Explore the lives of grassland animals, from the hedgehog to the Siberian ibex, to help conserve their wilderness home.
Mongolia hosts a rich diversity of wildlife, especially compared with other Central Asian nations. Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, with 666 square kilometers (257 square miles) of grassland and arid steppe habitats, provides a protected home for many of its species. But even within the bounds of the reserve, the animals of Ikh Nart face threats from poaching, illegal mining, and overgrazing. Local counties manage protected areas for the Mongolian federal government, but they lack the resources to provide active stewardship.
This magnificent region of semiarid grasslands and rocky outcrops is one of the best hopes for wildlife in central Asia. Argali sheep, saker falcon, cinereous vultures, and other animals threatened throughout their range find a stronghold here. Herds of graceful Mongolian gazelles and goitered gazelles roam freely through the reserve. For the past several years, Earthwatch teams have worked to study and conserve the area’s wildlife, including the “near-threatened” argali—the largest mountain sheep in the world, with huge, curling horns.
Join this team to explore this wilderness landscape in a way few people get the opportunity to experience. Your work will be used to develop improved conservation management policies in the reserve and help conserve this magnificent landscape and the life that depends on it.
HOW YOU WILL HELP
You’ll travel to the research site by train, through the mountains of the north, to the semidesert steppe, giving you a chance to enjoy Mongolia’s vast landscapes that remain largely free of fences and paved roads. You’ll hike four to six miles a day, accompanied by members of the project’s team of Mongolian experts and students. Once at the field site, you will:
The researchers have already radio-collared some argali sheep, ibex, hedgehogs, Pallas’s colubers (a type of snake), and kestrels. You’ll collect radio-telemetry data from these animals, which allows researchers to track their location. You’ll also put radio tracking devices on animals that don’t yet have them. The September team will help herd argali and ibex into nets, then help collect data on them and safely release them.
HIKE TO SURVEY VEGETATION AND WILDLIFE
Measure and identify plants in research plots throughout the reserve. Some groups of volunteers will walk along set paths to spot lizards or argali sheep, then record the animal’s behavior and location.
TRACK VULTURES AND KESTRELS
In the summer, volunteers will look for the nests of these birds of prey, then note their GPS locations and measure the nestlings.