Watershed Warriors

The Taimen Fund was proud to receive a 2019 Trust for Mutual Understanding grant to support our inaugural Watershed Warriors Exchange with teachers and specialists from Mongolia’s Khuvsgul Province. Over the summer we were able to bring three Mongolian professionals to Livingston, Montana to interact with the Watershed Warriors curriculum, and then led a multi-day teacher-training workshop on the banks of the headwaters of the Selenge River in north-central Mongolia.

In late May, Mrs. Uuganzaya “Uugnaa” Purevdorj (of our partner organization, The Taimen Conservation Fund (TCF)), long-time educator Mrs. Munkhsaikhan “Muugi” Byambajav, and Mr. Munkh-Erdene Sainbayar, specialist in the Department of Education in Khuvsgul Province, traveled to Montana to work with TTF partners Mrs. Chris Pavlovich and Mrs. Jessica Hanson of the Livingston Public School District in Livingston, Montana. Chris developed the award-winning Watershed Warriors curriculum in her 5th-grade class at Livingston’s East Side Intermediate and Jessica has also incorporated and refined the curriculum in her own classroom.

To support a 2020 Watershed Warriors Exchange, the RiverKeepers Program, or TTF-funded scientific research across Mongolia’s taimen strongholds, please visit http://taimenfund.org/donate/

 Our Mongolian partners were able to observe and participate in the Watershed Warriors field day, where students learned traditional Plains Indians games, tied flies, captured their experience via journaling, sampled for macro-invertebrates… and even caught a few trout in the nearby Yellowstone River.

 We were also able to host a dinner featuring some of Mongolia’s traditional dishes for the small but passionate Mongolian community of southwestern Montana. To help offset the costs of the Watershed Warriors Exchange, TTF put on a great fundraiser at Livingston’s historic Murray Hotel, featuring traditional Mongolian signing and dance provided by the traveling performers who just happened to be in the area with the Chinggis Khan exhibit at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

After traveling to Montana, and seeing the Watershed Warriors curriculum for themselves, Muugi and Erdene committed to translate Chris’ work and supplementary materials, and to organize a workshop for teachers and specialists in Mongolia’s Khuvsgul Province. Uugnaa would serve as main point of contact, liaison, fixer, and translator (which would prove invaluable when our team landed in Mongolia) and she was able to put together an event that was more successful than we could have previously imagined.

For additional information, please visit our “Research Reporting” section on the TTF website at http://taimenfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/2019-Watershed-Warriors-Exchange-with-Mongolia-FINAL-REPORT.pdf and review a slideshow of pictures at http://taimenfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/TTF-Watershed-Warriors-Exchange-PHOTOS-copy.pdf

Chris Pavlovich and Jessica Hanson were joined by John Bailey, the Fund Manager at TTF, in Ulaanbaatar in mid July and soon traveled to Murun – sister city to Bozeman, Montana, and the capital of Khuvsgul Province, located in north central Mongolia. Khuvsgul shares a border with Russia and is similar in climate and environment to southwestern Montana, with Mongolia’s largest lake – Lake Khuvsgul – and many free-flowing rivers that host significant populations of the world’s largest salmonid, the taimen. TTF and TCF have long-worked in taimen conservation efforts throughout Khuvsgul and the province hosts our anti-poaching RiverKeepers Program.

Sitting at the confluence of the Delger Murun, Chuluut and Ider rivers, the Olon Gol, or “Many Rivers” camp hosts fly-fishermen from around the world each fall and the rivers hold good populations of taimen. Downriver, the Selenga flows into Russia, and eventually Lake Baikal. Over the course of four days in July this same camp hosted our team, now swelled to include Erdene and fourteen educators, specialists and administrators from five communities across Khuvsgul Province, for the inaugural Mongolia/Montana Watershed Exchange.

Chris and Jessica walked the Mongolian team through the concepts and pedagogy behind the Watershed Warriors curriculum and we sampled leaf packs from both the Delgermurun and Chuluut rivers for samples macro invertebrate life. The Mongolian educators literally dove into their work and spent considerable time discussing how they might implement Chris’ program.

Over the subsequent months we’ve continued the dialogue via email and learned that Erdene hosted a follow-on meeting with all of the workshop attendees, where they agreed to start teaching the curriculum at all five schools this September. Teachers have been posting their own leaf pack experiences and discoveries to the shared FB account and are scheduled to meet again in October to further tailor the curriculum and share strategies for teaching the Watershed Warriors curriculum. It is our great hope, that, once established in the five schools represented at the exchange, our Mongolian partners will help to spread the Watershed Warriors program further across the province, and quite possibly, on a national scale in the coming years.