This workshop is an introductory course in conducting Rare Plant Treasure Hunts and in vegetation sampling. The format will be a combination of lecture, via webinar, and field exercises.  We will discuss applications of botanical surveys (focusing on rare plants) and of fine-scale vegetation sampling, classification, and mapping. Read on for details.

Rare Plant Treasure Hunt and Vegetation Sampling Training at Fort Ord Natural Reserve

March 29-30, 2022
Marina, CA
Taught by Amy Patten, Jennifer Buck-Diaz, Tom Reyes, Alexis LaFever-Jackson, and Molly Wiebush

Free for students, recent graduates, and early career participants
Capacity: 22 participants
Last Day to Register: March 16, 2022



Target Audience: Students, recent graduates, and early career participants with an interest in learning about how to observe and document rare plants and vegetation communities to promote conservation. This training is also open to community members who don’t have access to traditional paid workshops and classes to build botanical skills.

Full Description: This is an introductory course in conducting Rare Plant Treasure Hunts and in vegetation sampling. The format will be a combination of lecture, via webinar, and field exercises.  We will discuss applications of botanical surveys (focusing on rare plants) and of fine-scale vegetation sampling, classification, and mapping. Space is limited and RSVPs are required to attend. This training will be fully outdoors but there will be options to use indoor space at the reserve. Free camping is available at the reserve.

Participants will learn:

Rare Plants   

  • How to prepare and conduct background research prior to initiating a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt
  • Interpreting rare plant data and reports
  • How to design and conduct rare plant surveys 
  • How to use online databases and resources to prepare for treasure hunts such as Calflora, iNaturalist, the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants, the Jepson eFlora/Interchange, Consortium of CA Herbaria, and others
  • To fill out the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt datasheet
  • How to collect and maintain fieldnotes to use to develop descriptions of baseline conditions of project site/study area
  • A brief overview of voucher specimen collecting techniques

Vegetation Sampling

  • Applications of fine-scale vegetation sampling, classification, and mapping
  • How to recognize vegetation patterns on the landscape 
  • How to collect vegetation data using CNPS sampling techniques (relevé and rapid assessment)
  • How to identify fine-scale vegetation communities using regional descriptive keys and the statewide Manual of California Vegetation

Schedule & Locale

Tuesday, March 8 Webinar

Part 1: Webinar Online Training

  • 1:00-1:15:  Introduction by Alyssa, Amy, and Jennifer
  • 1:15-2:15: Rare Plant Treasure Hunt (RPTH)
  • 2:15-2:45:  Q&A RPTH
  • 2:45-2:55: Break
  • 2:55-3:55: Vegetation Sampling
  • 3:55-4:25: Vegetation Q&A
  • 4:25-4:30 Conclusion

Tuesday, March 29

Part 2: Field Exercises at Fort Ord Natural Reserve

March 29, 10:00 am -4:00 pm: Rare Plant Treasure Hunt and Voucher Collection

Wednesday, March 30

Part 2: Field Exercises at Fort Ord Natural Reserve

March 30, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm: Vegetation Training

Schedule subject to change.

Venue: Fort Ord Natural Reserve is located in Marina, CA. About Fort Ord Natural Reserve: UC Santa Cruz Fort Ord Natural Reserve is part of the effort to protect habitats and species found to be at risk after the military base closure. Our NRS reserve now provides teaching and research opportunities on maritime chaparral and associated species. Incorporated into the UC Natural Reserve system in June 1996, Fort Ord Natural Reserve was created from 600 acres of the former army base on the Monterey Peninsula. Fort Ord offers opportunities for students, scientists, and members of the general public to learn about rare species and habitats, land management, and conservation biology. The reserve is home to many rare plants such as sand gilia, Monterey spineflower, Eastwood’s goldenbush, sandmat manzanita, coast wallflower, and seaside bird’s beak. Here is more information about the natural history of the reserve. 

Directions:  We will send out driving and access directions following course registration. 

Camping: Free camping is available at the reserve! We suggest camping with us for the training due to the drive time to the reserve. Please bring a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, pillow, and warm jacket for camping. Please let us know if you need to borrow or rent any gear for the event. 

