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Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe

Expedition Briefing


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Please read the following information before leaving for your expedition.

It provides the most accurate information available and will likely answer any questions you have about the project. You may also reach out to your Program Coordinator with any questions you may have.


COVID-19 Enhanced Health and Safety Measures

This project has been amended to incorporate several health and safety measures to allow responsible fielding of teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please refer to the COVID Disclosure Form for more details. 

Before Fielding 
  • Vaccination against COVID-19 is required for all participants. Staying up to date with your vaccinations, including receiving booster doses if available, is strongly encouraged. 
  • Become familiar with and abide by the local COVID requirements up to date vaccinations, including boosters, mandatory quarantine, or other guidelines. 
  • Do not travel to your Earthwatch expedition or program if you: 
    • are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), 
    •  are confirmed or suspected as having COVID-19 within the past 10 days
    • have been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 in the past 10 days 
  • You are highly encouraged to take a COVID-19 test one day before or the morning of your rendezvous, before meeting up with your team.
While in the Field 
  • Face masks will be required in line with local regulations and/or when instructed by project leadership. In areas or on projects where mask use is no longer required, the use of face masks will be optional. Any individual who wishes to continue to mask will be supported in that decision. 
  • Participants and project staff will continue to wash or sanitize hands frequently and maintain physical distance whenever possible. 
  • All team members will be asked to monitor their own health through daily health checks. 
  • Recreational activities may be limited or require additional face mask requirements to reduce the risk of exposure to team members or to the local community.
  • Meals and activities will take place outside whenever possible. 
  • Ventilation will be increased indoors and within enclosed vehicles whenever possible. 

The Research

Mongolia hosts a rich diversity of wildlife, especially compared with other Central Asian nations. Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, 66,600 hectares (257 square miles) of grassland and arid steppe habitats, provides a protected home for many of its species. But even within the bounds of the reserve, the animals of Ikh Nart face threats from poaching, illegal mining, shifts in water availability and vegetation associated with climate change, and overgrazing. Local soums (counties) manage protected areas for the Mongolian federal government but lack the infrastructure and resources to provide active stewardship.

One of the species that needs our protection is the endangered argali sheep, the largest mountain sheep in the world. Ikh Nart shelters one of the last populations of these sheep, which, research suggests, have declined primarily due to poaching and conflicts with domestic livestock production.

We initially began researching in Ikh Nart to develop strategies to conserve this majestic beast, but as the project developed, we began to collect data on the other important species: the globally declining lesser kestrel, the cinereous vulture, the Siberian ibex (wild goat), multiple species of hedgehogs and small carnivores, the Siberian marmot, Pallas’s coluber (a snake), and many small prey species including lizards, insects, and small mammals such as gerbils and hamsters. The more we understand these species and how they interact with each other and their environment, the better we can develop plans to conserve them in the future. Recently, we held a workshop to develop Ikh Nart Nature Reserve’s Open Standards conceptual model for the purpose of guiding the new 5-year park management plan. During this workshop, eight priority conservation targets were identified: Argali, Ibex, Mongolian and Goitered gazelles, Cinereous vultures; saker falcons and marmots. We’ve also identified threats such as poaching, water availability, and pasture & rangeland availability and we’re primarily researching these species until 2024.

Research Aims

Simply put, our research focuses on how different species use resources and influence each other in this unique desert environment. For example, we explore how argali and ibex coexist, and the impact of domestic sheep and goats on argali and ibex. As well we explore how Goitered gazelle and domestic camels coexist in the arid desert environment, and we examine the grassland health and vegetation availability. We also examine nesting behavior, movement patterns, and diet of large birds of prey.

Already, the results of this work have helped improve the conservation of these species and the ecosystem on which they depend. We have successfully recommended conservation strategies to the Mongolian government, other biologists, and nongovernmental organizations working to conserve and recover species in Mongolia. We also work closely with local communities to increase their support for conservation, and to try to induce changes in livestock husbandry and wildlife use practices that will benefit the area’s wildlife. Simply by having a research presence in the park, we have cut down on poaching. So, at the core, this project is about understanding coexistence, both among various related species in the wild, and between local communities, their livestock, and the wildlife that they share the steppe with.

