A very popular question I get asked is, “where can I get good Wetland Delineation Training”? Well, there are a number of online resources that offer great training materials to learn more about wetland delineations. There are a few really solid books available as well, which are a great place to start, such as Wetland Indicators: A Guide to Wetland Formation, Identification, Delineation, Classification, and Mapping, Second Edition by Ralph Tiner
The Swamp School
One great online training resource is the Swamp School. The Swamp School has been around for years and is constantly releasing new material of varying price points. They offer on-the-ground training classes, internet only coursework, and all sorts of refreshers and skill sharpening mini-courses. The price point can be a little prohibitive for a student or new professional for some of the delineation classes. However, to a professional firm, the $1,200 price point is well within reason to approach a manager with a request for training budget.
For a new professional in the Wetland industry YouTube can actually offer quite a good entry level education.
High level delineation info from the Army Corps:
Wetland Delineation – Boundary Delineation by ESFTV:
Delineating Hydric Soils by Kenton Beal:
Classroom Wetland Delineation Training
One of the standard Wetland Delineation certification classes taught throughout the country is the Richard Chinn class, a 40-hour US Army Corps approved Wetland Delineation certification. Mr. Chinn travels state-to-state and books classes of a certain size, he also has classes listed on his website that you can travel to to take. He has been doing this for 20-plus years and so some of his material is dated (as is his website) however he has built up lots of authority on the subject, at least in teaching it.
Wetland Delineations for Self Learners
One of the best places to start for a self learner is simply reading the Regional Supplements to Corps Delineation Manual. Many states fall within two or three regional boundaries, so I would suggest just starting with the largest region in your state or the one you’re most likely to work in first. Read through the whole supplement cover-to-cover at least once or twice before diving in to the nitty-gritty details.
There are so many nuances and small hidden gems of wisdom, or vitally important rules that the earlier you can start catching them all the better. For example, the thickness of a given hydric soil criteria can be very detailed and change from one indicator to the next. Here’s one example:
Indicator A12: Thick Dark Surface
“Technical Description: A layer at least 6 in. (15 cm) thick with a depleted or gleyed matrix that has 60 percent or more chroma of 2 or less starting below 12 in. (30 cm) of the surface. The layer(s) above the depleted or gleyed matrix must have a value of 2.5 or less and chroma of 1 or less to a depth of at least 12 in. (30 cm) and a value of 3 or less and chroma of 1 or less in any remaining layers above the depleted or gleyed matrix. Any sandy material above the depleted or gleyed matrix, when observed with a 10- or 15-power hand lens, must have at least 70 percent of the visible soil particles masked with organic material. When observed without a hand lens, the material appears to be nearly 100 percent masked.”
While reviewing the regional supplements don’t forget to also review the 1987 US Army Corps Wetland Delineation Manual. This is the original regulatory guidance document and the one that the Regional Manuals are supplementing. The purpose of the regional supplements is to give more detail in areas that are more appropriate, so in the case of a discrepancy between the two manuals the newer Regional Supplements take precedent.
Delineate a Wetland Hands-on with a Mentor
One of the best ways to learn how to confidently delineate a wetland is to go out with someone who is a seasoned veteran. Having a Hands-On teacher or Mentor is really the best way to learn anything. Make sure you bring all of the correct tools with you, so you can actually do a professional job when you’re out with someone. You’ll need:
- An approved Soil Color Chart, such as the Globe Soil Color Chart
- Wetland Determination Data Forms, and it can certainly help to have them printed on waterproof paper
- Good hand lens to help identify the botany, such as the Bausch & Lomb Hastings Triplet Magnifier, 14x
- Solid botany field guide for your region, such as the Wetland Plants of New England: A guide to trees, shrubs, and lianas
- and a good Flora for your state back in the car or at the office, link, at a minimum.
Also, it’s a great idea to join a Professional Organization such as the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) to participate in the forums and have the magazine emailed or sent to you. I find it much of the published studies are overly quantitative and research-based, with no near-term help to me on permitting and delineating wetlands. However, for an educated Wetland Scientist the articles can really be a great resource.
The forums are probably where the most practical knowledge gets shared back and forth. Remember to always start by searching the Forum before you post a new question.
A good debate that I have seen recently is whether the so the globe soil book of colors is approved for use by the Army Corps of Engineers:
Many of the Society of Wetland Scientist regional chapters have yearly or semi-yearly meetings as well. These are great conferences to attend that usually attract a solid mix of other Consultants, Agency correspondents, educational heads, as well as vendors. The networking alone is a good idea.
So what are you waiting for!? Get out there, and start training!