Hustai National Park: Managing Biodiversity in the Home of Mongolia’s Native Horses

14 Days ◦ 6 Instructors and Support Staff

July 29 - August 11 , 2024 

Questions about this course? Email: TNyamdavaa@alaska.edu
Questions about application or fellowships? Email: mfs@mongoliacenter.org

Embark on an intensive two-week expedition immersing yourself in Mongolia's cutting-edge efforts to establish and manage specially protected areas, centered around the globally acclaimed Hustai National Park. The park is home to one of the few remaining thriving herds of the world's last truly wild horses, the Przewalski's horse. This immersive field course resonates with the urgent call from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, highlighting the imminent threat of land degradation primarily caused by agricultural and forestry practices. This degradation imperils landscapes, biodiversity, and essential ecosystem services like carbon sequestration. Hustai National Park serves as a pivotal bastion in combating these detrimental impacts, forming the nucleus of our investigation.

For priority consideration for fellowship awards apply by March 30, 2024.

The final application deadline is May 30, 2024.

Course Overview

Journey deep into the heart of Hustai National Park, a thriving ecosystem boasting remarkable biodiversity and groundbreaking conservation initiatives. Unveil the park's unique features, unravel its intricate management strategies, and delve into innovative wildlife conservation methodologies. Through hands-on fieldwork, engage in the observation and study of Przewalski’s horses, along with other awe-inspiring species such as Mongolian elk, gazelles, Argali sheep, marmots, and gray wolves. Participate in crucial activities like vegetation biomass assessments, refining your skill in ecological research techniques to effectively collect and analyze crucial data supporting conservation endeavors.

Digging deeper, we will explore the concept of community-based conservation, examining its profound implications within both the park and its adjoining buffer zone. Witness firsthand the positive outcomes of sustainable resource management on local livelihoods by visiting local enterprises, including eco-tourism enterprises, community-scale cheese factories, and sustainable sea buckthorn horticulture operations. These activities will serve to demonstrate and reinforce the importance of implementing community-based, ecologically informed rangeland management for safeguarding biodiversity and sustainability.

This expedition will also transcend scientific exploration, offering a rich cultural immersion experience. Engage in a plethora of cultural immersion experiences, from participating in traditional festivals and visiting the revered Gandan Monastery to exploring the Mongolian National History Museum. Immerse yourself in the daily lives of herder families, partake in cultural activities such as horse and camel riding, traditional food preparation, and indulge in traditional games, unraveling the essence of Mongolia's ancient traditions and heritage. Witness innovative solutions in action through a visit to the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Breeding Project, showcasing a traditional approach to combat desertification and conserve vital grasslands.

This course caters to academics focusing on protected area studies, natural sciences professionals, national and provincial park administrators and managers, members of non-governmental environmental and conservation organizations, and enthusiastic members of the lay-public who wish to get an insider’s view of what makes Mongolia so special on the world stage and also contribute to conservation efforts. Join us in unraveling the intricate balance between conservation, cultural heritage, and sustainable livelihoods amidst Mongolia's awe-inspiring landscapes.

Anticipated Course Activities

Day 1 Jul 29

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Course orientation in Ulaanbaatar

Participants will have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with both the course faculty and fellow participants. They will acquire essential insights into Mongolian culture, history, and language. Additionally, participants will delve into the rich biodiversity of Mongolia, exploring its network of specially protected areas and understanding Mongolia's pivotal role in the broader global context.

Day 2 Jul 30

takhi release

Overview of Hustai National Park and Visit to the Mongolian Natural History Museum and Gandan Monastery

We begin with a thorough introduction to Hustai National Park, enabling participants to grasp its intricate management structure, innovative wildlife conservation strategies, and captivating ecosystem characteristics in detail. To delve further into the rich fabric of Mongolian history and culture, participants will embark on captivating visits to the Mongolian Natural History Museum (formerly known as the Mongolian National Museum). Additionally, they will explore the revered Gandan Monastery, a deeply significant site in Mongolia's Buddhist heritage, providing an authentic insight into the spiritual heart of the country.

Day 3 Jul 31

takhi fighting

Overview of Przewalski’s horses

Upon arrival at Hustai National Park, an exhilarating two-hour drive from our starting point, participants will immerse themselves in the traditional Mongolian lifestyle by settling into their lodging—authentic gers, known to westerners as “yurts”. Once settled, exploration awaits as participants delve into the captivating narrative of Przewalski’s horses. These majestic creatures, once on the brink of extinction, were rescued through dedicated reintroduction efforts that culminated in the establishment of this very park.

Day 4 Aug 1

hustai park horses

Przewalski’s Horse Observation and Related Analyses

Participants will collaborate with the park's wildlife horse biologist, engaging in the enthralling task of observing and tracking Przewalski’s horse breeding harems amidst the picturesque landscape of Hustai National Park. We will acquire hands-on experience in utilizing GIS (Geographic Information System) software and equipment to conduct habitat analyses and assess species distributions, adding invaluable field and analytical skills to our conservation toolkits.

