Mongolian Field Work Begins!

May 19, 2022


Melissa Merrick


The Koprowski team has been hard at work initiating a new series of projects in collaboration with the Mammal Ecology Laboratory at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. These projects address upcoming conservation concerns facing Mongolia’s native wildlife, including wolves, marmots, and Gobi bears. One of the people spearheading these efforts is post-doc, Odbayar (Odko) Tumendemberel.


Tumendemberel grew up in a small town in northwestern Mongolia and has always been passionate about understanding and preserving Mongolia’s unique wildlife. Mongolia is home to a number of charismatic species, many of which are rare, threatened, or endangered, including snow leopards, Argali sheep, wild Bactrian camel, and Gobi bear.


Odko has spent more than ten years studying Gobi bear, a critically endangered subspecies of brown bear living in the Gobi Desert. Distance from other brown bear populations isolates the Gobi bear, limiting genetic diversity and threatening the persistence of the remaining population. Odko uses genetics as a powerful tool to answer important questions for conservation. Her latest projects will be using genomics to monitor the Gobi bear population, including estimating the number of individuals and identifying relatives. She will also be assessing the diet of the Gobi bear and other carnivores in the Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area (GGSPAA).

GGSPAA is located in a remote corner of southwestern Mongolia, near the center of the Gobi Desert. The field camp is more than 200km from the closest town, offering a front row seat to Mongolia’s beautiful wilderness. Though some may find these living conditions challenging, Odko feels grateful for the privilege to study such a wild and mystical landscape. She plans to continue her long-term work with Gobi bear, scaling up her studies to better understand the role of these fascinating animals from an ecosystem perspective.


Find more info on our website,, and stay tuned for more details on our newest projects and the people behind them!