Essential Wetland Delineation Field Gear
So you’re heading out on a Wetland Delineation. What gear do you bring? Do you have the best gear for the job? It’s easy to rush out to the field, and forget something important. It’s best to have a “go-to” list of equipment, that will either help you do your job, or better yet, make your job easier! Read on for some of the best field gear you can equip yourself with.
One of the more important pieces of equipment for any wetland delineation or biological field survey is a Field Camera. A field camera should be durable, easy to use, take high quality (high resolution) photos and more. The “more”, in this case, is Waterproof and GPS enabled! A GPS camera is something I’ve used for years, and couldn’t imagine doing fieldwork without one. My favorite is made by Nikon. The Nikon COOLPIX AW130 Waterproof Digital Camera with Built-In Wi-Fi is such a great camera for many reasons, it boasts features such:
- Builit in Wi-Fi
- GPS enabled
- Digital Compass and Altimeter
- Ability to print exif data on photos (although a little to manual for my taste)
- Large screen
- Good battery life
What do all these features mean, and how do they help? Well, you’re doing wetland work, often in inclement weather. The last thing you want to worry about is whether or not you can collect all the data you need if it starts to rain. Also, hell, you’re working near wetlands and open water, having a waterproof camera just takes the worry of dropping it accidentally out of the equation.
Speaking of dropping the camera, having electronics that are shockproof is a MUST. You set your backpack down too hard, you miscalculate a toss to your field partner, it migrates to the edge of the seat and falls out when you open the truck door. Things fall down. This camera won’t break if it does fall. I’ve seen it, personally, many times.
The Built-in Wi-Fi is an AWESOME feature for some very specific tasks. A few years back, when working for a consulting firm that contracted with the DOT alot, this feature came in handy to view Migratory Bird nests. I used the Nikon AW 130 on monopod mount, strapped to the end of an extendable paint pole and lifted it up above nests on Bridge structures to record presence or absence of eggs or young.
How did this work with the camera 30′ above me? Easy! I had my smartphone in a phone bracket on the lower end of the pole, and the Nikon App (Wireless Mobility App) turned on (using the built-in wifi to link the two devices). I had a real time view of what the camera could see, and was able to press the shutter (take a picture) remotely whenever I was happy with the composition (aka, when the camera was finally positioned correctly to see in the nest, I shot a picture, or video).
Yes, this is a fairly specific use for the feature, but it could potentially also be used to view under a boat (since the camera is waterproof! – I wonder if the wifi works through water?), or used to take a raised photo of a site (as if you were standing on a tall ladder), getting a better view for the report.
One of the main reasons this camera is so great for wetland delineations and other fieldwork is the GPS functionality. Having the GPS turned on does reduce battery life, but not by much, however the option is there to turn it off when you want. This is a good option to have when you may be taking photos of your kids to share on social media, and don’t want the GPS data recorded in the background. The camera operates on WGS’84 datum, and is accurate to approximately 10-20′ depending on the surrounding view of the sky.
The workflow I use after a field day is to 1) download the photos to my project folder 2) open ArcMap 3) use the “GPS photos to points” tool in ArcToolbox to plot the photopoints 4) Go to Layer Properties > Symbology > Rotation and enable Rotation on the Direction field. USER NOTE: Be careful to then choose an arrow or triangle that starts in the Up or North position, to make sure all the photo points rotate correctly. Want more info? Drop us an email.
Location Data Imprint
The data imprint feature could use a little help on this camera. That’s probably the only weak point. The data imprint is only available on one photo at a time, after the picture is taken. IT LOOKS LIKE THIS. If you’d prefer (as most people would) to be able to batch imprint the photos, RoboGeo is a good third party software for a very affordable price. RoboGeo prints the selected location information in a small footer on each photo.
Soil Color Chart
As you probably already know, you’ll need a Soil Color Chart to complete the Soil horizon part of your wetland sample points. The go-to standard for this over the years has been the Munsell Soil Color Chart. This little booklet is expensive, and unfortunately not very waterproof. A new competitor to Munsell has emerged recently, with a smaller and more waterproof booklet. Give the Globe Professional Soil Color Book a try to lighten your pack, but not your wallet!
Muck boots are a fairly important and integral piece of gear for most wetland delineations (or just going out to eat a nice dinner in Alaska. Have you ever been there? It’s a thing). There are a few top brands, but the The Original MuckBoots Adult Chore Hi-Cut Boot is about the best pair you can get. They have comfortable neoprene uppers, and good solid tread on the bottom.
Waterproof Field Notebook
For wetland delineation professionals, a good notebook is a must. Rite in the Rain makes the industry standard field notebooks, and there are many sizes, colors, binding style and pre-printed options to choose from. Check out our many options of Rite-in-the-Rain field notebooks and get the best one for your needs.
A good soil knife can make your soil profile inspection go so much better. From cutting roots, to carving out a good pedon (soil sample) to simply measuring a horizon, a high quality soil knife should make it in your pack for sure. We recommend the A.M. Leonard Deluxe Soil Knife and Leather Sheath Combo.
Oh, what’s that? You’re doing wetland delineation work all day outside? Yeah. Rain jacket. Just throw it in the pack, even if you don’t see any clouds in the morning, since that’s the best way to make sure it won’t rain! 🙂 Especially if you’re working in higher elevations, it always pays to be prepared. If nothing else, having the correct clothing and outer layers with you in the pack will save you a trip to the vehicle, which could save you an hour or more depending on the where you parked.
Rain jackets are best when lightweight, breathable, long enough to cover your ass-crack when you bend over to check out that crazy new little plant you’ve never seen before, and preferably have some well placed pockets and vents to keep your essentials close at hand and your body happy. Check out a sampling of rain jackets over on our Rain Jackets page.
If you’re working on a large, or linear, wetland delineation project with multiple parties, a good set of two way radios can increase safety and communications. Two way radios come in many sizes and varieties, but almost never do they actually achieve the stated range. If you buy the “23 Mile” range talk-abouts, you’re looking at more like 1 mile of range in mountainous terrain. If you have the option, getting a pair that are weather resistant, and brightly colored (not black) is always best. Check out the some of these radios to find a set that’s right for you.
A good, comfortable backpack is going to make or break your wetland delineation field day. It should be large enough to carry what you need, but not too large that it’s cumbersome. For most jobs, a 25-30 L pack is about right, with the option to add a water reservoir and other handy features. My personal favorite? The Osprey Talon 33L pack. It’s light, and comfy, and gets the job done without breaking the bank.
Wetland Delineation Flags
Most regions require wetland delineators to Flag and number each point in a delineation. If that’s the case, then don’t forget to order your flags in time for them to arrive before your field visit.
Lastly, it’s always wise to bring your local regional Wetland Flora or Field guide, to quickly check those plants. Obviously many Floras are too large to trek around with you all day, but some are more “field guide” minded, and are just fine. I usually transport my guides in a large ziploc bag, just in case it rains that day.