How You Will Help

Because the research spans from small mammals to cinereous vultures, you will have the opportunity to work with a variety of species, performing a broad range of tasks. Few people get this opportunity because many species remain shy and inhabit inaccessible areas. At Ikh Nart, however, wildlife is becoming increasingly habituated to human presence, especially to people on foot. In other words, due to less disturbance and poaching, their flight distance has become shorter. Few people in the world have seen argali sheep up close, but at Ikh Nart, our team members often get within 100 meters of these endangered animals. Working with the project’s large, friendly team of Mongolian experts and students permits you to develop strong relationships with staff members.

Before you begin field work, you’ll receive training on project equipment use and research techniques. We’ll stress the importance of remaining unseen by target animals during data collection. You’ll also learn from informal lectures while on the ride to the project site and in the evenings while in the field, and we’ll guide you on local customs during visits to nomadic families. Researchers at Ikh Nart have provided some of the best opportunities to train Mongolian university students in field research methods in the country, and your involvement in working alongside these students is a critical part of their development and growth as a scientist.

Tasks that you may perform include the following: with rough estimates on the percentage amount of time you will spend on each. Please note that some tasks are restricted to teams or months:

  • Collecting vegetation samples from the study site and estimating biomass in measured plots (5–15%).
  • Collecting nest success data on cinereous vultures and taking measurements of nestlings (0–30%). June to August teams.
  • Conducting line transect surveys for argali sheep (0–10%) September teams.
  • Trapping small mammals and assisting with camera traps (5–20%). June, and August teams
  • Entering data collected daily (for example, tagged argali sheep, ibex, gazelle; vegetation, cinereous vultures; small mammals; and camera traps depending on team focuses) (10–15%).
  • Team 3 in August will be handling and wing tagging approx. 50 vultures.
  • Team 4 in September may have the additional opportunity to assist in capturing argali, ibex and Goitered gazelles in “drive nets” (30–50%). 
  • And if you’d like to, take photographs to document these research tasks.

Life in the Field

We are far from the big city, but you will have time at the beginning and end of the expedition to explore Ulaanbaatar. While at Ikh Nart, we will have a half-day off for a Mongolian- style barbecue and recreation, which can include hiking and wildlife watching.

Most of the teams will be visited by the local women’s craft collective, Ikh Nart Is Our Future. The collective provides income for local women through the production of felt and other Mongolian craft items, made almost exclusively from local materials. You will have the opportunity to purchase traditional handicrafts inspired by the beauty of the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, with all proceeds directly benefiting the collective.

Each team will wrap up with a recreational day in Ulaanbaatar. Several field staff will guide the team through certain sites in and around the city. Optional activities at an additional cost to volunteers include visiting the museum under the Chingis Khan Statue (30,000 MNT (12 USD) entrance fee per person) and a cultural show (35,000 MNT (13 USD) per person. Prices are subject to change.)


Weather and research needs can lead to changes in the daily schedule. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.


Teams 1–3

  • Day 1: Rendezvous in Ulaanbaatar, settle in, optional cultural activities on your own, and group dinner.
  • Day 2: Drive from Ulaanbaatar to the field site (approx. 6.5 hours), settle in and get acquainted with the site.
  • Day 3: Half-day orientation and training. Second half of day spent on data collection (setting up small mammal trapping grids and raptor nest monitoring, etc.).
  • Days 4–6: Data collection 
  • Day 7: Data collection in the morning, traditional Mongolian barbeque in the afternoon and evening
  • Days 8–11: Data collection.
  • Day 12: Leave for Ulaanbaatar after lunch. Arrive in Ulaanbaatar in the evening and settle into the guest house.
  • Day 13: Morning sightseeing or visit to a local university or other scientific institute. Drive to Terelj National Park. Visit Chingis Khan Statue. Optional visit inside the museum for an additional fee of around 30,000 MNT (12 USD) paid by volunteers. Lunch at a tourist camp. Return to Ulaanbaatar. Optional cultural show in the evening for an additional fee of around 35,000 MNT (13 USD) paid by volunteers. And a farewell dinner at 7:30pm.
  • Day 14: Breakfast and depart for the airport to catch a flight home.

Team 4

  • Days 1–3: Same as other teams.
  • Days 4–6: Drive-netting argali, ibex and Goitered gazelles and data collection (data recording, morphometric data collection, animal health monitoring, radio- collaring and still and video photography).
  • Day 7: Drive-netting argali and ibex before noon, in the afternoon traditional Mongolian barbeque and evening, visit to a local disco in the evening (optional)
  • Days 8–12: More drive netting and line transect sampling at the end of the capture days.
  • Days 12–14: Same as other teams.

