On the Expedition
Help discover and document the cultural heritage of stunning Ikh Nart Nature Reserve.
On this unique and interdisciplinary team, you’ll have the once-in-a lifetime opportunity to assist Earthwatch scientists researching the cultural and archaeological aspects of managing a national nature reserve. You’ll identify and document (but not excavate) significant archaeological and cultural sites within the Ikh Nart reserve’s boundaries so that wildlife management plans can take these cultural resources into account - and vice versa. You’ll also describe sites in writing, learn how to draw them to scale, and to map them using GPS technology.
Meals and Accommodations
Team members share quarters in traditional Mongolian gers, cozy and colorful oases from the vast steppe, or in smaller camping tents. A cook prepares your meals (with your help serving and cleaning up). Expect a mixture of familiar and local fare, including “Mongolian barbecue”, cooked with hot rocks. The field camp offers solar showers, solar-powered lights, and outhouses with pit toilets. And you travel to/from the field site is by by train and four-wheel-drive van from Ulaanbaatar, a spectacularly scenic ride you just can’t get anywhere else.
About the Research Area
Ikh Nart was established in 1996 to protect the staggering 164,566 acres of rocky outcrops in a region of northwestern Dornogobi Aimag, known as Ikh Nartiin Chuluu. At about 4,000 feet above sea level, the region is a high upland covered by semi-arid steppe vegetation. Permanent cold-water springs are available in some of the several shallow valleys draining the reserve.
The flora and fauna present in the research area are a mix of desert and steppe species. Vegetation is sparse, with shrubs, scrub vegetation, and turf grasses dominating. Different plant communities can be found around oases and streams, on rocky outcrops, and in other areas. Archaeological features may date back 1000-2000 years—or more, and many cultural sites seem to have had continuous use up into the present day. Buddhist rock art inscriptions, burial cairns, rock alignments, and even evidence of tool-making at ancient campsites used by nomadic herdsmen all dot the landscape, largely unrecorded.
Large mammals in the region include argali, ibex, goitered gazelles, Mongolian gazelles, Asian wild asses, and wolves, several of which are locally or globally threatened species. Birds common to the Steppe include the iconic cinereous vulture, saker falcons, steppe eagles, upland hawks, black kites, little owls, pied wheatears, white wagtails, horned larks, Guldenstadt’s redstarts, red-billed choughs, and Daurian partridges – to name but a few! And of the many small mammals and reptiles, volunteers may encounter Tolai hares, Pallas’ cats, red foxes, corsac foxes, Mongolian gerbils, voles, hamsters, toad-headed agamas, Mongolian racerunners, Central Asian vipers, and the fascinating jerboa.