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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Scientists' Gobi desert odyssey
Dr Kate Oddie
Dr Kate Oddie has worked in Mongolia before
A couple from Carmarthen are saying goodbye to Wales and heading to the home of Genghis Khan.

Biologists Dr Kate Oddie and Dr Nigel Barton will spend three years in Mongolia helping to develop conservation programmes in the vast and varied Asian country.

They have been given a Darwin Award by the UK Government to work closely with students, communities and park rangers.

They are currently busy packing as they leave in less than two week's time.

"Both of us have worked previously in Mongolia as biologists, but this new work will mean a permanent move for us," said Dr Oddie.

We both know the country quite well and have worked with students there before
Dr Nigel Barton

"Mongolia is a fascinating country in terms of both wildlife, people and culture.

"It is a vast country with an amazing variety of ecosystems - from high mountains and extensive wetlands to immense steppes and the dry Gobi desert.

"Climate is extreme, from the 40 degrees in summer to minus 50 in winter.

"Mongolians have adapted to the harsh conditions and over half of the population still live directly off the land as semi-nomadic livestock herders.

"The country's surprisingly rich biodiversity is mostly unstudied but has been protected previously by isolation from the rest of the world.

Dr Nigel Barton
Dr Nigel Barton is looking forward to the experience

"However, since Soviet disintegration, rapid social changes in a move to the free market economy are changing tradition ways of life and land use, with consequences for wildlife."

The couple will be based at the Mongolian National University.

The three-year-programme aims to help Mongolians develop and manage conservation programmes.

They will train Mongolian biologists and park rangers in scientific skills and survey techniques, write books for schools and undergraduates and run small community based conservation projects.

The couple will also run three field courses each year.

Dr Barton said: "We want to make it a programme that the Mongolians themselves can continue."

He said they were now making final preparations for their departure at the start on May and were both looking forward to the experience.

"We both know the country quite well and have worked with students there before," he added.




SEE ALSO:
Timeline: Mongolia
10 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Mongolia
10 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Dalai Lama visits Mongolia
05 Nov 02  |  Asia-Pacific


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