Please note depending on what research activities you are involved with, the above schedule is likely to shift to accommodate the work required, and to accommodate travel to the southern part of the reserve, if required.

  • 6:00 a.m.: Some volunteers and staff rise and check small mammal traps
  • 7:00 a.m.: Breakfast, lunch preparation, wash up
  • 8:00 a.m.: Collect gear, break into groups, and receive a quick briefing on the day’s tasks
  • 8:30 a.m.: Field work
  • 1:00 p.m.: Break for lunch
  • 2:00 p.m.: Field work
  • 5:00 p.m.: Wash up, prepare dinner, data entry
  • 7:00 p.m.: Dinner, recreational and rest time, etc.

Accommodations and Food

* Please note that not every expedition has couples’ or singles accommodations available. Please call or email Earthwatch to check for availability prior to reserving your space(s) on the team.



Zaya’s Guesthouse in Ulaanbaatar is comfortable and clean. We can house couples together, when possible, with advance notice to Earthwatch. Some rooms have their own bathrooms, although some guests must share. The guesthouse is formed of a few large apartments with kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms that we rent. The guesthouse offers breakfast and has free internet access on one computer. Zaya’s sits in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, within easy walking distance of tourist sites, restaurants, banks, and shopping areas.

Zaya’s Guesthouse offers transport to and from the airport for a reasonable fee and can help arrange excursions at your own expense for before or after the Earthwatch expedition. They have a comprehensive list of equipment and camping gear that can be rented, and can send you a list of what’s available, with costs, if you email them at info@zayahostel.com.

Please specify that you are with Earthwatch if you decide to book additional nights at Zaya’s before or after the expedition.


The research camp lies in the heart of the project’s study area. At the camp, you’ll stay in traditional Mongolian gers (yurts). There are currently eight gers at the research camp, five of which are for your lodging. There is also a kitchen, dining, and two staff gers.

Participants will be assigned gers by gender, each ger can accommodate up to four participants. Single and couple gers are subject to availability and will depend on numbers and the gender makeup of the team. Please request this at the time of booking and note it on your volunteer forms. Participant requests will be accommodated, when possible, in the order they were received.

Gers are larger than standard tents (you can easily stand upright in them), they have storage space, water filters, and washbasins, and they tend to be warmer than tents at night. The research site has three standard tents for Earthwatch team use, but you may also bring your own if you like.

All team members will sleep on beds, but you should bring sleeping bags, as we have no linens. You’ll get a sleeping pad (but we recommend bringing your own as well for added padding). It can get cold at night, so please bring a warm bag and layers of clothing. Also bring your own towels (camp towels work great and are available at most outdoor stores).

* Earthwatch will honor each person’s assertion of gender identity, respectfully and without judgment. For both teen and adult teams, where logistics dictate single-sex accommodations or other facilities, participant placements will be made in accordance with the gender identity the participant specified on their Earthwatch Participant form and/or preferences indicated in discussions with Earthwatch.


There is one outhouse with two sit-down “eco-design” toilets. They are composted with dry manure, and you will be instructed in their use on arrival. In the field, you’ll follow the nomadic tradition of using the great outdoors when nature calls.

Several “sun showers” (insulated bags that hold water warmed by sunlight) are available at camp, so you can wash regularly.


The research project gets electricity from solar panels. We use much of this energy to recharge project equipment, but there’s usually enough power to recharge your electrical items (project equipment has priority). Gers have lights for reading, etc. We have outlets for American and European electronics. Outlets are 220 volts, 50 Hz two-prong Type C European-style plugs (American-style outlets are also available in camp).


Although we sometimes use vehicles to access portions of the reserve, we sometimes walk to our work.


Zaya’s Guesthouse has refrigeration available and can store medications as needed. 

The research station has a naturally cooled underground cellar as well as a freezer available for storage. 

Please Note: There is a 6+ hour drive on Day 2 of teams from the main city to the research station. Refrigeration will not be available during this commute


For safety reasons, participants may not ride motorcycles, horses, or camels during Earthwatch expeditions. If you wish to ride horses or other animals during your visit to Mongolia, please do so before or after the expedition. While there may be an opportunity to observe traditional Mongolian wrestling, participants are not allowed to wrestle.


