In wildlife research and monitoring, the accuracy of your data is often dependent on the skill of your field observers. When methods to collect field data require advanced skills such as identification of plants, birds, or animal tracks, it is important to know the skill levels of field staff.
The CyberTracker Certification system is an established international standard for evaluating and certifying animal trackers. It has proven useful for identifying and hiring skilled trackers, evaluating collected data, and as a training tool. Becoming a certified tracker will increase your credibility and improve your skills.
The certification process is an intensive field evaluation that emphasizes open, honest dialogue and real learning. Evaluations require two-days of field examination and participants can achieve different levels of certification based on their performance. Any tracks or sign encountered may be asked, whether big or small, clear or obscure.
While the Certification is in the format of a test, every question is explained in detail so all participants learn the field marks accurately identifying each track. I have taken tracking classes from teachers all over the country and this is by far the most powerful tool for learning tracking I’ve found. All skill levels are welcome and all are guaranteed to learn.
Prices differ whether evaluations are local or distant to the evaluator. The distant rate is applied when evaluators are required to fly or drive long distances, rent a vehicle, and pay for hotels. When 2 distant evaluations are scheduled back-to-back, only the first is charged at the distant rate and the second is charged at the local rate. Understand that the hosting body may then add an additional fee. Average prices per person range from $200-250.
Track & Sign Certifications cost $1700 + travel and per-diem for scouting at travel days. A flat-fee can be negotiated if the host prefers and is usually around $2250 but may be higher in remote or locations that are costly to access.
There is also a 2-evaluator option for an additional $800. This provides participants with much greater evaluator contact and exposure to other perspectives and information. The greatly reduced rate for the second evaluator is offered because as well as the participants, the evaluators benefit greatly from co-evaluating and learning from each other.
The format of an evaluation is simple. It takes place entirely in the field and thus the questions posed are largely determined by what is available. We arrive on site a minimum of 1 day early to scout for tracks and plan the evaluation. During the evaluation, we set up a series of track questions for participants to answer. The questions may include any species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates. Questions may also include the marks left by grass blowing in the wind or a car tire. The questions are straightforward and simple. Some common questions asked are: What species made this track? Which foot left this track? and How was the animal moving?
Using objective criteria, questions are rated either easy, difficult, or very difficult. Easy questions increase your score less if answered correctly and reduce your score more if answered incorrectly. Conversely, very difficult questions increase your score substantially when answered correctly and reduce your score less if answered incorrectly. The final score is calculated and expressed as a percentage. Details on the scoring process can be found on the CyberTracker website here.
Participants can achieve the following certifications based on their performance:
Level 1 69-79%
Level 2 80-89%
Level 3 90-99%
*In order for a participant to be awarded a Specialist certification, an external evaluator (Mark Elbroch, Casey McFarland, or George Leoniak) must be present.
The first thing you should do if you want to prepare to take a Tracker Certification is get a few books. There are many good tracking books and I’ve reviewed many of them at the link below.
Next, use this site! I have painstakingly photographed almost every track question from all the Track and Sign Certifications I’ve ever led and combined them into a single searchable gallery. I hope this can be an invaluable resource for you – it was a huge effort to compile.
Finally, go tracking with other folks and on your own. There are many good schools that offer tracking classes as well. Just be aware that there are many different styles and arts of animal tracking from trailing an animal to searching for lost people. To best prepare for the Tracker Certification, I suggest the schools at the link below. They all have instructors that have been certified at a high Level 3 or above and I can recommend them without hesitation.
Past Track and Sign Certifications
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