Over the years, it has become clear that a formal identification of minimum standards for botanists is needed for California. The California Consulting Botanist Certification (CBC),administered by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), fills this need by formally recognizing botanists that:
Incorporate scientifically sound botanical principles in decision-making
Meet a minimum set of standards in knowledge and experience
Adhere to high ethical standards
Botanists in the field. Photo by David Magney
Goals and Function
Certify only well-trained, competent, responsible, and ethical professionals.
Establish widely accepted standards of proficiency and professionalism that guide the training, development, and performance of botanists and their products.
Facilitate relevant professional training.
Maintain and promote courses and training in academic, field oriented, and reporting arenas.
Require routine recertification to ensure botanists stay up-to-date with current scientific practices and regulatory requirements.
Serve the needs of botanists who wish to establish and validate their professional credentials.
Guide biologists, governmental entities, regulatory agencies, courts, and the public in defining minimum standards of knowledge and ability for professional botanists.
Establish a critical peer evaluation of a botanist's knowledge and skills based upon defined minimum technical skills and knowledge.
Encourage all practicing botanists to meet established professional standards.
Assist the public, regulators, and project proponents in identifying qualified professional botanists.
Create and maintain confidence in the advice and opinions of Certified Botanists, as well as educated and experienced professionals, who have pledged to uphold the Botanist Code of Ethics.
Recognized on the Register of California certified botanists
Hold a Certificate as a Certified Field or Consulting Botanist
Receive a Certification number and relevant acronym for business cards and (email) signatures
Annual California Professional Botanist newsletter
Prior to certification, applicants are required to pass two plant identification (sight identification and keying) and two written examinations, each with a score of 75% or above. The Field Botanist examination will only have one written examination.
Note: Applicants who fail to pass one or more of the tests (three for the Field Botanist, plus one more for the Consulting Botanist) will not be certified. However, if the applicant registers for the Consulting Botanist exams and passes the three tests for the Field Botanist certification, but fails the final Consulting Botanist exam, then they will receive certification as a Field Botanist. Retesting can only occur at the next available (or subsequent) examination date, and the applicant will be required to pay the full examination fee again.
No formal education is required; however, the Board of Certification believes that candidates holding a bachelor's degree with the equivalent of at least 30 semester hours of ecosystem sciences (with at least 9 semester hours of botany and at least 12 semester hours of physical and mathematical science), will greatly benefit from such coursework.
Field experience will also give the candidate a substantial advantage over those lacking it. Practical, both on-the-job and independent, experience is needed to provide the depth and breadth of knowledge expected for those that want to become certified.
Levels of Certification
The Field Botanist must demonstrate their competence in identifying native and naturalized plants found in California, and confirm their ability to utilize appropriate field survey methods and protocols that satisfy documentation and assessment requirements.
Plant identification (sight ID, terminology used in taxonomic descriptions and identification keys)
Plant systematics and taxonomy
Field survey methods (including tools needed) and protocols
Site characterization methods
Vegetation classification and mapping (including aerial photo interpretation)
Laws and regulations pertaining to field work, including those pertaining to vouchering listed plants and obtaining permission to collect from landowners
Reporting and record keeping of field work results
Ethics (professional and conservation)
The Consulting Botanist must satisfy all requirements of a Field Botanist, as well as demonstrate competence in document preparation by: describing baseline conditions of a study/project area, critically analyzing project-related impacts to botanical resources, developing feasible mitigation measures to avoid or compensate for identified impacts, and demonstrating a clear understanding of environmental laws and regulations pertaining to plants.
Field Botanist exam topics, plus:
Federal, state, and local laws and regulations pertaining to impact assessments, take of listed species, and rare plants
Reporting and assessment of impacts and findings
Development and implementation of mitigation measures
Application for certification and registration for tests is now open for 2017. Examination dates and venues for 2017 are below. Applicants are required to fill out the application form and provide current contact information, sign the Code of Ethics(PDF), and submit the examination fee.
Applicants will be notified on the next available examination (date and location). Upon successfully passing the examinations, the applicant will be required to pay the membership fee before receiving their certification number, certificate, and certification card.
Test locations, dates/times
March 6, 2017 (Monday)
Northern California Curry Canyon Ranch, near Clayton, California Register online
The CBC is a collaboration of many groups and organizations, and is administered by CNPS. The CBC includes three standing committees to implement and administer it: Board of Certification, Professional Ethics Committee, and Advisory Committee. Board of Certification members are Certified Botanists elected by their peers, and the Professional Ethics Committee is also composed of Certified Botanists and one attorney specializing in ethics. The Advisory Committee is composed of representatives from groups and organizations with an interest in supporting and maintaining high standards in the professional botanist community and who support the CBC. The main function is to serve as a communication channel between cooperating organizations and the Board of Certification so that the cooperating organizations stay apprised of the CBC status. Members of the Advisory Committee do not need to be Certified Botanists, and membership in this committee is approved by the Board of Certification.
All fees obtained through the certification testing process will be used to administer the CBC.
Botanical Society of America
California Botanical Society
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Northern California Botanists
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Southern California Botanists
University of California & Jepson Herbaria
University of California Davis Plant Sciences
For more information about California Botanist Certification, contact David Magney at
*Please note: This page is updated to reflect current information about the
CBC, as details of the program are still being finalized. Therefore,
information on this page is subject to change until the first certification
exam is held. Please contact us if you have questions.