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UCx: Foundational Field Skills for Earth and Environmental Sciences

This course focusses on the proficiency of fundamental field skills required for most graduate degrees and entry-level jobs in the earth and environmental sciences. The course combines instructional demonstrations and scaffolded learning activities in the New Zealand outdoors.

5 weeks
4–5 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

There is one session available:

After a course session ends, it will be archivedOpens in a new tab.
Starts Apr 12
Ends Jun 28

About this course

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This course focusses on your proficiency of field skills and contextual knowledge within earth and environmental sciences. Each section focuses on a specific skill set and represents a way of acknowledging achievements or skill acquisition at a granular level.

Key field skills included in this course are navigation, field observations and note-taking, and field sketching.

Field Observations and Note-taking

This section introduces how to set yourself up to be an effective observer and recorder using the platform of a field notebook. A field notebook serves many potential purposes. It is a valuable record of what you have seen, heard, discussed, and thought about in the field. It may contain the data which will lead to an oral presentation, a report, thesis, or even a scientific journal article. It may be a graded portion of a course. Or it may be something you and your relatives will find interesting decades in the future.

This section provides you with the knowledge, platforms, skills to guide you in taking quality and organised notes while in the field.


The purpose of this section is to learn the fundamentals behind navigation and to develop core navigation skills. Today’s technology allows more confidence and safety in outdoor activities, but there are still some fundamental knowledge and skills you need to have to effectively use these.

What would be the key skills needed to be able to successfully navigate your way out of a situation? You may be in a situation where technology fails you or services are unavailable. This section focusses on specific tools and skill development in particular compass, GPS, base maps, and yourself. Being able to interpret and navigate a landscape gives a much deeper understanding of the lay of the land, how to identify your location, and how to move through it.

Field Sketching

This section introduces the basics of sketching, developing your skills and confidence so that you can create field sketches that support your scientific observations and data collection.

Data collection in the field is not just focussed on written notes, hard data, and measurements (quantitative data), it is also supported with sketches – drawings of nature, objects, flora, fauna, landscapes, architecture etc., which represent qualitative data. This section builds your ability to develop field sketches that provide a record of field observations & measurements, that give a summary of key features, that interprets photographs taken in the field, and provide useful memory aids.

This section develops skills and confidence in creating field sketches that are not masterpieces, works of art or textbook-perfect sketches. But simple drawings or summary diagrams that capture information.

At a glance

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills:Quantitative Data Analysis, Sketching, Environmental Science, Landscaping, Demonstration Skills

What you'll learn

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  1. Develop and execute fundamental field skills and techniques in the earth and environmental sciences.
  2. Familiarize with and perform core navigation skills.
  3. Develop techniques to make effective scientific observations in the field.
  4. Distinguish between what is an 'observation' and an 'interpretation'.
  5. Execute systematic notetaking of scientific field observations and data collection.
  6. Build your ability to draft field sketches to match what you see in the field.

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