A cook will prepare most meals. We’ll generally eat breakfast and dinner together, and you’ll make your own packed lunch with food set out each morning to take into the field. Sometimes we’ll be back to the camp for lunch. All Earthwatch participants and staff members will be expected to assist in cleaning up after meals.


The following are examples of foods you may find in the field. Variety depends on availability. We appreciate your flexibility.

  • Breakfast: Fresh bread, cold cereal (usually muesli and cornflakes), yogurt, hot rice, or wheat porridge, rolls and jam, eggs, and Mongolian sausage
  • Lunch: Sandwiches with various fillings (peanut butter and jelly, cheese, tomato, salami) apples, cucumbers, cookies, crackers, and traditional Mongolian baked goods OR cooked lunch at the research camp
  • Dinner: Mixed vegetable and meat stew, pasta, soup, salad, traditional Mongolian meals with emphasis on meat
  • Snacks: Chocolate, cookies, peanuts, Mongolian baked goods (you may want to bring protein bars or some other favorite snack to eat while in the field)
  • Beverages: Juice, tea, instant coffee, spring water, and some soda
  • Water: At the research camp, we get drinking water from a small spring nearby. All team members should assist in collecting water. Gers have passive water filters. The filters clog frequently when used heavily and therefore need to be cleaned regularly (once every other day). We’ll ask you to help clean the filters. If the passive filters are kept full, they provide more than enough water for the team.
  • Alcohol: On this project, we strive to maintain an alcohol-free research camp. Please do not bring any alcohol with you.
  • Barbeque: Additionally, project staff will endeavor to hold one ceremonial Mongolian barbeque for each team. This entails the killing of a goat (sometimes a sheep) and heating up hot rocks. The rocks and meat are placed in a kind of pressure cooker. The meat is consumed off the bone and the rocks are passed around; supposedly they are great for your health and should be handled while still hot.

Please alert Earthwatch to any special dietary requirements (e.g., diabetes, lactose intolerance, nut or other food allergies, vegetarian, or vegan diets) as soon as possible, and note them in the space provided on your volunteer forms. 

Accommodating special diets is not guaranteed and can be very difficult due to availability of food, location of field sites, and other local conditions. 

Special Note: Gluten-free diets cannot be accommodated on this expedition.

Vegan diets are very difficult to accommodate on teams. Volunteers with vegan dietary restrictions will need to bring their own supplemental food and snacks of their choice to support their diet for the duration of the team. Participants will have the opportunity to purchase some groceries on Day 1 of your team in Mongolia at the State Department Store, however, vegan options will be limited. Some examples of what you may find at the store for purchase include fresh produce, rice, pasta, tofu, juice, and almond/oat milk (it is difficult to find beans in Mongolia). Though there is refrigeration available at the research station, items that require immediate refrigeration or freezer storage are discouraged as they cannot be properly stored in vehicles during the 6+ hour drive from the main city to the research site on Day 2 of teams. 

Project Conditions

The information that follows is as accurate as possible, but please keep in mind that conditions may change.

The terrain in Ikh Nart is sparsely covered by semi-arid steppe vegetation with several large rocky outcrops. The altitude is approximately 1,250 meters (4,100 feet). Permanent cold-water springs are present in some of the shallow valleys draining the reserve.

Temperatures range considerably from day to day, and even within a single day. It can get rather cold in June and September, especially at night. Alternatively, June, July and increasingly August, can be hot.

Precipitation is generally low, though most falls in the summer and there can be severe thunderstorms and even flash floods. These are more likely to occur in late June or early July.


For weather and region-specific information, please visit Wunderground.com and search for your project location.

Essential Eligibility Requirements

All participants must be able to:

