A collaborative research project looking at rivers in the Great Plains region of the United States and in Mongolia recently received a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Researchers from Mongolian and US institutions such as the University of Kansas will sample nine rivers in each country to predict the future of rivers with similar characteristics. US river systems, with dams and the presence of non-native fauna, could reveal the future of rivers in Mongolia which are not yet altered by dams or introduced species. Mongolia, which has experienced stronger climate warming signals than the US, could also indicate changes US rivers might face in the future.
With similar geography and ecosystems, the US and Mongolia have collaborated on a variety of conservation and scientific research programs. Some of the US-Mongolia collaborative projects on conservation even received international recognition for their success. In 2010, a conservation project in Mongolia’s Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, managed by the Denver Zoo and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, was designated as a “model program” by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) . This conservation project, which the Denver Zoo has been involved in for 15 years, promotes biodiversity in the Mongolian reserves by preserving native species. The fieldwork in Mongolia is also beneficial to conservation efforts in Colorado, which is a mining-heavy region similar to Mongolia. The collaboration on conservation is only one of the many connections that demonstrate the special Colorado-Mongolia friendship.
Protection of natural resources is a key element in the US-Mongolia relations. In July 2015, the United States National Park Service’s Yosemite National Park and the Mongolian Ministry of Environment, Green Development, and Tourism signed the first sister parks agreement between American and Mongolian parks. In November, another sister park partnership was established between Glacier National Park in Montana and Gorkhi-Terelj National Park in Mongolia, under which both parks will collaborate on projects such as education and youth programs, GIS mapping and trails development, threatened species protection, and the development of adaptive strategies in response to climate change. The US Embassy in Mongolia, partnered with Mongolian government and local NGOs, has also organized classes in local high schools to raise awareness of environmental conservation issues in Mongolia.
Zhonghe Zhu is a recent graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University and a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington.