Plan and oversee field surveys

Business Sectors (Suites): Environmental Conservation
Developed by: Lantra
Approved on: 30 Mar 2020


This standard covers planning and overseeing field surveys. It could also apply to planning and overseeing surveillance and monitoring and could be part of a wider assessment.

Field surveys may be of the following subjects: landscape and marine features; flora and fauna, including species population assessment; habitat type and condition and human impact on the environment. Most surveys will involve both primary and secondary sources of data.

The standard includes confirming the purpose, scope and objectives of the field survey, determining survey methodologies and systems for data collection, allocating work to surveyors and overseeing the collection, interrogation and analysis of data.

You must seek required permissions, consents and licences prior to carrying out field surveys.

You must carry out your work in a way that takes account of its impact on the environment.

This standard is suitable for those with overall responsibility for planning and overseeing field surveys.

Performance criteria

You must be able to:

  1. confirm the purpose, scope and objectives of the survey, surveillance or monitoring and the timescale for completion
  2. confirm the study area of the site to be surveyed
  3. identify any relevant site restrictions or designations that are in place
  4. confirm that the necessary permissions, consents or specific licences are in place for both site access and species field data collection work
  5. identify potential sources of information and existing data relevant to the field survey to be undertaken
  6. communicate with interested parties regarding the field survey where required
  7. specify survey methodologies that enable the required data to be obtained with minimum damage or disturbance to the site
  8. select survey techniques that are legal and safe and in accordance with the survey objectives
  9. plan and identify resource requirements including surveyors, equipment and materials
  10. confirm that a risk assessment is carried out and procedures are in place to protect the health and safety of those undertaking the survey and other users of the site
  11. confirm that measures are in place to protect the biosecurity of the site
  12. confirm that measures are put into place to ensure that the survey work does not adversely affect the condition of the site and the site is reinstated to the required condition, which is consistent with the surrounding area
  13. specify formats and systems for capturing and storing data that conform to relevant data standards
  14. plan data analysis methods that allow valid and reliable conclusions to be drawn
  15. specify the format for the presentation of results and findings
  16. develop a plan and specifications for the survey that contains all relevant information to enable the survey to be carried out, given the resources available and any time constraints
  17. allocate work to the surveyors and provide all necessary details to enable them to complete their job
  18. oversee data collection and analysis to check that it is being done correctly
  19. take action where there are deviations from the plan
  20. confirm the work is carried out in accordance with the relevant national legislation, local regulations, guidance, codes of practice and policies of your organisation

Knowledge and Understanding

You need to know and understand:

  1. the purpose, scope and objectives of the survey, surveillance or monitoring and the time constraints
  2. the use of secondary data sources when planning the field survey and methodologies
  3. the importance of primary data collection to the credibility of the survey
  4. the factors to consider when planning field surveys
  5. the implications of any relevant site restrictions or designations that are in place
  6. the circumstances in which permission, consent or specific licences are required for site access or species field data collection work and how these are obtained
  7. the importance of communicating with interested parties and the methods for achieving this
  8. the range of survey techniques available, their advantages and disadvantages and the principles of their use
  9. the types of field survey equipment available, including where technology could be used  
  10. the importance of checking that the surveyors have the required levels of competence to undertake the survey
  11. your responsibilities for site safety under the relevant environmental and health and safety legislation, risk assessment requirements, codes of practice and policies of your organisation
  12. the importance of biosecurity and the required biosecurity measures for the site
  13. the potential impact that survey activities could have on the site and how to minimise this
  14. how to optimise the use of resources when planning and overseeing field surveys given the complexity of the task in hand, the resources available, the time of year and any other relevant factors
  15. how to select relevant formats and systems for capturing information
  16. how to check that data is valid and reliable and possible sources of error and bias
  17. how to produce a plan and specifications which contain all of the relevant information to enable the survey to be carried out
  18. the effective methods of preparing and briefing those who will be involved in the data collection and analysis
  19. the importance of overseeing the survey for quality control to confirm a high standard is maintained and consistency/standardisation between surveyors
  20. the possible actions to take when there are problems with the collection of data
  21. methods of presenting the results and findings that meet the audience requirements and their use of the information
  22. the relevant national legislation, local regulations, guidance, codes of practice and policies of your organisation


Scope Performance

Scope Knowledge





Data collection methods could include: written, oral, aural, electronic, visual

Data analysis methods could include: mathematical calculations, use of biodiversity metrics, use of modelling, use of application software

Examples of field surveys:

The term "survey" is open to broad interpretation due to the wide range of surveys, including physical, biological and cultural, that are carried out in different contexts, using a range of techniques. The following list gives a guide to survey themes and the minimum level of complexity that would be appropriate:

  • surveys of biodiversity: the presence or abundance or distribution of a particular species of plant or animal. Species population assessment. Working with diversity indices.
  • surveys using standard classification systems used in conservation: for example, a Nature Conservation Council Phase 1 habitat survey which uses the recognition of groups of plant species to allow a terrestrial habitat classification, such as mapping and counting of indicator species for an ancient woodland.
  • surveys of people: for example, counting the number of visitors using a public right of way or promoted access trails, or a beach, conduct visitor interviews or evaluate local support for a project.
  • surveys of effects of farming/fishing/tourism activities: such as an index of grazing on moorland, damage being caused to coastal dunes by visitors, the effectiveness of "motor-bike traps" on a bridleway or the destruction of marine seagrass beds by boat anchoring.
  • surveys of habitat: that is the physical environment of any community, involving factors such as vegetation, geology, geomorphology, soils, sediments, topography, temperature, wind, rain, river flow, tides and waves.
  • surveys of contamination of the natural environment as a result of pollution: investigations might look at the extent and intensity of chemical damage to the habitat and associated biological impacts.
  • surveys of the status of the conservation effort: examples might include mapping access networks, the condition of a footpath network and ancillary structures (signs, handrails, access points), archaeological features or the level of erosion to river-retaining banks, sand dunes and the foreshore.
  • surveys of the effects of climate change: could include effects on biodiversity, agriculture, weather, water levels, progress towards climate change targets.


Interested parties:

  • those directly involved
  • those affected by, or with an interest in, the site


National and industry guidelines for surveys includes:
**National Vegetation Classification (NVC) Phase One Habitat Survey; British Trust for Ornithology Breeding Bird and Wetland Bird surveys; Bat Survey Guidelines; UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme; Environment Agency River Corridor or Joint Nature Conservancy Committee Intertidal surveys.


  • surveyors
  • equipment
  • materials

Sources of data:

  • primary
  • secondary


Surveys could include: **

  • a one-off activity to collect data for a prescribed purpose e.g. baseline survey
  • surveillance: a repeated survey building up a picture that can detect change but does not trigger action
  • monitoring: repeated observations building up a picture that can detect change and trigger action


Techniques could include:

  • mapping/aerial photographs
  • use of cameras, drones, GPS, radar tracking, audio telemetry and other technology
  • counting and estimating
  • using the public (citizen science)
  • sampling
  • tagging
  • trapping


Types of data:

  • qualitative
  • quantitative

Links To Other NOS

External Links

Version Number


Indicative Review Date

30 Mar 2025





Originating Organisation


Original URN


Relevant Occupations

Access Officer, Conservation Officer, Ecologist, Environmental Management Officer, Ranger

SOC Code



survey; environment; marine; landscape; site; data; habitat