  • Enjoy being outdoors all day in all types of weather (see above), in the potential presence of wild animals and insects.
  • Tolerate largely varying temperatures as low as -12°C (10°F) at night and over 38°C (100°F) during the day.
  • Tolerate long periods of time spent working in direct sunlight with little to no shade available (4–6 hours per day)
  • Traverse distances up to 1 km for Teams 1, 2 and 3 and traverse distances of 5 km for Team 4 for various transects for two sites. For these transects, the terrain in Ikh Nart can be uneven, with shallow and occasionally steep drainages and valleys, making hiking fairly strenuous. Volunteers can expect some of the hiking to be over steep rocky outcrops (often with loose rock debris) or through soft sand. Distance varies greatly with activity, so volunteers can expect some lighter days and other more strenuous days of hiking. No volunteers will be asked to exert themselves more than they are comfortable. Once out of camp there are restricted means of communication so ensuring that you are well hydrated and working within your fitness and comfort levels is important, as help will take time if required.
  • Get low enough to the ground to set and check small mammal traps for up to four hours on two project days.
  • Team 4 Only: Be comfortable assisting in the capture and restraint of argali and ibex. In all cases, a researcher will direct volunteers assisting with animal handling. For both team members and animal safety, you must always carefully follow staff instructions. You can opt out of direct handling by assisting in data recording and photo documentation, but all will be involved in the capture process.
  • Carry a light daypack while out in the field (under 4.5 kg/10 lbs.) with personal daily supplies such as lunch, water, and some basic field gear (binoculars, GPS unit and range finders, etc.).
  • Follow verbal and/or visual instructions independently or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Take an active role in your own safety by recognizing and avoiding hazards if and when they arise (including, but not limited to, those described in Earthwatch materials and safety briefings). Always comply with project staff instructions and recommended safety measures.
  • Be able to effectively communicate to the staff if you are experiencing distress or need assistance.
  • Be able to get along with a variety of people from different backgrounds and ages, often in close proximity, for the duration of your team.
  • Be comfortable being surrounded by a language and/or culture that is different from your own.
  • Take an active role in your own safety by recognizing and avoiding hazards if and when they arise (including, but not limited to, those described in Earthwatch materials and safety briefings). Always comply with project staff instructions and recommended safety measures.

Health and Safety


On this project we will be up to six hours (320 km/200 mi) away from the hospital in Ulaanbaatar, and medical care in Mongolia is not generally up to Western standards. Serious medical cases would require international evacuation, most likely to Hong Kong, Seoul, or Beijing, which may be possible only in daylight.

Earthwatch has a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week emergency hotline number. Someone is always on call to respond to messages that come into our live answering service.


Please be sure your routine immunizations are up to date (for example: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella) and you have the appropriate vaccinations for your travel destination. Medical decisions are the responsibility of each volunteer and his or her doctor. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization for guidance on immunizations.

If traveling from countries or regions where yellow fever is endemic, you must have a certificate of vaccination.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is required for all participants. Staying up to date with your vaccinations, including receiving booster doses as applicable is strongly encouraged. 

Project Risks and Precautions


There are few paved roads outside of Ulaanbaatar. Urban and rural roads are often poorly maintained and can be very bumpy, sandy, or rocky. We may also encounter fast drivers, poor lighting, pedestrian traffic, and lack of safety standards and traffic controls; however, the project drivers have experience driving in Mongolia. Cross streets with extra caution as drivers don't stop during their right turns with the green light for pedestrians. You must wear a seatbelt in project vehicles. You may not drive vehicles or drive or ride on motorbikes. In Ulaanbaatar, vehicular and pedestrian traffic can be very heavy; take caution when crossing streets on foot.


Terrain is often uneven, and you’ll often hike over loose gravel, rocks, steep slopes, or in loose sand. The area has several high rocky outcrops, which are often covered with loose debris; take care to avoid injury while climbing on rocks. Wear sturdy, broken-in footwear with ankle support and watch your steps carefully. Use a walking stick and knee braces if needed. Do not overexert yourself and inform a staff member immediately if you feel tired or ill.


The rocky outcrops create a maze-like terrain, which can cause confusion. Risks include becoming lost, disoriented, and/or dehydrated. Carry sufficient water and work with a knowledgeable staff member until you are familiar with the area. Never wander off alone. Your team member will always carry and know how to use a GPS unit; project staff will also instruct you on how to use this essential equipment if you are unfamiliar with it.


September team members may assist with drive-netting argali, ibex and Goitered gazelles, which are ungulates with large horns and sharp hooves. A netted animal could harm anyone, although that has not happened before. We will also capture vultures, small carnivores, and small mammals, which could bite or scratch. You must let experienced staff members restrain animals prior to assisting and follow staff instructions carefully and quickly to minimize the possibility of harm. Always wear gloves when handling animals and wash or sanitize your hands after field work and before eating.

One venomous snake, the Central Asian viper, inhabits Ikh Nart. This snake is very rarely lethal, unless the person has an allergy or other compromising condition. Avoid picking up, touching, or approaching snakes and inform a staff member if one is spotted.

