Field Research Training

Road to Mountain Vista Mentoring is essential to transfer knowledge and practical skills from experienced faculty, staff and researchers to new researchers and students, and is often provided informally. However, documented training is a critical part of our University safety programs in order to comply with regulatory requirements, accrediting agencies, and in many situations, funding organizations. Commercial trainers typically provide documentation via a certification that an individual should maintain and be able to provide upon request, e.g. a first aid card; UC-sponsored safety training is typically documented centrally on campus, such as through the UCLA Worksafe. Research groups or field course instructors can integrate training on safe practices into lab meetings, hands-on demonstrations, or field lectures, and document completion via a simple sign-in form.  It also is appropriate to list required training as prerequisites in a Field Safety Plan that is reviewed and signed by all participants.

Field-related training typically falls into two categories: 

  1. Skill Training required for the site you will be visiting and working, and
  2. Specialized training around the tasks you will be performing while working in the field.  

First aid training is appropriate for working off campus and at remote field sites because emergency medical services may be limited or delayed. Additionally, Cal/OSHA (Title 8 §3400. Medical Services and First Aid) requires first aid supplies and persons trained to render first aid “in the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital, in near proximity to the workplace.” CPR/AED training is also recommended and offered on most campuses.  

Wilderness first aid training is appropriate for outdoor fieldwork or visiting remote sites because it covers more first responder information and relevant scenarios than typical 4 hour community first aid classes. There is no adequate substitute for getting this training. The largest wilderness first aid training provider in the U.S. is the Wilderness Medicine Institute (www.wildmed.com), which is part of the National Outdoor Leadership School (www.NOLS.com). The 2-day Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course and 10-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course are both taught at numerous UC campuses. Other training providers within California include Sierra Rescue and Foster Calm. For trip leaders, field scientists, or students that plan to pursue a career doing outdoor work, WFR training is highly regarded professionally and will prepare individuals to manage a broad-range of emergency situations, illnesses, and injuries.

Facilitating field research or teaching field classes can require leadership skills that go beyond the expectations of a lab instructor or classroom teacher. The attempt of this web-page is to provide a comprehensive resource for helping instructors learn more of these skills. Many other organizations, both on and off campus, offer much more in-depth training. For example, UCLA Rec hosts NOLS each spring where a WFR class is put on right here on campus. Find available classes at www.nols.com. An excellent written resource, also from NOLS, is the Leadership Educator Notebook, which can be ordered from the same website. Field Safety in Uncontrolled Environments (published by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists) also provides excellent guidance on planning and leading field excursions and was the model for the Field Safety Plan template.

Working in the field can require knowledge of many outdoor skills, such as map-reading, compass use, cross country navigation, camping, cooking over a fire or with a camp stove, field sanitation practices, and treating drinking water. Campus outdoor recreation programs may be able to help provide additional training in these skills or provide referrals, e.g. outdoor skills workshops offered by UCLA Recreation.

Many field sites are fragile and can easily be damaged by even light use. It’s important, whenever possible, to adopt field practices that minimize lasting negative impacts. The national educational program called Leave No Trace (www.lnt.org) has developed a set of principles that can be generally applied when working in wilderness conditions. More guidelines are available for specific habitats (e.g. river, deserts, etc.) and areas outside the United States on the LNT website and describe how to adhere to the following seven LNT principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors