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Field Techniques for Surveying Mammals & Reptiles

Key facts

TypesOnline and Distance Learning
Professional Development
Short Courses
DatesWed 7 Jan to Wed 11 Feb 2015
Subject area(s)Ecology
Environmental Sciences
CATS points10
FeesFrom £295.00
Application statusApplications being accepted
Course codeO14C059D2Y
Course contactIf you have any questions about this course, please email est@conted.ox.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)1865 286951.


Application and enrolment deadline: 10 December 2014

This course is designed to equip students with the skills, techniques and know-how necessary to undertake surveys of mammal and reptile populations or individuals with confidence. The course aims to enable students to make their own spatial and temporal observations and recordings of mammals and reptiles, and will be explore how to design appropriate sampling strategies and protocols.

As a part-time course taught online, Field Techniques for Surveying Mammals and Reptiles is ideal for professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students, and volunteers that are seeking flexible study combined with expert training. The course can be taken from anywhere in the world and is international in its use of case studies and examples. Past students on the Ecological Survey Techniques programme have joined us from the UK, the USA, Australia, Africa and Europe.

Field Techniques for Surveying Mammals and Reptiles aims to create a rich workshop experience by encouraging direct student and tutor interaction and discussion in an online setting.

This course can be taken with or without Masters-level credit; credit enables students to demonstrate their academic achievement and can count towards further postgraduate study. Students taking the course for credit submit an assessment of up to 2000 words or equivalent, students taking the course without credit will receive a Certificate of Attendance upon successful completion of the course.

The Ecological Survey Techniques Programme can help professionals to apply for Chartered Status (such as Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Ecologist), and to meet relevant professional competency thresholds. Further information can be found in our Chartered status and essential skills guide.

Thinking of applying? Explore materials or revisit our online open event.

For first-hand accounts from Ecological Survey Techniques students please visit our student spotlights page.


The course tutor will guide students through a series of key topics via reading materials, online activities, and discussion forums. The discussion forums will be the primary space where students are able to interact with one another and their tutor to discuss questions, solve problems and share ideas – just as they would expect to do in a face-to-face classroom setting.

The tutor was clearly trained in the language of e-learning as we were always supported and guided rather than corrected.

A Field Techniques for Surveying Mammals and Reptiles student

I truly liked the online study. It gave myself, and others, an opportunity we may not have been able to have in studying the materials.

Deborah, student

What I like the most was the fact that even being an online course, the whole structure of the website made it possible for me to communicate my thoughts and questions to the tutor and classmates. That way, when taking the course and following the topics I almost didn't notice the difference with a face-to-face class.

Marcela, student

Students will benefit from the expertise and practical experience of the course tutor throughout their time on the course, and will be able to receive advice and guidance tailored to the particular topic at hand. Students taking the course for credit will also benefit from individual feedback on their assessment submitted after the course.

Throughout their study, students will engage with the topics across a range of media including videos demonstrating techniques, interactive maps of Wytham Woods for monitoring badger setts, and discussion forum activities. Students will investigate trapping and restraint techniques, an extensive range of guidelines with legal and ethical considerations, as well as scat and print field sign surveys, camera traps and video surveillance.

All learning materials are made available through the course Virtual Learning Environment ‘Moodle’, and reading is available to download or is accessible via the Bodleian Libraries’ online library which provides an excellent range of e-books and e-journals. Via their Oxford username, students can gain access to all the University’s electronic resources enabling them to conduct their own reading and research in their own time.

Field Techniques for Surveying Mammals and Reptiles is part of the wider Ecological Survey Techniques Programme that offers a range of standalone short courses, at its heart rests the Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques aimed at those wishing to take their professional development to the next level with an Oxford qualification.

Students who successfully complete this standalone module for credit (10 CATS points at level 7) can opt to transfer their credit to the PGCert, subject to the approval of the Course Director and acceptance on to the PGCert. Students successfully transferring credit to the PGCert can expect to receive a fees discount equal to the fees paid towards the standalone module; credit can be transferred up to 2 years after having been gained and is limited to a maximum for 2 modules for transfer. In order to join the PGCert a separate application process is required.