Avoid domestic dogs whenever possible, as rabies is present in Mongolia. You can scare most dogs away by picking up a rock (you don’t usually have to throw it). Volunteers may wish to discuss rabies vaccination with their physicians (see the safety section). Ticks in the area may transmit tick fever (like Lyme disease). They are more prevalent during the spring season (especially June), and they are relatively large and easy to spot. Wear appropriate footwear (hiking boots that cover the ankle) and check for ticks daily.


Several plants are thorny or prickly. Always wear foot protection and don’t handle plants without looking carefully for thorns, prickles, or nettles.


You will be working in grassland areas with potentially high pollen counts (especially in spring) and dust. Also, felts are used for warmth in gers. Volunteers with allergies should bring appropriate medication (antihistamines, at least two Epi-Pens, etc.) and inform project staff as well as Earthwatch of your condition and the location of your medication.


In this arid environment, you must always carry sufficient water in the field and drink frequently. You will also spend most of the day working in direct sun. Even on cool days, use and re-apply high-SPF sunscreen and high-SPF lip balm and wear protective clothing (long sleeves, broad-brimmed hats, and sunglasses).

Severe thunderstorms can occur any time but are rare in late summer and autumn. Strong winds are also possible and can create dust storms. The temperature can vary greatly from day to night and from day to day. Bring clothing that can be layered and a bandana or scarf for protection from windborne dust and sand and carry waterproof clothing.


Some volunteers might find the isolation uncomfortable. We will probably have limited communication with the outside world. A satellite telephone will be turned on from 7:30–8:30 a.m. (Mongolian time) every day to receive emergency calls. We also have cell phone contact from camp that will permit limited email checking on most days. We can call internationally from this phone if necessary.


Crime, especially theft, is on the rise in Ulaanbaatar, so guard against pickpockets and people who might cut your bags to get at items inside. Try to never walk around alone, especially after dark. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and displaying money or cameras and leave any unnecessary valuables at home. Mongolia has seen some protests against privatization policies and government corruption in recent years. Further protests are possible but unlikely to turn violent. The risk of terrorism is minimal, but volunteers should avoid public demonstrations, large crowds, and political rallies.


On this project we will be up to six and half hours (320 km/200 mi) away from the hospital in Ulaanbaatar, and medical care in Mongolia is not generally up to Western standards. Serious medical cases would require international evacuation, most likely to Hong Kong, Seoul, or Beijing, which may be possible only in daylight. Obtain necessary routine medical and dental care prior to traveling and keep a copy of your personal health records and prescriptions with you. Disclose any medical conditions to Earthwatch and the project staff and inform project staff of the location of any important medications. Inform a staff member immediately if you feel at all unwell. The nearest clinic is in Shivee-Gobi, 1.5 hours, or 60-km/37 mi away. If you have a chronic condition, which could require immediate medical care (heart conditions, kidney problems, severe asthma, etc.), or if you are pregnant, seriously discuss your participation in this expedition with your physician.


Tap water in Mongolia is not safe to drink. Only drink water provided by the project. Or bottled water when in Ulaanbaatar.


There is a risk of fire within the camp. You will be instructed in what to do should this occur. All gers have very low doorways and wooden frames. Please ensure that you duck whenever entering and exiting them.


In some areas of Mongolia there are historic military remnants, including mortars and rounds. While it is rare that you will encounter these ordinances, project staff will brief you on what to expect in the field. Please be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on where you step. If military remnants are found, please notify the project staff team immediately. 


COVID-19 is an infectious disease. Although most people who have COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness, it can also cause severe illness and even death. Some people are at increased risk of severe illness. The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person via close contact, primarily through exposure to the respiratory droplets of an infected person. Medication availability and treatment for COVID-19 varies from country to country and specific treatment options may not be possible in your destination.

Projects and participants fielding with Earthwatch commit to several enhanced safety measures as described in the COVID Disclosure Form. Enhanced safety measures may include physical distancing, wearing face masks, regular hand washing and surface sanitizing, heeding advice from project leadership or local authorities, adjusted logistics, and monitoring one’s own health throughout the expedition. If you get symptoms of COVID 19 or test positive while traveling you may be subject to quarantine and other local regulations that may disrupt your travel plans. Please plan for extended travel days. 

Travel Planning


Zaya’s Hostel Building, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 

* Additional information will be provided by Earthwatch to meet your team. Please do not book travel arrangements such as flights until you have received additional information from Earthwatch.