Food: We will provide dinner for the night of the 29th and light breakfast items the morning of the 30th. Please bring a packed lunch for both days. Bring your own snacks, beverages and water bottle.

Reimbursements: We want this training to be financially accessible to all. Participants can request reimbursement for $0.20/mile and to cover the cost of packed lunches.

Materials & Requirements

Please bring...

Required Materials

  • Clipboard or notebook and pencil
  • Sturdy boots and field clothes appropriate for the conditions (e.g. protection from poison oak, rain, sun, heat/cold, insects, etc.)
  • Sunscreen, hat, and insect repellent
  • Drinking water, packable lunches, and snacks for all days 
  • Camping gear

Optional Materials

  • Hand lens
  • Plant field guide
  • Camera, GPS unit, binoculars

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.  For the field exercises, we will spend 100% of our time in the field.

Covid Safety: All workshop participants need to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination before attending. If a participant is unvaccinated due to a valid medical reason, we accept a negative COVID-19 test result that is within three days of the workshop start date. Participants are required to send a scan or photo of proof of vaccination at the time of registering for the event to Alexis at This information will be kept strictly confidential and deleted following review. We will notify you when your proof of vaccination has been approved and subsequently deleted. We are closely monitoring COVID-19 state and CDC guidelines. We will be enforcing all recommended guidelines, including mask wearing, social distancing and other protocols. As COVID-19 variants continue to spread, there may be a possibility that we must cancel a workshop(s). By registering for a workshop, you agree to abide by all safety guidelines and protocols; you also acknowledge that a workshop may need to be canceled due to developments related to COVID-19. Our top priority is your safety and security, as well as those of participants and CNPS staff. Covid testing is highly encouraged before the event. 

All visitors to UCSC Fort Ord Natural Reserve or any UC Santa Cruz owned or leased property must complete the UCSC Visitor COVID-19 Symptom Check Questionnaire prior to entering for each day when entering the campus.  Visitors are defined as anyone who is not a UC Santa Cruz employee (faculty, staff and other academic appointees) or student, and who will be entering on-site at a UCSC owned or leased property. The following is the link for the online UCSC Visitor COVID-19 Symptom Check Questionnaire. Read frequently asked questions about symptom checks for visitors. Download a printable version of the symptom check questionnaire. For the location, Choose MBEST Center, for region choose Uncertain or Variable, then for building choose NA

About the Instructors

Amy Patten

Amy Patten is the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Manager in the CNPS Rare Plant Program. Amy conducts rare plant surveys and botanical skills trainings around the state and has extensive experience working with special status plants and animals in California. Amy has a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Cruz.

Jennifer Buck-Diaz

Jennifer Buck-Diaz is a vegetation ecologist and botanist with the CNPS Vegetation Program. She brings to CNPS extensive work experience with different plant communities across the western United States. Prior to joining CNPS, Jennifer worked as an ecologist with The Nature Conservancy at the Cosumnes River Preserve. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Plant Biology from the University of California.

Molly Wiebush

Molly Wiebush writes reports on California’s rare plant species. She received her MS in ecology from Florida State University, where she studied fire ecology and plant-insect interactions. She has also done fieldwork throughout the western U.S., including surveying for Erythranthe and Diplacus species throughout California.

Tom Reyes

Tom Reyes is a lifelong Californian who grew up in Los Angeles and has a degree in Environmental Studies from San Francisco State University. He has spent his career working for land management agencies in California concentrating on botany and invasive plant management. Tom worked as a Biological Science Technician performing plant surveys throughout Yosemite National Park, ran an interagency vegetation program as a Natural Resource Specialist with Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and most recently worked as the IPM Coordinator with Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Alexis LaFever-Jackson

Alexis LaFever-Jackson is a lead vegetation ecologist with the CNPS Vegetation Program. She has worked as a field ecologist in a variety of habitats across California, including the Central and Northern Coasts, southern Sierra Nevada Foothills, the Mojave Desert, and the Central Valley. She has attended formal vegetation mapping workshops allowing her to hone in on the patterns of vegetation in various settings. Alexis has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz.


Before registering, please review our full workshop participant expectations. The last day to register for this workshop is March 16, 2022.