In this workshop you will learn to conduct rare plant surveys and report your findings, contributing to the documentation and protection of California’s profusion of unique rare plants. This training includes a full day in the field getting hands-on experience. Read on for details.

Rare Plant Survey Protocols

August 17-18, 2023
San Luis Obispo, CA
Taught by Heath Bartosh & Aaron E. Sims

CNPS Members $450 / Non-Members $500
Capacity: 22 participants
Last Day to Register: August 3, 2023



Target Audience: Professional botanists, ecologists, land managers, resource specialists, academics, and conservationists. Participants should have an understanding of plant terminology and capable plant identification skills.

Full Description: This course is designed to approach rare plant surveys using the best scientific information available. This scientific approach is built on conducting proper background review and literature searches, evaluating ecological information, assessing annual phenology, appropriate study design based on the scale of the survey area, survey execution, and adequate documentation of rare plant populations encountered.

This 2-day course will include classroom and field settings where the instructors will cover three topic areas: preparing for surveys, conducting surveys, and reporting findings. These topics will be discussed based on applicable botanical survey guidelines. Time spent in the field will be applying the concepts learned during classroom sessions. There will also be a homework assignment due at the beginning of the second day of class. A small amount of time will be spent on the proper methods of collecting voucher specimens. This course includes a certificate of completion for participants who complete CNDDB forms satisfactorily and pass an (optional) open book exam at the end of the course.

Participants will learn:

  • How to properly prepare and conduct background research prior to initiating rare plant surveys
  • How to design and conduct rare plant surveys focusing on the size and topography of the study area, ecological niches, the importance of reference sites, etc.
  • CA Department of Fish & Wildlife, CNPS, US Fish & Wildlife, and other relevant botanical field survey protocols
  • How to use online databases and resources such as: the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB), the CNPS Rare Plant Inventory, the Jepson eFlora/Interchange, Consortium of CA Herbaria, and others
  • To fill out CNDDB forms correctly and thoroughly
  • A brief overview of laws pertaining to rare plants
  • A brief overview of voucher specimen collecting techniques

Schedule & Locale (Subject to Change)

Thursday, August 17

Meet at San Luis Obispo Vets Hall, located at 801 Grand Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA. Indoor lecture, classroom setting.

8:30 am
Meet and greet, introductions

9:00 am
Overview of laws applicable to rare plant protection

9:30 am
Preparing for surveys: background research, study area evaluation & design

12:00 pm
Break for lunch (please bring your own lunch and water)

1:00 pm
Conducting surveys: survey techniques and field data collection

2:00 pm
How to fill out the more difficult parts of the CNDDB field survey form

3:00 pm
Reporting findings: CNDDB forms and what the guidelines tell us

4:00 pm
Review of background research specific to study area

4:30 pm
Wrap up discussion, review, and questions

5:00 pm
Break for the day

Friday, August 18

Meet at designated field site TBA. All day in the field. Spend the day learning the local flora, the importance of field keying, how to identify niche/specialized habitat, CNDDB field form data collection, voucher specimen collection, transect and other surveying techniques based on rare species.

8:30 am
Meet at designated location and hike to field site, possibly up to 3 miles round-trip

12:00 pm
Lunch in the field (please bring your own lunch and water)

1:00 pm
Resume field work

3:30 pm
Q & A, exam (optional), course evaluations

4:00 pm
Workshop concludes

Schedule subject to change.

Venue: Day 1 classroom portion of this workshop will be held in the San Luis Obispo Vets Hall, located at 801 Grand Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.

Day 2 field exercises will take place at nearby locations TBA. Additional details will be provided to those registered about a week before the workshop.

Materials & Requirements

Please bring...

  • Hand lens
  • The Jepson Manual, Second Edition (physical and/or digital copy)
  • Clipboard, notebook, and pencil
  • Sturdy boots and field clothes appropriate for the conditions
  • Sunscreen, hat, and insect repellent
  • Drinking water, packable lunches, and snacks for both days
  • Optional: digital camera, GPS unit, binoculars

Materials Provided: CNPS will provide handouts, field forms, and a certificate of completion after successfully completing CNDDB forms and passing an open book exam (optional).

Physical Requirements: Participants should be physically able to walk up to 3 miles along uneven paths and trails, and remain outside for up to 8.5 hours at a time. This workshop will be held rain or shine. We will spend approximately 50% of the time in the field.

About the Instructors

Heath Bartosh

Heath Bartosh is founder and Principal Botanist of Nomad Ecology, based in Martinez (CCo, SnFrB), and a Research Associate at the University and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley. As Nomad’s Principal Botanist, Heath ensures his staff are properly trained in plant identification and rare plant survey methodologies. After graduating from Humboldt State University, Heath began his career as a professional botanist and since then he has designed and conducted rare plant inventories on nearly 150,000 acres of land in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently the chair of the Rare Plant Program Committee at the state level of CNPS. His role on this committee is to ensure these programs continue to develop current, accurate information on the distribution, ecology, and conservation status of CA’s rare and endangered plants, and help to promote the use of this information to influence onsite plant conservation in CA.

Aaron E. Sims

Aaron is the statewide Rare Plant Program Director for CNPS and is responsible for overseeing and managing the status review process for additions and changes to the CNPS Rare Plant Inventory (RPI) and the CNDDB, updating the RPI, and supporting and monitoring the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, California Plant Rescue, and Special Projects programs of CNPS. He has over 15 years of professional botany experience, with prior work in environmental consulting and as an ecologist for the San Luis Obispo Coast District of California State Parks, where he performed rare plant and vegetation surveys, prescribed fire management, and GIS specialties. He received a degree in Ecology and Systematic Biology with an emphasis in Botany from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he also assisted with David Keil’s Field Botany course for five consecutive years.

Scholarships Available

CNPS is committed to reducing barriers and broadening participation in our workshops. We are offering financial support opportunities for students, early professionals, or anyone who may not otherwise be able to attend. This scholarship will cover the cost of one CNPS plant science workshop. In some instances, CNPS will also provide monetary assistance for travel and accommodations. 

The scholarship form is due six weeks before the workshop date that you would like to attend. You will be notified within four weeks of the workshop date about the financial aid determination. Please click here to fill out the form to be considered as a potential recipient of a workshop scholarship.


The Rare Plant Survey Protocols Workshop is full. Please fill out this form to be added to the waitlist.

Before registering, please review our full workshop cancellation policy and participant expectations. The last day to cancel your registration for this workshop and receive any refund (less the cancellation fee) is Thursday, August 3, 2023. For other ways to register, please see our full registration & payment policy.

Did you know CNPS members get discounts on workshops? If you’re not a current member, you can join or renew now before completing the registration form below to qualify for special members-only rates!