Minimum IT Requirements

Please note that this course is taken online; to participate in our online courses we recommend a minimum computer specification.

Programme details

Topics covered by the course in Field Techniques for Surveying Mammals and Reptiles include:

Introduction to mammals and reptiles: ‘A good detective knows their mark’; What is a mammal?; What is a reptile?

Rationale for surveying mammals and reptiles - why survey?: Ecological objectives; Legal objectives; Utilisation objectives; Model or indicator species objectives

Conducting a survey - basic considerations: Defining the principles; First steps and considerations; The observer effect

Choosing a survey technique: direct and indirect techniques: Direct and indirect techniques (trapping, noosing, hand capturing, marking individuals); A classification of direct and indirect survey techniques

Direct techniques: observations, total counts, trapping and restraint

Indirect techniques: field sign surveys; camera traps and surveillance

Designing a sampling strategy or protocol: Standard protocols; Random, systematic and stratified samples; Line transects and quadrats; Mapping and trapping

Recording and storing data: Designing a data recording sheet; Storing data

Data application - making sure you have the right data to accomplish your survey goals: What type of data?; Indices for analysing mammal and reptile survey data

Case study: the badger project, Wytham Woods, UK

To Sample the course

The final unit of the online course Field Techniques for Surveying Mammals and Reptiles is available. The practical uses Google Maps to explore and explain the distribution of badger setts and territories in Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire. To sample the practical please visit the project website


Dr Jocelyne Hughes

Role: Director


I am Programme Director in Ecological Survey Techniques. Since 1998, I have been a Departmental Lecturer in the Department...more

Dr Chris Newman

Role: Tutor

Dr. Chris Newman, is a Senior Research Associate with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford, who joined the group...more


example certificate PDF document.

Non-accredited Study

To successfully complete the course and receive a Certificate of Attendance, active participation of at least one forum post per week, to the satisfaction of the course tutor, in the online course forums is required. The PDF sample above is an illustration only, and the wording will reflect the course and dates attended.

Accredited Study

The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. Participants contributing to all the forums and successfully completing the assessment will obtain 10 CATS-equivalent points (FHEQ level 7) which may count towards a Master’s level qualification.

Assessment methods

Students undertaking the course for academic credit must submit a summative written assignment of up to 2,000 words or equivalent. This is due approximately two weeks after the final day of the course. The pass mark is set at 50%, work awarded 70% or over will qualify for a distinction.

Teaching methods

The teaching time frame covers 5 weeks. The content covered is roughly comparable to 1 week full-time study, students can expect to engage with and contribute to the course for around 10-15 hours per week depending on whether it is taken for credit or not. The course tutor will engage online for no less than 6 hours per week, this is usually distributed across each week and will focus on particular topics and activities.

There is no set time to log in to the course, which makes it ideal for students in different time zones as well as those wishing to study flexibly on a weekly basis; topics will be covered following a suggested calendar of activity, ensuring that activities, discussion and reading are completed within the 5 week duration and at an even pace with other students.

Fee options

Programme Fee
Accredited Study: £695.00
Non-accredited Fee: £395.00
Student Rate (Non-accredited Study): £295.00

Apply for this course

If you would like to discuss joining the course or have any questions about the application or enrolment process please contact the course team:
Email: est@conted.ox.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (0)1865 286952

To apply for the course with academic credit please download and complete the course application form below to apply by post (scanned applications will also be accepted via email). To join the course without academic credit please either enrol online or by post as instructed below.

A special student rate of £295 is available for the non-accredited study on this course. This rate is available to currently registered graduate level part-time and full-time Home/EU and Overseas students. To apply for the special student rate please contact the course team on est@conted.ox.ac.uk or +44 (0)1865 286952; confirmation of status from an academic supervisor or other authority is normally required.

You can apply for this course in the following ways:

Apply online
enrol onlineto secure your place on this course now
Apply by post, email or fax
Application Form PDF document.

Terms and Conditions (important: please read before applying) .

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