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 November 12 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 the reference list will be sent to you after we receive your payment. You do not have to read it or print it. We will add PDF files of this year’s lectures about a week before the course begins.
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 is available for download at the bottom of this page.
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.
Registration & Payment
The Early Registration fee is $285.00 ($185.00 for registered students) through September 23. You must register and pay by this date to receive the early registration fee. If you pay after September 23 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 budgets clear).
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 23 (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.
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. 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 ASAP to get the link to the course workbook and to retain your space. You must pay by September 23 to pay the early registration rate no matter when you registered.
If you pay by PayPal please enter the name of each attendee in the space provided for annotation before you submit your payment. Do not register a second time to pay…use the PayPal link to pay your invoice if you need it.
If you cannot pay via PayPal with your account or linked credit card, you can send a check to:
Desert Tortoise Council Introductory Course
4654 East Ave. S #257B
Palmdale, CA 93552
Put 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 23 you will have to pay the full fee.
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 October 31, 2019 all funds will be forfeit.
Instructions for attending 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 will need a letter from their institution confirming that they are registered students for fall 2017. Bring that to the check in or you will be charged the regular fee.
What to Bring to the Sessions
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
Discounted rates are available for DTC course registrants. The venue for the Introduction to Desert Tortoises Course is at the Kerr McGee Center, 100 W California Ave., Ridgecrest, CA
The Clarion Inn, 901 N. China Lake Blvd., Ridgecrest, CA 93555, is available at a special rate. The daily rate for the DTC course is $78.00 for a double and $74 for a king plus tax. You must call the motel directly at (760) 446-7910 and tell them you are with the Desert Tortoise Council. Reservations must be received on or before October 19.
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.
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