Twenty-sixth Desert Tortoise Council Fall Course

Introduction to Desert Tortoises and Field Techniques

Maturango Room, Springhill Suites Marriott, Ridgecrest, CA

The Introductory Tortoise Course will be held November 11-12, 2017. Registration is now open (Thursday, 6 July) with early rates until September 16. Email Maggie Fusari at with questions.


Description of course

Introduction to Desert Tortoises and Field Techniques is a two-day basic course that includes important information on ecology, habitat preferences, life history, health, physiology, and threats; applicable state and federal laws and required permits; and two field sessions on surveys and identification of tortoises and tortoise sign. This comprehensive introduction to Agassiz's or the Mojave Desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, is designed for wildlife biologists, zoologists, natural resource specialists, wildlife managers, land managers, recreation specialists, persons dealing with the public, teachers, and the general public.

This course is recommended for entry-level tortoise field biologists looking to prepare themselves for the job of locating tortoises and sign in the field, and for seeking authorizations to do tortoise fieldwork. The course does not guarantee any authorization but is recognized by state and federal agencies as providing important information and skills training.

The course includes:

  • Hands-on exercises in monitoring and surveying techniques for desert tortoises
  • Authorized demonstrations of egg handling and burrow construction
  • Overview of the desert tortoise and threats to its survival

To receive a letter affirming your completion of this course you must attend the entire course including the field portion, turn in a completed field survey form, and take the on-line test that will be available after November 17 and due on or about December 17. The open book test will take at least an hour, perhaps more and may cover concepts covered in lecture, in the field, and from selected readings.

After you attend the course you will receive a one-year free membership in the Desert Tortoise Council unless you decline.

An e-mail confirmation with a link to the reference list will be sent to you after we receive your payment. You do not have to read it or print it. We will add PDF files of this year's lectures about a week before the course begins.

Thanks to a lot of work by Kristin Berry there is a new bibliography that you can download from

We also recommend the reference book: Rostal et al., Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, 190pp.

Authorization Facts

Desert Tortoise Council's Introduction to Desert Tortoises and Field Techniques Courses are recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, BUT a certificate of attendance does not guarantee any USFWS authorization or permit. However, completion of the Course should help with the authorization/permitting processes.

Registration and Payment

The Early Registration fee is $285.00 ($185.00 for registered students) through September 17. You must register and pay by this date to receive the early registration fee. If you pay after September 17 the fee is $345.00 ($245.00 for registered students) (Exceptions for government offices with budget restriction who will be given permission to hold payment until budgets clear). The fee covers the course as described on the syllabus and does not include travel, lodging, and any meals not on the program.

Cancellation Policy
  • Cancellations must be received three weeks prior to the course (Friday, October 20 at midnight) for a refund minus a $20.00 handling fee.
  • After October 20, 75% of the registration fees are forfeit.
  • After November 9, 2017 all funds will be forfeit.
  • Email to is sufficient to request cancellation.
  • You may apply your fee to another person by having them register online, and you email to request that we cancel your reservation and mark them as paid.


Click How to Register for registration and payment instructions.

DTC cannot be responsible if you do not read and follow the directions.

Quick Links: SyllabusWaiver Form PayPal Link (in case you lost your information).

Instructions for attending the course
  • Bring A SIGNED WAIVER to check-in; you cannot participate in the field sessions without this. Print a copy, sign it and bring it to the door. Do not mail it in.
  • Students will need a letter from their institution confirming that they are registered students for fall 2017. Bring that to the check in or you will be charged the regular fee.
What to Bring to the Sessions

For the outdoor exercises you will need a clipboard, an indelible ink pen, and a handheld mirror or flashlight. You also should have a hat, water, sun block, suitable footwear, etc. The outdoor events will be along well-maintained dirt roads. We cannot guarantee the weather and we work wind, rain or shine.

Hotel Reservations in Ridgecrest

Discounted rates for DTC course registrants. The venue, Springhill Suites, is on Sydnor St. at the 1000 North China Lake Blvd. level. The Clarion is on the 900 level across this street. Contact the hotels directly.

The venue site (SpringHill Suites): The daily rate for DTC course participants is $114.00 plus tax. You may call the hotel directly at (760) 446-1630 and ask for the Desert Tortoise Council rate. Reservations must be received on or before 10/20/17.

The Clarion Hotel (formerly Carriage Inn), very near the venue: The daily rate for the DTC course is $78.00 for a double and $74 for a king plus tax. You must call the motel directly at (760) 446-7910 and tell them you are with the Desert Tortoise Council. Reservations must be received on or before 10/30/17.

You can also try online discount sites that might offer cheaper rates; be careful to allow for fees and taxes.

If you have additional questions email us at

The following USFWS web sites provide valuable and comprehensive information on requirements for field projects involving the desert tortoise The second web site also explains the requirements to become an authorized biologist under the USFWS. These web pages are currently in revision, so check back as we will post updates when we receive them.