When finding unidentifiable bloody goop attached to scat is your idea of a good day, that can only mean one thing: you’re on a National Geographic scientific expedition.
Conservation scientist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Gregg Treinish ventured into northern Mongolia’s Darhad Valley on an expedition to track and study the area’s elusive wolverines. Such a small amount of research has been done on these creatures that even their excrement can be the source of valuable scientific discovery.
“We found scat attached to what can only be described as a bloody organ … It hasn’t been digested but yet is attached to a scat that has been digested … Really bewildering, but we’ll get some DNA tests on it and hopefully be able to figure that out,” Treinish says of one of his team’s discoveries. The team is collecting DNA samples to understand this population of wolverines—”in a more in-depth way than scientific knowledge previously had done,” Treinish adds.
In Mongolia, wolverines seem to thrive in one of the harshest climates on Earth, but in America they are facing local extinction due to warming and habitat loss. Wolverines are an indicator species for broader impacts from climate change, so Treinish hopes his findings will encourage the preservation of not only the wolverines’ habitats, but the Darhad region as a whole.
This land also supports the nomadic Mongolian people that Treinish came to know on his journey. “It really feels like we’re dropped in the middle of this ancient ritual that nobody in the world knows about. It’s really such a privilege [to see] what we’re witnessing,” Treinish says of his relationship with the nomads.
The team was also dropped into -30°F temperatures and came within inches of a quarter-mile-wide avalanche. Treinish just considers these extremes all part of the adventures that bring forth scientific progress and give humans helpful information about the challenges we face. “I’ve been given this incredible opportunity through National Geographic and through my work to be able to see the world … and I’m on a quest to mobilize an army of explorers like myself to go out and collect the scientific data we need in order to make better decisions.”