Climate Change and Herding:

Incontrovertible Warning Signs and Local Responses

June 20 - July 3, 2022

14 Days  ◦  2 Instructors

Engage in explorations and research into climate change in Mongolia, with a focus on herders’ observations and responses to climate stress. Through this module, students will have the opportunity to conduct interviews with herders and local environmental management professionals, to compare meteorological measurements with herders’ local knowledge of a changing climate, and to explore potential adaptation to climate change in relation to social, economic, and political forces in rural Mongolia. Participants will also visit sites of historic, cultural, and ecological significance such as Kharkhorin, the capital of the Mongol Empire, and Erdene Zuu monastery.

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Course Overview

In this course participants will engage in explorations and research into climate change in Mongolia, with a focus on herders’ observations and responses to climate stress. Through this module, students will have the opportunity to conduct interviews with herders and local environmental management professionals, to compare meteorological measurements with herders’ local knowledge of a changing climate, and to explore potential adaptation to climate change in relation to social, economic, and political forces in rural Mongolia. Participants will also visit sites of historic, cultural, and ecological significance such as Kharkhorin, the capital of the Mongol Empire, and Erdene Zuu monastery.

The course emphasizes the value of local knowledge for understanding and addressing climate change impacts. We will also draw from research in natural and social science disciplines such as climatology, geography, rangeland ecology, and anthropology to understand challenges in nomadic pastoralism.

Herders throughout Mongolia are knowledgeable about climate change, both from the news and from clear transformations in weather patterns and rangeland ecology that they have witnessed over the past two or more decades. We will learn how herders are being impacted by these changes and what they see as the best solutions—such as grassroots environmental management, educational programs, improved government services, or policy changes—that would support the herding livelihood amid changing conditions.

We will learn how herders are adapting and organizing to build resilience against increasing stresses like drought, pasture degradation, and abnormal winter precipitation, but we will also consider the need for institutional support for safeguarding herding livelihoods and facilitating adaptation. Finally, participants will reflect on the interview methodology and the value of local ecological knowledge for understanding the effects of climate change.

Participants do not need to speak Mongolian; program leaders and staff will provide translation during interviews with herders and local experts. Lodging will be in ger camps. Participants will have opportunities to engage in some aspects of herding culture, such as riding horses and/or camels and milking goats.

Anticipated Course Activities

Day 1-2

Ulaanbaatar. Photo by Marco Fieber

Program and course orientation in Ulaanbaatar

Participants will meet the students and faculty in the ACMS Field School, gain an introduction to Mongolian language, culture, history, and contemporary issues, and begin to engage in course preparations such as an overview of field interview techniques and crucial issues impacting herders.

Photo: Zaisan, Mongolia by Michael O'Donnabhain CC BY SA NC 3.0

Day 3-8

өгий хишиг

Staying at ger camp by Ugii Nuur in Arkhangai province

While lodging at a tourist ger camp, we will have daily engagement with local officials, experts, and herders to discuss climate change and environmental challenges. We will learn from them how Ogii Lake and the surround pastures have been affected by climate change. We will also spend time with herding families to learn about traditional knowledge in herding and handcrafts through participant-observation. 

Day 9-12

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Stay at ger camp near Kharkhorin Historical Site and Erdene Zuu Monastery

Participants will learn about Mongolian history while visiting two important historical sites and museums. We will also continue to learn about steppe ecology and interview herders in the area about climate change and their strategies for adapting to current challenges. We will stop at Elsen Tasarkhay sand dunes and have an introduction to desert ecology and the issue of desertification.

Day 13

Travel on the road

Return to Ulaanbaatar

The trip distance between Kharkhorin and the capital city is 223 miles.

Day 14

Ulaanbaatar. Photo by Marco Fieber

Course conclusion in Ulaanbaatar

Course debriefing and a chance to browse in Ulaanbaatar, and plan for further research and explorations in Mongolia and beyond.

Instructors

Anikka Erickson

Dr. Annika Ericksen

Cultural Anthropologist
Annika Ericksen, holds a PhD in Anthropology with an interdisciplinary minor in Global Change from the University of Arizona. Her first introduction to Mongolia was as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2004, and she has been going back ever since. Her dissertation on dzud disasters and post-socialist politics of responsibility in Mongolia was supported by an ACMS research fellowship and a Fulbright-Hays DDRA.
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Dr. B. Batbuyan

Center for Nomadic Pastoralism Studies
B. Batbuyan, PhD, is the Director of the Center for Nomadic Pastoralism Studies and a former Director of the Institute of Geography (Mongolian Academy of Sciences). Trilingual in Mongolian, English, and Russian, he has over twenty years of experience collaborating with international physical and social scientists. He has also been influential in training a new generation of Mongolian geographers by engaging them in fieldwork on a variety of projects. His research has focused on socio-environmental governance of pasturelands in the context of environmental change. As a broadly trained social and environmental geographer, he is fluent with new technologies for monitoring environmental change and with ethnographic research methods for learning from and working with herders throughout 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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