Safety Training

Before You Go Into The Field

  • Know the rules: Different areas have different regulations. Make sure to check these before you head off on your trip.  You can find rules and regulations on the UC Reserve webpages.

  • Share your plans: Register at the Reserve or with CALeDNA personnel before sampling. Always make sure that someone knows where you will be hiking and when you expect to be back. You may also increase your safety by sampling with a partner or a group of people.

  • Study your route: Find out how many miles you’ll hike and estimate the total hiking time.  Sampling a site will take approximately 10 - 15 minutes, so plan for 1 - 1.5 hours of time dedicated to collecting samples. Estimate an extra couple of hours for hiking and recording species observations. Plan to finish your hike at least 1 hour before sunset.  It’s a lot more risky to hike in the dark!

  • Check the weather and pack accordingly: Keep in mind that weather can vary with elevation and change throughout the day. Always pack a sweater and raincoat.

What To Take On Your Expedition

  • Comfortable backpack.  To carry the things you'll need throughout the day.

  • Phone.  Download the apps you'll need before heading out. Make sure you have a full battery when you set off on your sampling trip.  

  • eDNA Sample collection kit.  Make sure it's complete and that you've read and understood the instruction.

  • Water.  Pack enough water for your trip and/or know where you can refill your water along the trail. The amount of water needed will vary by person and by conditions. We suggest you pack at least one liter per person.

  • Extra food & a trash bag.  Hikes may take longer than planned. Extra food will help keep up energy levels.  Leave no trash behind. Follow the mantra "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints".

  • Sun protection. Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses.  

  • Appropriate footwear.  Trail shoes or hiking boots are ideal.


In addition to the above items, we highly recommend you pack:

  • Rain gear and extra clothing.  Pack appropriately for the predicted weather. Layering your clothes allows you to adjust to changing weather but keep your pack light.  

  • First aid kit.  

  • Safety items. Flashlight, and a whistle.  A flashlight/headlamp is essential in case you are out longer than planned. If lost you can use a whistle to signal for help, in repeats of 3 short bursts.

  • Map and compass/GPS.  Although the GPS in your phone should be enough for recording your sampling sites, feel free to bring other up-to-date maps of the area and a compass or GPS unit.

While In The Field

  • Be environmentally aware. Always stay on the path (when you are not sampling). Avoid causing damage to animals and plants that you may encounter.

  • Leave no trace. It doesn’t matter whether your trash is decomposable or not, take it away with you. Live by the rule: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.

  • Know where to excrete.  Excretion impacts disease, water quality, and an area's aesthetic quality.  If you need to urinate, do it away from the trail and water sources. For number twos dig a hole and bury it (6 inches). Do not leave toilet paper behind- you must pack it out!

  • Be wildlife aware.  All wildlife has the potential to be dangerous.  Do not approach, interact with, or feed wild animals. Avoid dense foliage. Alert large animals of your presence by making noise as you walk along a track or collect your data (e.g. talking). For specific information on avoiding particular wildlife risks, check out the tips below.

    Poison oak
    Snake bites
    Bear encounters



Poison Oak:;

  1. Identification: Almost always has leaves of three, alternate leaf arrangement, never has thorns.

  2. Prevention: Avoid these poisonous plants and protect your skin.

  3. Symptoms: Contact leads to an itchy blistering rash 12-72 hours after contact.  The rash is not contagious and doesn’t spread (although it may appear to due to delayed reaction).  Most people see the rash go away in a few weeks. If you have a serious reaction e.g. swelling causing the eye to swell shut to your face or difficulty breathing go to the emergency room immediately.

  4. Treatment:

    • Immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water

    • Wash your clothing and everything that may have the oil on its surface

    • Do not scratch (scratching can cause an infection)

    • Leave blisters alone

    • Take short, lukewarm baths

    • Consider calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream

    • Apply cool compresses to the itchy skin

    • Consider taking antihistamine pills

    • If your rash does not improve after 7 to 10 days or you think your rash may be infected, see a dermatologist




  • Stick to well used trails

  • Wear hiking boots and long pants

  • Avoid tall grass, weeds, heavy underbrush

  • Don’t step/put hand where can’t see, and avoid wandering around in the dark

  • Step on logs and rocks not over them

  • Check out stumps or logs before sitting down

  • Never grab sticks or branches whilst swimming in lakes and rivers

  • Don’t handle a freshly killed snake

  • Before leaving the trail to sample, probe deep leaf litter, grasses, herbs and shrubs with a long stick to verify that snakes are not present


In the event of a snake bite:

  • Wash bite area gently with soap and water

  • Remove watches, rings etc

  • Immobilize affected area. In adults the most serious effect of a rattlesnake bite tends to be damage to local tissue

  • Get to a doctor as soon as possible but STAY CALM. Frenetic high-speed driving places the victim in more danger

  • Keep the bite site BELOW the heart



  • Ticks are blood sucking arachnids that may carry diseases. Ticks are especially common in wooded areas and grassland. They rest on low-lying brush or grass waiting to attach to passing animals.  

  • Avoidance: Avoid tick infested areas.  Wear insect repellent. Reduce skin exposure by pulling your socks up high and wearing long pants, a long sleeved shirt and a hat.  It's also better to wear light colored clothing. Washing clothing in permethrin will help to kill ticks if they land on you.

  • When you get home: Check clothing and equipment immediately.  Put dry clothing into a tumble dryer on high heat for 10 minutes.  If clothing is damp tumble dry for longer. Shower and check for ticks. Don't forget to check under your arms, in and around ears, inside belly button, back of knees, in and around the hair, between legs and around waist.

  • If bitten by a tick: Remove the tick with tweezers by pulling straight out using even pressure.  If the head or mouth parts break-off remove those using the tweezers. Once removed clean the area & your hands with an alcohol wipe, iodine or soap and water.  You may want to keep the tick in a freezer bag in the freezer for future identification. Otherwise dispose of it by flushing it down the toilet, freezing it or submerging it in alcohol.  Do not crush the tick with your fingers. If you develop a fever or rash within a few weeks of receiving the tick bite seek health care immediately.


Bear encounters:


  • If visible but not close: alter route so that you will move away from its area

  • If approached: DO NOT RUN. Remain calm, group together, face the bear and back away slowly.  If the bear continues to approach try to scare it away by shouting and taking an aggressive stance.

  • If attacked: Use bear spray and fight back using everything in your power (fists, sticks, rocks etc)



Despite all of the inherent adversities that come with working outside enjoy yourself, it's beautiful out there.

After Your Expedition


  • Repair any damaged or worn equipment and replace non-perishable items

  • Make notes of the things that you forgot or wished the you had brought.  Keep those notes for future trips.

  • Relax and enjoy your memories