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

March 26-28, 2024 
Redding, CA 
Taught by Heath Bartosh, Aaron E. Sims, & Kristen Nelson, with a guest lecture from Katie Ferguson

CNPS Members $500 / Non-Members $550
Capacity: 22 participants
Registration is Full



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 and study design 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 2.5-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 current laws and regulations as well as applicable botanical survey guidelines. Time spent in the field will be applying the concepts learned during classroom sessions. 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:

  • What laws and regulations apply to rare plant conservation and drive rare plant surveys
  • 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, the purpose of the survey, and other factors
  • 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, Consortium of CA Herbaria, and others
  • To fill out CNDDB forms correctly and thoroughly
  • The components of a rare plant report
  • Overview of approaching rare plant mitigation
  • Overview of voucher specimen collecting techniques

Schedule & Locale (Subject to Change)

Tuesday, March 26

Meet at the McConnell Foundation, located at 800 Shasta View Dr, Redding, CA 96003. Indoor lecture, classroom setting. Please eat lunch offsite before arriving, outside food is not allowed on the grounds of the McConnell Foundation.

1:00 pm – Welcome and introductions

1:30 pm – Preparing for surveys: background research, tools available to for developing target rare plant survey lists and evaluating a study area 

3:30pm – Develop individual target lists using these tools (instructors available for questions) 

5:00 pm – Break for the day

Wednesday, March 27

Meet at the McConnell Foundation, located at 800 Shasta View Dr, Redding, CA 96003. Indoor lecture, classroom setting. We will drive offsite to eat lunch, outside food is not allowed on the grounds of the McConnell Foundation.

8:30 am – Reviewing rare plant target lists developed by participants from the previous day for additional discussion and questions. 

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

10:00 am – Break  

10:15 am – Review of applicable survey guidelines, focusing on the CDFW Protocols for Surveying and Evaluating Impacts to Special Status Natural Communities 

11:00 am – Preparing for Rare Plant Surveys: evaluating study site specifics, identifying survey timing, value of reference populations and herbarium specimens, survey design, and proper survey equipment 

12:00 pm – Lunch (We will drive offsite to eat lunch, outside food is not allowed on the grounds of the McConnell Foundation) 

1:00 pm – Introduction to the CNDDB and Data Submission using the Field Survey Form (Katie Ferguson CDFW)  

2:00 pm – Break  

2:15 pm – Conducting surveys: survey techniques, field data collection, and safety  

3:00 pm – Importance of voucher specimen collecting and overview of collecting techniques 

4:00 pm – Reporting findings: What the guidelines tell us, brief discussion on impact assessment and rare plant mitigation 

4:45 pm – Wrap up discussion, review, and questions 

5:00 pm – Break for the day 

Thursday, March 28

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, course evaluations

4:00 pm – Workshop concludes

Schedule subject to change.

Venue: Day 1 and 2 classroom portions of this workshop will be held in the McConnell Foundation, located at 800 Shasta View Dr, Redding, CA 96003. Day 3 field exercises will take place at nearby locations TBA. Additional details will be provided to those registered about a week before the workshop. Participants are responsible for finding their own overnight lodging.

Materials & Requirements

Please bring...

  • Laptop computer or electronic device for classroom activities
  • 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
  • Optional: digital camera, GPS unit, binoculars

Materials Provided: CNPS will provide handouts, field forms, and a certificate of completion after successfully completing CNDDB forms.

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 40% 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.

Kristen Nelson

Kristen is the Rare Plant Program Manager for CNPS, overseeing and coordinating field-based projects, including the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, the California Plant Rescue, and other funded conservation projects throughout the state. She earned a B.S. in environmental management and a M.S. biology, both from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. She has worked as a professional botanist and ecologist for more than ten years across private, government, and non-profit sectors. Kristen has implemented monitoring protocols and conducted rare plant surveys in diverse landscapes and habitats across the state.

Katie Ferguson

Katie Ferguson is a botanist with the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) and spends the majority of her time maintaining rare plant species information, updating rare plant occurrences, and answering questions from CNDDB users. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Horticulture and Urban Forestry from UC Davis. As a student, she worked for the UC Davis Arboretum Nursery where she specialized in propagating California native plants. Since joining the CNDDB as a botanist in 2009, she has also assisted in rare plant surveys and monitoring populations of state listed species on CA Department of Fish and Wildlife lands.

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

Before registering, please review the workshop waiver and photo release, plus 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 Tuesday, March 12, 2024. 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!