.
What to Bring to the Course
For the outdoor exercises you will need a clipboard, an indelible ink pen, and a handheld mirror or flashlight. You also should have a hat, water, sun block, suitable footwear, etc. The outdoor events will be along well-maintained dirt roads. We cannot guarantee the weather and we work wind, rain or shine. Please also bring your refillable water bottle and a coffee mug. We like to avoid using disposables as much as possible. Thank you.
Hotel Reservations in Ridgecrest
There are several motels in Ridgecrest easily searched. You can also try online discount sites that might offer cheaper rates; be careful to allow for fees and taxes.
Thanks to a lot of work by Kristin Berry, there is a new bibliography that you can download from the USGS website. Download the Desert tortoise annotated bibliography, 1991-2015.
We also recommend the reference book: Rostal et al., Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, 190pp.
The following USFWS web sites provide some valuable information on requirements for field projects involving the desert tortoise. The second web site also explains the requirements to become an authorized biologist under the USFWS. These web pages are currently in revision, so check back as we will post updates when we receive them.
- USFWS 2010 Pre-Project Survey Protocol (outdated but useful)
- Carlsbad Fish & Wildlife Survey Protocols & Guidelines (has updated protocol and additional information)
- USFWS Translocation of Mojave Desert Tortoises from Project Sites: Plan Development Guidance (outdated but no replacement yet)
PLEASE BE SURE TO READ ALL THE INFORMATION ABOUT ATTENDING THE COURSE. DTC WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE IF YOU DO NOT READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.
How to Register
(Registration for the 2019 course is now closed.)
You will register and pay in 2 steps, via our Wild Apricot website portal. You will not be fully registered until you have paid and to get the early registration fee you must pay before September 20 (unless you are a government agency with permission to pay after you get your budget).
We will use Wild Apricot for all of our events including courses, workshops, the symposium, membership payments, etc. so remember your login information. We cannot retrieve your login information for you.
One email = one person only so each person needs to have an individual login.
If you are an individual paying for yourself go online and complete the registration and payment process. You will receive an invoice and, after you pay, a receipt and a link to supplementary material. We prefer that each attendee register separately.
If you need to register and pay for more than one person, please use the guest function. WE WILL NEED PERSONAL INFORMATION FOR EACH GUEST (EMAIL, PHONE, MAILING ADDRESS, PERMISSION TO SHARE EMAILS) before the course begins. We use that to manage the event, contact each attendee, make the badges and the email lists, give the online test, etc. We will accept your payment and hold spaces but the people will not be considered fully registered until we get the personal information. You are cautioned not to share the workbook information as that contains copyright material and is ONLY for registered attendees. We will send the link to each person as soon as we get the information and the personal email.
After you register (first step) you will receive an invoice that you need to pay (second step) ASAP to get the link to the course workbook and to retain your space. You must pay by September 20 to pay the early registration rate no matter when you registered. After September 20 we will increase the payment on your invoice to the regular fee unless you have told us you have to wait for your government budget to be approved.
If you pay by PayPal please enter the name of each attendee in the space provided for annotation before you submit your payment. This is the link to your Invoices & Receipts page of your Wild Apricot Profile: PayPal link. Do not register a second time to pay…use the PayPal link to pay your invoice if you cannot log into Wild Apricot.
If you cannot pay via PayPal with your account or linked credit card, you can send a check to:
Desert Tortoise Council
4654 East Ave. S #257B
Palmdale, CA 93552
Write “introductory course” and the names of each attendee ON THE CHECK PLEASE. (NO SPECIAL MAILING OPTIONS PLEASE, JUST USE A REGULAR LETTER RATE).
For others, if you do not pay, we reserve the right to cancel your registration if the session fills in order to let other people register and pay.
If you pay after September 20 you will have to pay the full fee.
PayPal Invoices & Receipts Page (in case you lost your information).