The goals of our expedition were three-fold: to gather baseline data on aquatic fauna, including invertebrates and fish; to contribute to research begun by other scientists in the watershed; and to raise awareness of the river’s intrinsic value at both the local and global levels. The team achieved substantial success on all three objectives.
Our scientific projects included the continuation of an ongoing DNA study of two ancient members of the salmon family—taimen (Hucho taimen) and lenok (Brachymystax lenok)—led by Lanie Galland of the University of Nevada–Reno. We also collected DNA samples (fin clips) from grayling, loach, dace, minnows and other species of fish—several hundred samples in all. These were sent to Reno for analysis, along with water samples for the study of carbon transport by rivers (collected at the request of Sudeep Chandra, director of the university’s Global Water Center).
Using a rapid assessment protocol, we surveyed macroinvertebrates at 11 different sites, typically above and below major tributaries. These samples were delivered to Suvdaa Chuluunbat at the Mongolian National University of Education. (We donated our nets, traps, sorting trays, and sampling bottles to this university as well.) Her team will identify the specimens by genus and publish their findings. Each sample vial contained many different species of mayflies, stoneflies, caddis flies, dragonflies, and other insects. The first sample was collected in the upper headwaters, the last just below the confluence of the Selenge with the Orkhon, nearly 1000 kilometers downstream.
Contributing to a project begun by Olaf Jensen of Rutgers University in 2016, we logged all sightings of anglers and wild mammals along a 1500-km transect, from the headwaters of the Delgermörön to the Baikal Delta. Wild mammals observed included lynx, fox, and roe deer.
Interviews of principal stakeholders along the Selenge watershed, including government officials, environmental activists, and others, were conducted by the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy. Matt McKinney, the center’s director, circulated a draft report of its assessment of the potential for transboundary cooperation in January.
The team also surveyed attitudes of residents of riverbank communities regarding ecological awareness, conservation, and tourism, among other topics. The results of this survey (nearly 300 people were questioned in Mongolia) are being tabulated now by the Taimen Fund.
Stories describing the expedition and its implications for taimen conservation have already appeared on the websites of The Drake magazine and Fly Fishing Russia and are forthcoming in Fly Fisherman magazine. Lanie’s chronicle of the journey has been serialized on the Instagram feed of the University of Nevada–Reno College of Science (@unrscience).
The team continues to gather notes, photographs, and video for the preparation of additional magazine essays, a nonfiction book, and a short film.