People, Power, and Rivers: Social-Ecological Dynamics in Northern Mongolia --an NSF/IRES Project
Susan Crate (George Mason University), Kristin Hunter-Thomson (Rutgers University), Olaf Jensen (Rutgers University), and Heather Randell (University of Maryland)
Funding from the National Science Foundation's International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program will support the participation of 6 US students per year (3 grad, 3 undergrad) in a 6-week field research experience on Mongolia's Eg River in summer 2018 - 2020. Students will work in three-person teams (two US students: one grad, one undergrad and one Mongolian student) to conduct social-ecological research related to understanding the potential impacts of hydropower development on the Eg River and nearby human communities.
The project goals are to produce high quality disciplinary and interdisciplinary science and scientists.
The science goals are to study the watershed as a social-ecological system with human and natural components and interactions between them. This fills the gap of existing tools of social and environmental impact assessment that are limited in being able to predict the direct and indirect impacts of dams.
For the students, our goal is to provide a complete research experience in both discipline-specific as well as interdisciplinary research to increase awareness of how to run research programs, confidence in conducting field research and analyzing data, understanding of what is involved in designing and implementing an effective broader impact project, and confidence in communicating science to a range of different audiences.
A six-week field research experience in Mongolia during the Summers of 2018-2020. The field research is preceded by a required distributed seminar to prepare students to design and conduct interdisciplinary social-ecological research. The seminar meets one evening per week during the Spring semester before the summer field research. Participants also need to budget time in the Fall semester after the field research for data analysis and communicating research results.
Participant's travel and living expenses are covered during the trip and all participants are given a stipend of $2,750 to help offset the cost of personal field gear and to reduce economic need as a barrier to participation
Who: Applicants must be citizens, nationals, or permanent residents of the United States and must still be a student (graduate or undergraduate) at the time of the field research. That is, students who expect to graduate before the summer are ineligible. Mongolian participants are supported through separate funding and should email Dr. Olaf Jensen for more information. Students from any social or natural science field are eligible and women and underrepresented minorities are especially encouraged to apply.
What: The field research experience is a wilderness adventure full of sunrises over river valleys with a steaming cup of tea in hand, wind and spray in your face as you jet boat up the river, and shivers when you hear your first wolf howl. There are cultural adventures too, like sitting on the floor of a herder's ger (felt-covered tent) accepting a cup of pungent milk tea and dried yogurt chips.
However, there are also plenty of physical discomforts. For six weeks, we will be living in tents, eating Mongolian food (mostly boiled mutton), showering with a cold bag of river water hung from a tree, using an outhouse full of mosquitoes, and sometimes working outside in the rain for days at a time. There are social and emotional challenges as well, like often being the only one in a group who doesn't speak the same language, not knowing what's happening next or why we're still stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. We will be mostly without internet or phone access except for a satellite phone used to make occasional short staticky calls home to check in.
For many people, these discomforts would make the field experience unbearable. If you are concerned that this might be true for you, you're welcome to participate in the distributed seminar without having to come with us to Mongolia and endure the rain, mutton, and outhouses.
Spring: one evening per week distributed seminar
Summer: six-weeks in the field - mid-July to late August
Fall: sufficient time to follow-up on your research and communicate it through publications and presentations.
Where: The field research will take place at two camps on the Eg River in northern Mongolia. The research sites are 7 - 14 hours by van from Mongolia's capitol, Ulaanbaatar. We will spend a day or two on either end of the trip in Ulaanbaatar.
Graduate Students: Applications due January 2, 2019. Please email Dr. Olaf Jensen with a single PDF containing:
A brief cover letter describing your interest in this program, your experience and comfort level with field research as described above, and how you will contribute to the camaraderie and diversity of the field team.
A 3-page research proposal including a brief (0.5 p) introduction, a clear statement of research questions, and field methods. If the project will require materials and supplies, please list these and indicate how they will be obtained. Up to $1,000 per project will be available for materials and supplies if well justified and not otherwise available.
In addition, please ask your advisor to send a letter of recommendation by the application due date. Please see this list of example projects for inspiration. You are welcome to propose an idea related to one of these projects or some other social or ecological research project that can be accomplished with six weeks of field data collection.
Undergraduate Students: Applications due January 21, 2019 (deadline extended). Please email Dr. Olaf Jensen with a single PDF containing:
A brief cover letter describing your interest in this program, your experience and comfort level with field research as described above and how you will contribute to the camaraderie and diversity of the field team.
Academic transcript(s) (unofficial is fine)
A 2-page statement of your interests and qualifications for each of the disciplinary research projects (Hook Learning in Baikal Grayling and Pastoralist Movements and Land Use).If one of the projects is not of interest to you, feel free to indicate this. We welcome social science majors who are interested in working on natural science projects and natural science majors interested in social science projects.
In addition, please ask one reference to send a letter of recommendation by the application due date.