Earthwatch strongly recommends that travelers investigate their destination prior to departure. Familiarity with the destination’s entry/exit requirements, visas, local laws, and customs can go a long way to ensuring smooth travel. The U.S. Department of State's Traveler’s Checklist and Destination Guides are helpful resources. For LGBTI travelers, the U.S. Department of State's LGBTI Travelers page contains many useful tips and links.


You are responsible for reviewing and abiding by the local COVID guidelines and regulations for your destination. This may include proof of testing upon arrival or departure, up to date vaccinations against COVID-19, including boosters, mandatory quarantine, or other requirements.

For information regarding Mongolia, please visit: http://mn.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/.

Entry visa requirements differ by country of origin, layover, and destination, and do change unexpectedly. For this reason, please confirm your visa requirements at the time of booking and, again, 90 days prior to travel. Please apply early for your visa (we recommend starting 6 months prior to the start of your expedition). Refunds will not be made for volunteers canceling due to not obtaining their visa in time to meet the team at the rendezvous. You can find up to date visa requirements at the following website: www.travisa.com.

If a visa is required, participants should apply for a TOURIST visa. Please note that obtaining a visa can take weeks or even months. We strongly recommend using a visa agency, which can both expedite and simplify the process.

Generally, passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry and a return ticket is required.


  • Reading, R. P., G. Wingard, T. Selenge, and S. Amgalanbaatar. 2015. The crucial importance of protected areas to conserving Mongolia’s natural heritage. Pp. 257-265, in: Protecting the wild: Parks and wilderness, the foundation for conservation, Wuerthner, G., E. Crist, and T. Butler (eds.). Island Press, Washington, D.C.
  • Zapletal, M., Batdorj S., J. Atwood, J. D. Murdoch, and R. P. Reading. 2015. Fine-scale habitat use by Daurian hedgehogs in the Gobi-steppe of Mongolia. Journal of Arid Environments 114:100-103.
  • Kenny, D., Y. J. Kim, H. Lee, and R. P. Reading. 2015. Blood lead levels for Eurasian Black Vultures (Aegypius monachus) migrating between Mongolia and the Republic of Korea. Journal of Asian-Pacific Biodiversity 8(3): 199-202.
  • Kenny, D., R. P. Reading, and H. Lee. 2015. Blood-gas analysis from free-ranging Eurasian Black Vultures (Aegypius monachus) in Mongolia and the Republic of Korea. Research & Reviews: Journal of Veterinary Sciences 1(1): 1-9.
  • Murdoch, J. D., H. S. Davie, M. Galbadrakh, and R. P. Reading. In press. Factors influencing red fox occupancy probability in central Mongolia. Mammalian Biology.
  • Reading, R.P., D. Kenny, and B. Steinhauer-Burkart. (2011). Ikh Nart Nature Reserve: Argali Stronghold. 2nd ed. Nature-Guide No. 4, Mongolia.
  • Blunden, J. (2008). Mongolia. 2nd ed. Bradt Travel Guides.

Note: The following guides have different advantages and disadvantages, although if you were only going to purchase one book, we’d recommend Brazil (2009). Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia

  • Batsaikhan, N., R. Samiya, S. Shar, and S. R. B. King. 2010. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Mongolia. Zoological Society of London, UK.
  • Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ (best overall guide, but missing some species, especially in western Mongolia).
  • Bodrov, S. (director). 2007. Mongol (based on the early life of Genghis Khan)
  • Davaa, B. and L. Falorni. (directors). 2003. The Story of the Weeping Camel (nominated for an Academy Award).
  • Bruun, O. and O. Odgaard (eds.). 1996. Mongolia in transition: old patterns, new challenges. Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Curzon Press Ltd, Surrey Great Britain.
  • Reading, R. P., S. Amgalanbaatar, and H. Mix. 1998a. Recent Conservation Activities for Argali (Ovis ammon) in Mongolia—Part 1. Caprinae August: 1-3.
  • Shiirevdamba, Ts., O. Shagdarsuren, G. Erdenjav, Ts. Amgalan, and Ts. Tsetsegma. (eds.). 1997. Mongolian Red Book. Ministry for Nature and the Environment of Mongolia: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. (In Mongolian, with English summaries)
  • Wingard, J. R. and P. Odgerel. 2001. Compendium of Environmental Law and Practice in Mongolia. GTZ Commercial and Civil Law Reform Project and GTZ Nature and Conservation and Buffer Zone Development Project, 409 pp. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.


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