Introduction to Desert Tortoises & Field Techniques
Tentative date – November 2-3, 2019
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 or the 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
- 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 the course is over. 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.
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.
A course syllabus from the past year is available for download at the bottom of this page.
2019 Course Fees
The Early Registration fee for 2019 will be $285.00 ($185.00 for registered students). The regular fee will be $345.00 ($245.00 for registered students) (Exceptions will be made for government offices with budget restriction and who will be given permission to hold payment until budgets clear).
There will be a special option for local teachers to audit the course for a $25 fee. This will not include the test or the final letter certifying course completion and will be a separate registration link.
The fee covers the course as described on the syllabus and does not include travel, lodging, and any meals not on the program.
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.
Desert Tortoise Council Introductory Course
4654 East Ave. S #257B
Palmdale, CA 93552
Audit Option for Local Science Teachers
There is a special option for a limited number of local teachers to audit the course for a $25 fee. This will not include the test or the final letter certifying course completion.
The following USFWS web sites provide valuable and comprehensive 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
- Carlsbad Fish & Wildlife Survey Protocols & Guidelines
- USFWS Translocation of Mojave Desert Tortoises from Project Sites: Plan Development Guidance