It’s been a while.
I’m writing from a ger in the remote backcountry of Mongolia, on an internet connection contrived by Nyamka, our camp cook and all-around Renaissance woman of the Darhad Valley. Only Nyamka could stroll into the base camp ger one afternoon after four months of complete isolation from anything beyond the Horidol Saridag Strictly Protected Area and, with total nonchalance, hook up a device that links us via satellite and Mongolia’s countryside phone networks to the rest of the world. It’s been nearly a month since I last bathed in anything other than a frigid river or a basin of melted snow, and yet I’m able to update my Instagram with ease. The world of wolverine research never fails to make one appreciate the little pleasures and ironies of life in the field.
It’s been a wolverine-filled six months in the Horidol Saridag – from (alleged) wolverine latrines discovered during the summer to a wild abundance of tracks once the snow started to fall in early September. A multi-species camera grid deployed across the protected area yielded a number of wolverine photos, along with lynx, wolves, moose, elk, ibex, musk deer, and other denizens of the taiga, In addition to wolverines, I’ve finally managed to get a long-term climate-change monitoring program off the ground, with the guidance of the park administration, and the help of 16 enthusiastic students from the Round River Conservation Studies’ inaugural Mongolia study-abroad program. We’ve surveyed for talus-dwelling and Daurian pikas, censused the little-known vansemberuu plant across a swath of its distribution in the park, counted more than 12,000 waterbirds on the lakes and rivers of the Darhad Valley, and put together an herbarium of more than 250 species growing within the park.
The adventures have, of course, abounded, from getting cliffed out in a canyon that wasn’t on the map, to subzero nights fording rivers to get back to base camp after overly-ambitious days retrieving camera cards. There’s too much to narrate succinctly in a single post. I wanted to post some pictures to tide everyone over until I’m back in Ulaanbaatar and/or the States, but as it turns out, the internet connection in the middle of nowhere isn’t adequate to upload a bunch of pictures – so those too will have to wait. See you in a couple of weeks!