Top 5 Essentials for Remote Fieldwork with Sarah Dalgleish

Wednesday, 7 February, 2018


Our Perth team aren’t afraid to get off the grid. Whether conducting flora and fauna surveys in in the grasslands of the Kimberley, undertaking monitoring programs in the woodlands and shrublands of the Goldfields, or exploring the rocky hills of the Hamersley Ranges in the Pilbara; the team is used to traveling hundreds of kilometres criss-crossing their rugged state to complete field work for our clients.

We caught up with Sarah Dalgleish, a botanist/ecologist and resident remote fieldwork guru from our Perth Office, to run us through the top 5 essentials for working in remote locations.

1. Having an appropriate vehicle – All our field trips require a diesel 4WD preferably with a long-range fuel tank and appropriate tyres.  Tracks can be overgrown or washed out and you can come across obstacles such as dry creek beds which can sometimes be difficult to cross, so you need a vehicle that can get the job done

We work out of Landcruisers or Hiluxs but I prefer Landcruisers because they can go anywhere and are tough as guts.


2. Comms – Satellite phones are our primary form of communication when working remotely as we are often in places without signal.  It’s often the only way we can check in with the office. We check in at least twice a day  and we assign this task to one person in the team. If the field team doesn’t make contact at the designated times, the office will initiate emergency procedures so it’s very important not to miss them. Having appropriate communications is also important to contact any relevant station or land managers to touch base when travelling through their land, and we make sure we’re doing the right thing even though you can feel in the middle of nowhere.

We also take a secondary form of comms like a Spot Tracker. This will send the field team’s location via satellite to an online map so the office can log on and see where you are at all times. You can also send SOS messages via the Spot Tracker.

3. Navigation aids - We mostly use tablets equipped with GPS and mapping software.  We load the tablets with 250k topographical maps or create maps with spatial data showing tracks and landmarks so we can track where we are in real time. We also take some old-fashioned paper maps with a reference grid and a compass just in case technology fails us.

We are normally pretty familiar with the areas but there are places where you have to be careful not to get lost, such as in dense woodlands or shrublands, where you can’t see landmarks as easily.

4. Having adequate supplies – Water, food, first aid, vehicle recovery kits are all super important. It’s not often that we camp out, normally we stay in accommodation such as motels and mine camps, but even so it’s important to have enough supplies to last you a couple of days in case something should go awry.

Snacks are also very important. We live for the field snacks. Favourites in our team include potato chips, poppers/fruit boxes and a mint slice at the end of the day is always a hit. Also you have to have tea and a thermos. We love having cuppas in the field. 

5. Entertainment – If we remember, we take out a playlist downloaded to our phone. ABC Radio is often all you’ve got out in the field, which I actually love listening to, especially the country hour around lunchtime.  While we are out in the field we like to play games like ‘Guess what we’ll have for dinner’. As you can see - food is a bit of a highlight. When we get back to base there are lots of jobs like downloading data and pressing plants. Then it’s straight to bed for an early start.