Day 5 Aug 2

rocky hill

Vegetation Biomass Study

Participants will have the opportunity to expand their understanding of the diverse vegetation within Hustai National Park through informative sessions led by the park's botanist. Moreover, participants will actively contribute by assisting in the measurement of vegetation biomass, a crucial step in conducting analyses to track seasonal changes and understand the park's dynamic ecosystem. For those seeking an optional adventure, hiking through the park's scenic trails offers a splendid opportunity for immersion in the park’s natural beauty while experiencing firsthand the landscapes and biodiversity that make Hustai famous.

Day 6 Aug 3

hustai guruus

Wildlife Counting and Related Analyses

Participants will actively engage with Hustai National Park biologists and rangers in conducting wildlife transects, involving the counting of various species such as Przewalski’s horses, red deer, Mongolian gazelle, Argali sheep, marmots, and gray wolves. Following this, participants will utilize GIS programs to conduct comprehensive habitat analyses and estimate population sizes, enriching their practical skills in conservation research methodologies. As an additional enriching activity, participants will have the opportunity to meet and converse with the dedicated Hustai National Park rangers, gaining insights into their experiences and expertise in wildlife conservation and park management.

Day 7 Aug 4

tsam

Visit to Danshig Naadam–Khuree Tsam Festival

Participants will have the unique opportunity to partake in the annual religious and cultural festival, "Danshig Naadam–Khuree Tsam," located at Khui Doloon Khudag, merely an hour's drive from the park. This festival promises a rich cultural immersion featuring a stunning array of activities including traditional dances, melodious music, and captivating singing. Additionally, attendees will witness thrilling horse racing, wrestling matches, and a vibrant display of traditional Mongolian attire.

Day 8 Aug 5

gert

Nomadic Cultural Day

Prepare for an exhilarating excursion as participants venture into the buffer zone surrounding the park, where we will visit local herder families for an authentic and hands-on experience. Engage in a number of important traditional activities including herding livestock and witness the fascinating process of milking goats. Dive into the heart of Mongolian culinary traditions by learning to prepare and savor traditional food and dairy products, accompanied by indulging in time-honored traditional beverages such as the incredibly important Mongolian fermented mare’s milk beverage airag. Amidst these immersive experiences, participants will have the invaluable opportunity to interact and converse with the herders and their families, gaining firsthand insights into their way of life, customs, and traditions, fostering meaningful cultural exchanges and unforgettable memories.

Day 9 Aug 6

seaberry

Community-based Conservation

Today we will delve into the intricate implementation of Community-based Natural Resources Management within both Hustai National Park and its Buffer Zone. We will uncover the practical applications and successes of this approach firsthand. Moreover, participants will embark on enlightening visits to local enterprises which exemplify the Community-based Natural Resources Management initiatives associated with the park. These include a diverse array of businesses, such as a community-based eco-tourism venture, a renowned Gouda cheese factory, and a thriving sea buckthorn operation. Through these visits, participants will gain profound insights into the symbiotic relationship between Hustai National Park's administration, local herder communities, and government bodies. 

Day 10 Aug 7

hustai chono

Gray Wolf Observation and Tracking

Participants will engage in an immersive learning experience centered around gray wolves, delving into their population dynamics and the pivotal role these majestic creatures play within the delicate ecosystem of Hustai National Park. Moreover, we will actively contribute to wolf management  by collaborating with park biologists and rangers in the intricate task of tracking gray wolves within the park's expanse. This hands-on involvement will offer a unique opportunity to understand the behaviors and movements of these fascinating animals in their natural habitat.

Day 11 Aug 8

hustai camel

Visit to Hugnu-Tarna Nature Reserve

We will embark on a journey to the Hugnu-Tarna Nature Reserve, a two-hour drive from Hustai National Park. Upon arrival, participants will receive a comprehensive overview of the reserve, enabling them to discern and analyze the distinct natural ecosystems and conservation management strategiess employed at both Hugnu-Tarna Nature Reserve and Hustai National Park. As an additional thrilling activity, participants will venture to the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes. Here, participants can opt for an exhilarating hike while also experiencing the iconic "group ride" atop Mongolian camels across the dunes, offering a unique and memorable adventure in this breathtaking landscape.

Day 12 Aug 9

hustai tarvaga

Mongolian Marmot Observation

Participants will gain insight into the pivotal role that Mongolian marmots play within the intricate ecosystem of Hustai National Park, specifically exploring their significance in the conservation efforts for Przewalski’s horses.

As an enriching activity, participants will journey to the southern part of Hustai National Park, an hour's drive from the campsite, to explore the ancient Ungut monuments. These fascinating Bronze Age stones, sculpted in human, lion, and sheep forms, along with a procession of several hundred balbal stones, offer a captivating glimpse into the rich historical and cultural heritage embedded within this region.

Day 13 Aug 10

hustai bankhar

Visit to Mongolian Bankhar Dog Breeding Project

Today we will visit the nearby Mongolian Bankhar (shepherd) Dog Breeding Project, where we will uncover the profound significance of Mongolian Bankhar dogs in wildlife conservation and the preservation of traditional herding lifestyles. Later in the afternoon, we will begin the return to Ulaanbaatar, an approximately two hour drive.

