Vegetation Field Skills (VFS) Certificate Program


The Vegetation Field Skills (VFS) Certificate program is an introductory, hands on, field-based vegetation skills training course.  

The 120-hour (three-week) VFS program focuses on training individuals to conduct standardized vegetation data collection through three week-long modules in plant identification, pre-disturbance vegetation site assessment, and vegetation monitoring.  The field training simulates realistic scenarios in which course participants gain technical skills and procedures under the direction of experienced practitioners. The courses place an emphasis on local flora and include an ethnobotanical component. 

VFS graduates will be capable of assisting professionals with: vegetation inventories, rangeland health assessments, ecosite phase mapping, VRI and AVI surveys, TEM mapping, invasive species surveys, reclamation monitoring, rare plant surveys and traditional land use and occupancy surveys, as well as other vegetation-related field work. 

Each NRTG course includes free, lifetime admission. Enroll once - come back anytime.

The VFS program is delivered as a scheduled course delivery, or as a contract to organizations and groups. Modules can be delivered together as a three-week certificate program or independently as weeklong courses (see also Course Format, below).



VFS graduates are qualified to perform directly or as an assistant to vegetation ecologists, wildlife biologists, soil scientists, reclamation practitioners, foresters, ethnobotanists, archaeologists and other experienced technicians and other vegetation professionals.

Upon successful completion, participants will be able to conduct or assist with: 

  • vegetation inventories

  • rangeland health assessments

  • ecosite phase mapping

  • VRI and AVI surveys

  • TEM mapping

  • invasive species surveys

  • reclamation monitoring

  • rare plant surveys

  • traditional land use and occupancy surveys

  • other vegetation-related field work

Course format:

The VFS program can be delivered as one three-week training program, delivered Monday to Friday over three consecutive weeks, or, independently as a five-day, weeklong course. We would recommend completing the foundational Week 1 (Introduction to Plant Identification) prior to completing either of the Week 2 or 3 modules. 

Each five-day module is delivered weekdays, Monday to Friday, typically 830am to 430pm each day. The VFS delivery season will vary by region, as the program requires suitable field conditions as to assess vegetation.

Specific skills that will be taught in each module include:

Week 1 (Introduction to Plant Identification):

Using the patterns method,  learn to identify the major parts of a plant, differentiate categories of plants, recognize the dominant local plant families, practice proper collection and foraging techniques, identify available plant identification resources, introduction to regionally specific invasive plant species, and conduct efficient and effective plant I.D. using a field guide and other vegetation identification tools and resources. 

Note: Introduction to Plant Identification is a prerequisite to completing Week 2 or 3. Alternatively, an individual may have experience and skills conducting plant identification in their region(s).  Please contact NRTG for further information. 

Week 2 (Vegetation Site Assessment): 

Install a vegetation plot, identify the major vegetation strata layers (herb, shrub and tree), assign accurate percent covers to individual species and individual strata layers, learn standard labelling and plant collection of field voucher specimens, collect standard abiotic site data, and record data to complete the standardized field forms appropriate to province/community where course is located.

Week 3 (Vegetation Monitoring):

Locating and establishing permanent sampling plot locations, recording accurate and legible notes, marking and recording waypoints, identifying and recording vegetation species, conducting vegetation abundance sampling techniques (e.g., cover estimates, stem counts), conducting plant vigour assessments, identifying common invasive species, measuring plant height(s), measuring slope and aspect, and assessing slope position, wildlife impacts on vegetation, and exposure and disturbance regimes.

Course Customization:

This course can also be customized for an organization and/or community based on their needs.  In its standard format, this course is comprised of three, one-week modules. 

As example, the first module of this course could be delivered with with our RISC Archaeology & CMT Training for Crew Members, Cultural Resource Monitor, or GPS - Technologies and Applications course(s), or any other NRTG training program. Further, the VFS program can be grouped with the Environmental Field Skills or Forestry Field Skills Certificate programs, to provide groups with extensive and specialized training. 

Please contact us with your ideas and needs, and we'll work with you to design and deliver a specialized training program that meets your needs.

Potential Students: 

Course participants typically include: current vegetation field technicians, soil scientists, wildlife biologists, foresters, vegetation ecologists, archeologists, Lands Department staff, Aboriginal stakeholders, and technicians working in other natural resource sectors. 


There are no formal prerequisites.  We do recommend that most students complete Module 1 (Introduction to Plant ID) before completing Module 2 (Vegetation Site Assessment) or Module 3 (Wetland and Terrestrial Community Classification).

Personal Equipment Requirements:

 Courses run rain or shine and are mainly field-based. Students are required to come prepared to work and learn outside all day in all weather conditions. Proper clothing layers, rubber boots, lunch and snacks, water, field back pack, local vegetation field guides, write-in-the-rain notebook or clipboard and paper, writing utensils, mosquito net, sunscreen, bug repellent, toilet paper, personal safety equipment, rain pants and rain jacket are recommended.

For further information, or for further assistance, please contact NRTG.  

Course Fees:

Course fees will vary by course delivery location.  For further information, please contact us

How do I Attend?

The Vegetation Field Skills Certificate program is typically delivered on contract to community and/or Aboriginal groups. The VFS program is delivered directly in communities. 

If you would like to arrange for an ‘in-house’ or contract delivery of this course, please contact us for further information and consider the following: 

  1. Contact us well in advance of your preferred course start date

  2. If applicable, secure program funding

  3. Recruit course participants (most NRTG courses have minimum enrollments of 10 participants)

  4. Coordinate course participant equipment, classroom facility, and contractual agreement with NRTG.

Note: see Course Customization above for other options to bring this training to your organization and/or community. 

Instructor Profile:

Nanette Richards, PBiol., RPBio., is a registered professional biologist, educator and mentor, and owner of Silverberry. With 21 years experience as a practicing biologist in western Canada, Ms Richards has a passion for sharing her knowledge and upholding a deep personal and professional commitment to responsible and realistic land stewardship.  

Nanette is most happy practising her craft outside, as a field ecologist, collecting vegetation data and mentoring young biologists in the field. Her areas of expertise include vegetation ecology, particularly terrestrial and wetland community classification in western Canada.  Her focus is usually on vegetation identification, as well as being conversant in rare plant surveys, vegetation monitoring and inventory work. 

Ms. Richards has extensive experience working on a wide variety of research and development projects in Alberta and BC for industry, government, First Nations, private land owners, university researchers, and environmental consultants. This varied and comprehensive background has provided her with a unique set of skills and perspectives, which she brings to the classroom and shares with students. 

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