Building a Quadrat

In an effort to cut down on the cost of doing fieldwork this summer, I decided to build my own quadrat for plant identification, rather than purchasing one outright. I found a few online, but prices ranged form $30 to $150 for what is essentially a few PVC pipe links with fishing line. Instead, I identified exactly what I wanted to build and set out to do it as cheap as possible, while also taking into account weight, ease of assembly in the field, durability, and size.

First, I found that a half-meter quadrat was ideal for the purposes of my project. Then, I decided that PVC was a tried and true material for what I plan to do.

Material list: 

  • Four pieces of PVC pipe, 50cm (pre-cut at Home Depot), $2.50 total
  • Four non-threaded PVC joints ($0.75 a piece at Home Depot)
  • 3.19 mm drill bit ($1.50 – $8.00 at Home Depot)
  • Power Drill (Again, I already owned this.)
  • Overbilt Nylon String, Pink ($3.00 at Home Depot)
  • Overbilt #212 Screw Eyes ($7.00 at Home Depot)
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Piece of cardboard (or similar)



Step 1: Mark PVC joints with equidistant drill hole points. These holes will be what holds the nylon string into place to form the grid.


Step 2: Drill holes into all four PVC pipe segments. Be careful to line the points up properly in a horizontal line. Also, be sure to buffer the drill to protect your surface. (I don’t have any fancy shop equipment, so I did this on the floor.)




Step 3: Assemble the quadrat frame using the four segments and the PVC joints. Be sure that the holes of each segment point upward. Then, tap the pieces into place (I used the floor) so that they are tightly fitted into the joints. I chose not to glue them in place because I wanted to make sure we could disassemble and reassemble as needed (as in, on the plane and in our bags).


Step 4: Cut segments of nylon string to create the grid. I used ten pieces and then cut a few extra for the field repair kit.

Step 5: Thread the nylon string through a screw eye and knot it at the base. Then, screw the screw eye into one of the pre-drilled holes in the quadrat.

Step 6: On the opposite side of the quadrat, screw in a screw eye with no string. Then, stretch the nylon across the quadrat and make sure to knot it so that the string is taut across the frame.

Step 7: Continue steps 5 and 6 for each pair of holes in the quadrat. (Tip: If you want to be able to disassemble and reassemble the quadrat in the field, be sure to screw the screw eyes in loosely enough to pull them out. I found that wiggling them back and forth did the trick.)


Step 8: Enjoy your quadrat in the field. Be sure to bring the extra nylon segments and screw eyes along, just in case.


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