The Mongolian Wolverine Project

NRCC Research Associate Rebecca Watters has worked extensively in the Ulaan Taiga Protected Areas in the northern Huvsgul province of Mongolia. Her work uses the wolverine to study the impact of climate change on sensitive species and serves as a model for novel conservation approaches that also preserve human communities and cultures. Since 2009, Rebecca and her colleagues, including NRCC Research Associate Jason Wilmot, have been working to conserve not only Mongolia’s wildlife, but the sense of connection that local people feel to the animals and landscapes that surround them.

Rebecca says, “Mongolia has something that dominant American culture lacks – a human population that has been living with and observing their wildlife over thousands of years. A large part of that population continues to herd livestock through wolverine habitat to this day. My initial efforts focused on simply talking to people, using a blind interview technique that allowed them to identify wildlife species in the area without knowing which one I was looking for… I didn’t, however, want to be one of those obnoxious Americans who shows up in a place, does some research, and claims a bunch of “discoveries” for herself, so from the outset I viewed the work as collaborative and reciprocal. I kept in trust the particulars of cultural stories and practices that belong to Mongolians, shared the basic scientific data on distribution, and saw the project as a long-term investment in building research and conservation capacity with interested communities.”

The project ‘s three main goals are to:

  • Establish baseline information  and longer-term monitoring and conservation plans for little-known Mongolian species that might be experiencing climate change effects
  • Build capacity among Mongolian environmental professionals, students, Buddhist monasteries, and local communities to monitor environmental change and enhance participation in environmental decision-making
  • Create a global network of researchers working on similar species and issues in similar ecosystems 

Learn more by visiting The Wolverine Blog.