Day 14 Aug 11

takhi dusk

Course Conclusion

In Ulaanbaatar, participants and faculty gather for final reflections on their course journey. This session isn't just about evaluation; it's a chance to share personal insights and experiences gained from exploring Mongolia. It's a celebration of growth and shared discoveries, blending academic knowledge with practical wisdom gained in the field.

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Instructors

Tsermaa Nyamdavaa

Tsermaa Nyamdavaa

National University of Mongolia
She is an instructor in the Department of Public Administration at National University of Mongolia. Also, she is a Ph.D. candidate in Natural Resources and Sustainability program at the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, USA. Currently, she is completing research on the “Implementation of Community-based Natural Resources Management Principles within the Buffer Zone at the Hustai National Park, Mongolia”. In 2022, she played a pivotal role in the "Herding and Climate Change" Field School, serving as an assistant coordinator and translator.
Tserendulam Tseren-Ochir

Dr. Tserendulam Tseren-Ochir

Hustai National Park
She works as a botanist at the Hustai National Park, Mongolia. Since 2009, she has been an invaluable asset to the Research and Training Unit at the park. Her involvement in various fundamental and applied biological and ecological projects extends to 2006. Specializing in the botanical branch, she has gained extensive experience through active participation in field training and studies, including ecological field methodology, vegetation monitoring research, nutritional network analysis, and initiatives focused on improving degraded pasture. Notably, she holds expertise in comprehending seasonal element changes within the park. Demonstrating a global perspective, she has also taken her commitment to knowledge sharing across borders. She actively participates in international knowledge exchange programs, presenting her research results in Germany and the USA.
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Dr. Usukhjargal Dorj

Hustai National Park
He is a professional biologist. Currently, he has been working as wildlife and wild horse biologist and research and training manager of the Hustai National Park since 2003. Since 1998, he participated an enormous number of fundamental and applied biology and nature conservation research projects such as number, density, breeding success of raptors of Mongolia, conservation management of large mammals, protected areas and its connectivity. He is one of the leading experts in the field. He is really keen to share his knowledge with anybody who is interested. Besides his busy duty at the national park, he is one of the best mentors and educators of new generations of biologists, ecologists, and nature conservationists in the country. His various publications show his experience and knowledge on wildlife in Mongolia. Also, he provided professional lectures about fauna and its conservation, management of protected areas in Mongolia for many different countries such as Germany, Italy, Poland, China, Pakistan, Japan, Korea etc.
Uuganbayar Ganbold

Uuganbayar Ganbold

Hustai National Park
He has been working as a wildlife biologist and protection manager at the Hustai National Park since 2012. Specializing in carnivore studies, he excels in law enforcement, legal regulation, and conservation planning. With a focus on wildlife conservation, he brings expertise in resource protection, knowledge of applicable laws and programs, and a track record of successful fieldwork implementation. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Mongolian University of Life Science, he is dedicated to studying wolves in the park.
Byambadorj Purevdoo

Byambadorj Purevdoo

Mon Green One LLC & Mon Pre Me International LLC
He holds key roles as Director at Mon Green One LLC and Deputy Director of Mon Pre Me International LLC. Additionally, he serves as an advisor for Black Rock Partners LLC and the R & D Center for Climate Change and Sustainability Development NGO. His expertise encompasses nature conservation, protected area and buffer zone management, ecotourism, agribusinesses, sustainable livelihood, and business planning. With a decade of experience, he previously served as a Buffer Zone Manager at the Hustai National Park between 2005 and 2015.
Batzaya Tsogt

Batzaya Tsogt (Assistant)

Hustai National Park
He has been working as a wildlife and wild horse biologist of the Hustai National Park, Mongolia since 2019. Previously, he worked as a wildlife biologist and researcher at Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia between 2017-2019. The individual's academic research interests lie in wildlife conservation, with a particular focus on mammal species. His scientific pursuits involve studying wildlife populations and examining ecological factors influencing their distribution and numbers. Additionally, his research encompasses source and sink population dynamics, as well as the study of migration corridors for wild ungulates. Presently, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Biology at the National University of Mongolia.

Testimonials

Liz-SQ600

"Attending the renewable energy field school was the best decision I made in 2019! I was already attending a fulltime graduate program in Canada, but the field school added rich value to my learning. As the world is becoming more globalized, looking at how Mongolia is responding to the challenges of supplying cleaner energy was a valuable experience. Our instructors came with a vast amount of knowledge and a passion to teach.’’

Liz B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
Batkhuu SQ600

"As a sociology major student, this program was very helpful to explore urban issues and migration processes in contemporary Mongolia. Through this program, I sharpened my academic capabilities while refining soft skills essential for my future studies.’’

Batkhuu B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
Janis-Michael-SQ600

"The ACMS field school is a unique experience that has changed my life and teaching. In most programs, international participants are isolated from the country in which we are studying except for controlled visits to local people and sites. Not so with ACMS! Half of the participants in each field school are from Mongolia, ensuring that local and international participants have a chance to understand each other’s perspectives.’’

Janis M

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
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