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researchers on site

A field lunch on the steppe—like the army, scientists travel on their stomachs

Mongolia collaborators

View a slideshow of expedition participants.



Otgonbaatar (Otgo)
Otgo is a masters degree student at the National University of Mongolia working with Dr. Soninkhishig on understanding the ecology and distribution of diatoms in Mongolia. Otgo was an important team member in the field as a jack-of-all-trades, helping collect water samples, facilitating cross-country transport of equipment, and assisting in all aspects of local transportation and camping logistics.


Narangarvuu (Nara)
Nara is a student at the University of Mongolia, working on a degree in entomology. She worked primarily with Dr. Len Ferrington on collection of chironomids in the Valley of the Great Lakes.


Lizz Johnson
Lizz participated in the 2004 expedition as an undergraduate student at St. Olaf College, working with Dr. Charles Umbanhower on collection of sediment cores and reconstruction of fire history from charcoal records in the sediment. Lizz is now a graduate student at Dartmouth University.


Thijs van der Meeren
Thijs is a doctoral student at the University of Ghent in Belgium and a researcher at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. His research focuses on ostracode taxonomy and paleolimnologic reconstructions from ostracode assemblages and isotopic data.


Avery Cook Shinneman
Avery is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota. Her research uses modern diatom distributions to develop predictive models for inferring past water chemistry from fossil diatoms.


Dr. Yondon Khand
Khand is a research scientist at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and conducts research on the taxonomy of Mongolian ostracodes, with a focus on ancient fossil ostracodes. Khand was essential to the success of the 2005 field season, as she was our principal translator.


Dr. Nergui Soninkhishig (Sonya)
Sonya is a professor in the Faculty of Botany at the National University of Mongolia. Her research interests focus on diatoms and she has been participated in research cataloguing and describing many species of diatoms in Mongolia. Sonya is the pivotal contact in Mongolia for this project, serving as the expedition manager for both 2004 and 2005 field seasons, arranging all field logistics and equipment transport.


Dr. Mark Edlund
Mark is a Senior Scientist at the Saint Croix Watershed Research Station. His research interests have developed around diatoms, which can be used to investigate historical environmental change and for biomonitoring. Mark is heading up the investigation of diatom biodiversity and their use as potential environmental indicators.


Dr. Charles Umbanhowar
Charles is a professor of biology and environmental studies at St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota. His current research interests include, paleoecology, prairie community ecology, fire history, and prairie and oak savanna restoration. Charles led the effort to retrieve ten lake cores from Western Mongolian lakes and is working on reconstruction of fire history based on charcoal remains in the cores.


Dr. Jim Almendinger
Jim is a Senior Scientist at the Saint Croix Watershed Research Station. His research interests include Quaternary paleoecology; lake, wetland, and groundwater hydrology and paleohydrology; groundwater/surface-water interactions; land-use and small stream hydrology; and human impacts on watersheds. Jim is coordinating modern water chemistry sampling and analysis for the team.


Dr. Koen Martens
Koen is a research scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. His research focuses on ostracode taxonomy and life history, and ecology. Koen is heading up research to catalogue ostracode distributions in Western Mongolia.


Dr. Len Ferrington
Len is a Professor in the Entomology Department at the University of Minnesota. His research program focuses on the significance of Chironomidae in aquatic ecosystems. Len is heading the team working with the biodiversity of Chironomidae in Mongolia as well as the establishment of chironimids as water quality indicators.


Dr. Emi Ito
Emi Ito is a Professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Minnesota. Her current research is centered on the reconstruction of past climate (especially moisture balance) using mainly stable isotope and trace element composition of inorganically formed and biogenic carbonates. Emi is working on establishing modern water chemistry and isotopic records in Mongolia.


Tserenkhand is a member of the Faculty of Biology at the National University of Mongolia. She has been working primarily on research into fire and vegetation dynamics in cooperation with Dr. Charles Umbanhower.


Buyantsog is a naturalist, former land manager, and current hunting guide in Western Mongolia, and he led the team of guides and drivers that made this research possible. He has a degree in wildlife biology and a passion for maintaining wise use of the land within the traditional nomadic heritage. His knowledge of the landscape in the largely roadless area is unparalleled, and he seemed to have a friend in every village.


Enkhtuya and Elimaa Enkhtuya and Otgoo

Enkhtuya, from Ulaangom, was a principal cook during both 2004-05 field seasons. She was joined in 2004 by Elimaa, also from Ulaangom, and in 2005 by Otgoo, from Ulaanbaatar. Otgoo arranged many of the food supplies for the 2005 field season. This team managed to produce three meals a day for 18 people on a single wood/dung-burning stove with a single large kettle, without access to power, refrigeration, or purified water.


louka tumur batsuur

Each year four vehicles (two jeeps and two vans, all 4WD) carried the 18 field personnel and all equipment. Buyantsog, our guide, was also the leader of the driver crew both field seasons. He was joined in both 2004 and 2005 by Lkhagvasuren (Loukha), a kind and quiet gentleman who devoted many hours in helping section the sediment cores. In 2004, the two other drivers were Gantumer (Toomer), who was a wonderful mechanic, and Batsuur, who drove the kitchen van and was a local wrestling champion.

khurlee altangerel

In 2005 the other two drivers were Altangerel, who carried Team Ostracode, and Khurlee, who drove the kitchen jeep. All drivers helped with the daily camp set up, with readying the field equipment, and, when necessary, in butchering a locally purchased sheep or goat. During the two field seasons, we were delayed only slightly by a flat tire, a broken fan belt, and a broken transmission -- which was replaced within one day.