Frequently Asked Questions

California Consulting Botanist Certification


1. What does the exam fee and annual dues cover?

The exam fee covers the costs associated with developing and administering the examinations.

The annual dues cover the cost of maintaining all the records associated with those that are certified, as well as producing and distributing educational and informational materials, such as the newsletter, keeping track of Professional Development Credits (PDCs), liability insurance, overhead to provide space and time for staff, etc.

2. Will there be a distribution list to be sent informing the public/agencies/utilities of who has been certified (i.e. indirect marketing)? Or will something else be offered along with certification?

No. However, CNPS will maintain a list of all persons certified and their contact information, and this list will be published on the Botanist Certification webpage. It is the certified botanist’s responsibility to promote themselves.

3. What sort of input was provided by the larger botanical community in the development of this program?

The current certification program has been under development since 2002, with many discussions with many botanists throughout the state. Many of these discussions have been within CNPS, but also at California Botanical Society, Southern California Botanists, Northern California Botanists, as well as collaboration with many different consulting botanists. These discussions have included representatives from federal, state, and local agencies, consulting firms (large and small), academic botanists (herbaria, professors, etc.), local planning agencies, and conservationists. The certification idea has been presented and discussed at major conferences and smaller symposia, held by BSA, CNPS, SCB, NCB, CBS, etc.

4. Will these exams be offered in a wider variety of locations?

Demand will be a large determining factor in when and where certification exams will be held; however, an effort will be made to move the venue around the state, with at least one set of exams each year in northern and southern California. This will be true for the dates of the exams.

5. Am I correct in assuming that the use of the word “membership” on the website is intended to mean “certification?” I want to be clear because “membership” implies existence of a club or a society, like CNPS. I doubt you intend the CBC to require CNPS membership, though. Here is the quote: “Upon successfully passing the examinations, the applicant will be required to pay the membership fee before receiving their certification number, certificate, and certification card.”

You are correct. Membership is CNPS is not required and there is no financial benefit to be a member of CNPS to being a certified botanist. Many certification organizations offer steep discounts to certification exams and/or annual certification maintenance fees, but since CNPS is simply administering the program, no discounts are offered.

6. Will you have information on PDCs available prior to the certification exams? Will workshops from a variety of organizations other than CNPS be valid (e.g. NorCalBot, SoCalBot, Jepson Herbarium, RSABG, Chico Herbarium, UNR)? Roughly how many PDC’s will be issued per class?

Not for the first set of exams. However, as soon as vendors of trainings and workshops have submitted materials to the BOC for consideration, and those materials are considered sufficient, CNPS will post a list of all such training that will earn PDCs on its botanist certification webpage, with links to the provider’s webpage (or contact information). Some CNPS workshops will also qualify. In addition, the general types of opportunities to earn PDCs will be posted.

7. Does everyone in a consulting firm/organization need to be certified to perform botanical work, or can certification be held by more senior botanists who review everyone else’s work and “stamp approval” similar to the cert process for engineers and surveyors?

Certification at this point is entirely voluntary for anyone and for either level of certification. Certification is intended to provide the individual with credentials that set them apart from those with less experience or knowledge. The BOC expects that many practitioners will not yet have sufficient knowledge or experience to pass the exams; therefore, those who do not believe they are ready to become certified would certainly benefit from mentoring under someone who is certified. Since at this time no agency requires work to be performed by a certified botanist, there is no requirement for a stamp of approval by those that are certified, such as required for licensed geologists, landscape architects, or engineers. Over time, the BOC expects that more and more agencies and clients will require botanical consulting work to be performed by or under the direct supervision of a Certified Botanist.

8. My biggest concern is the cost of maintaining the certification. Although the details of the PDCs have not been announced, I can imagine that fees for these courses and travel expenses to get the 50 units could be thousands of dollars. If they are conducted during the field season, that could also be problematic for us small businesses with packed field seasons, no large company or agency to pay the bills, that struggle during the lean off season months.

The BOC is sensitive to the costs typically associated with attending professional training workshops. For this reason, the BOC has developed a variety of methods by which a certified botanist can earn PDCs, including volunteering their time.

9. Another concern is that the certification may eventually become required by CDFW to conduct the work we have been doing for decades, and that our careers could suffer it we did not maintain the certification for financial, family, or other reasons. Unqualified people doing botanical surveys is a huge problem, I have seen if first hand, but there is sort of a panic about this in my local botanical circles of qualified botanists.

At this point, the CDFW has not required that the work performed by the consulting botanist be certified, and it is not likely to do so any time in the foreseeable future. For example, The Wildlife Society and the Ecological Society of America have both had certification programs for many years and CDFW has never required that work associated with wildlife surveys and assessments be performed either a Certified Wildlife Biologist or a Certified Ecologist. However, the BOC does expect that some local agencies may require work to be performed within their jurisdiction to be at least supervised by the Certified Consulting Botanist sometime in the future, similar to what they require now for “Qualified Biologist”. The difference here will be that the agency will have a higher degree of confidence that the Certified Botanist is indeed qualified.

10. I have been through some of the review material already, and am thinking of shooting for the Consulting Botanist Cert. Is there any way I can get my hands on a practice test?

There are no practice tests available and there will not be. However, the BOC is continuing to develop and will post online materials and information covering topics the Certified Field and Consulting Botanists are expected to know.

Otherwise, knowing your common and characteristic plants and the terminology used in botanical references such as the Jepson Manual are important to know. Basically, if you are conducting field surveys, identifying plants, and preparing reports to satisfy CEQA and/or NEPA reporting requirements, you should be in a good position.

11. I see that there are 2 tests given each year, when is the next?

The dates and venues of next year’s exams will be posted on the Botanist Certification webpage as soon as they have been established. The BOC will strive to make those decisions at least 4 months in advance to allow sufficient time for botanists to plan accordingly.

12. As far as laws and policies, to what degree of detail will I be expected to be familiar such things as specific sections of documents amending CEQA/NEPA guidelines, or is a holistic knowledge of such topics acceptable?

If you have a general understanding how CEQA and NEPA work, the differences between them, the basic terminology used, then you should be fine. Also, study the Code of Ethics carefully.

13. I am assuming that the CNPS guidelines and policies will be the most relevant and important to know/ permitting and reporting procedures.

The CNPS guidelines and policies are certainly important to know, but also you need to be fluent with CDFW and USFWS survey protocols/guidelines. Each of these are quite similar but there are some differences between them.

14. I hear the exams are hard. How much experience and education do I need before I can have confidence of passing?

This certification is focused on the senior level of botanist working in the consulting profession. That means that you should have at a bare minimum 5 years of full-time experience as a BOTANIST. Ten years of such experience is even better. There is a lot to know and consulting wildlife biologists that also cover botanical resources are just not likely to have the level of knowledge and experience that is required to pass each of the exams. If you have any doubts, contact a BOC member and talk to them. Be self critical.