Discovering The Sonic World of The Mongolian Countryside

14 Days ◦ 3 Instructor and Support Staff

June 2 - June 15 , 2023 

Join our mission to learn about the sonic spaces of the forest-steppe rangelands of the Mongolian countryside. Scholars from two projects, one funded by the US National Science Foundation and the other by NASA, are conducting collaborative research in central Mongolia, Arkhangai Province, that focuses on the use of soundscapes to understand biodiversity patterns and cultural change as reflected in the changing herder sonic practices. 

You will be added as a member of a US and Mongolian research team that uses a new collaborative discovery approach called knowledge co-production. Herders in the countryside, scientists and scholars in the humanities are co-producing knowledge to understand how the natural and sociocultural system of these rangelands are changing and how sound can be used to assess these changes. 

Course Overview

During this intensive, 2-week course, you will be introduced to the theories and practice of knowledge co-production, a variety of nature sounds recording techniques used by soundscape ecologists to study animal biodiversity in grassland and forested systems, the use of space-based and drone-based technologies to map habitats, and the use of passive acoustic sensors and data mining techniques to understand the complexity of natural soundscapes. 

The course is designed to be both participatory and hands-on and geared towards those interested in the new concepts of soundscapes to understand how our natural and sociocultural world is changing. Course material will be introduced at a very fundamental level in order to make these new concepts and technologies accessible to anyone with basic knowledge of how to use a computer, tripod and place batteries in electronic equipment.  

The course will be useful to the general public interested in the sounds of nature and the songs of Mongolian herders, to those interested in learning how to use computer programs to process audio recordings, to those interested in understanding data mining of large ecological data. High school science teachers, undergraduate and graduate students at US and Mongolian universities are encouraged to enroll. Individuals from the general public with interest in learning about how science is conducted in rural settings, how to use the very latest recording technologies, would find value in the techniques and concepts being used in this very transdisciplinary set of research projects.  Some camping will be required.  Assignments will be essays and a report.

Participants will complete the following assignments:

  • Assignment #1. Sound Reflection Essay #1 (after a soundwalk with herder & after an evening of campfire singing of local songs) 
  • Assignment #2. Hands-On Microphone Recording Session and Soundscape Analysis Report
  • Assignment #3. Rangeland-Herder Systems Essay - What are the main components of this system? How are they changing? How is sound part of this system?

Reflection essays will summarize your own thoughts and opinions on this new research approach called knowledge co-production. Topics that you might consider include: what did you learn? what level of trust is required to conduct this kind of research? What assumptions does an international researcher need to consider when doing this type of work? Reflection essays are also shared and discussed in group discussions. An assessment essay is one that does a more in-depth analysis of a topic using your own observations as a means to make an argument for or against an idea. 

Anticipated Course Activities

Day 1-2


Course Introduction, Ice Breakers

Course Introduction, Ice Breakers, Theory of Knowledge Co-Production (Pijanowski) & Rangeland Ecology (Jamsranjav) Lectures (UB)

Principles of Soundscapes (Pijanowski) & Herding Systems (Jamsranjav) Lectures (UB)

Sensors/Sensor Networks (Pijanowski) & Principles of Data Mining (Pijanowski) Lectures (UB)

Day 3

өгий хишиг

Travel to Ihktamir Ger Camp

Travel to Ihktamir Ger Camp, visit Buddhist Monastery in Tsetserleg

Day 4

өгий хишиг

Summary of 2021 NSF Soundscapes and Sonic Practices Project Work

Summary of 2021 NSF Soundscapes and Sonic Practices Project Work & Tour of Community 1 (IGC), b) Posing New Research Questions, Experimental Design and Potential Analysis (IGC)

Day 5

Return to Ulaanbaatar

The trip distance between Kharkhorin and the capital city is 223 miles.

өгий хишиг

Community Feedback Workshop

Community Feedback Workshop–Soundwalks with herders, campfire songs (IGC) (#1)

Day 6

өгий хишиг

Sound recording of nature with sensors and high-end microphone arrays

Sound recording of nature with sensors and high-end microphone arrays (IGC) (#3).

Course conclusion in Ulaanbaatar

Course debriefing and a chance to browse in Ulaanbaatar, and plan for further research and explorations in Mongolia and beyond.

Day 7

Naadam_day 7 photo

 Attend local Naadam ceremony,

 Attend local Naadam ceremony, recording of local song performances (IGC) (#1 & 2)

Day 8


 Soundwalks with soundscape ecologists

 Soundwalks with soundscape ecologists and 7-stage soundscape evaluation (IGC) (#3)

Day 9


Deploy passive acoustic sensors with guidance from local researcher-herders

Deploy passive acoustic sensors with guidance from local researcher-herders (TC), Hands on drone piloting instruction (TC) (#2 &3)

Day 10

sainshand ger camp

Conduct plant surveys in 2 grasslands with drone photo surveys

Conduct plant surveys in 2 grasslands with drone photo surveys (TC) (#2)

Day 11

yurt in a field

 Hands on training of analysis of soundscape recordings

 Hands on training of analysis of soundscape recordings and processing of drone remote sensing (IGC) (#3)

Day 12


Students conduct analysis and write essay

Students conduct analysis and write essay (IGC) (#3)

Day 13

people sitting outside

 Students present their work and end of course celebration and awards

 Students present their work and end of course celebration and awards (IGC)

Day 14


Students return back to UB

Students return back to UB



Dr. Bryan C. Pijanowski

Purdue University
Professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and Director of the Center for Global Soundscapes at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. He is also the author of the textbook, Principles of Soundscape Ecology: Discovering our Sonic World (University of Chicago Press) and the Executive Producer of the IMAX Film, Global Soundscapes: A Mission to Record the Earth. He has been selected as one of Purdue’s University Faculty Scholars, an Innovation Ambassador, is Chief Editor of the journal Frontiers in Remote Sensing: Acoustics Section and the author of nearly 200 journal articles. Stanford University ranked him in 2019 and 2021 in the top 2% of all global scientists based on annual and career citations. He has appeared on CNN, Nova, NPR Science Friday, NPR Weekend Edition, the New York Times Magazine, NOVA, BBC Radio, Australian Public Radio, Mongolia Public Radio, and the Guardian Newspaper. Dr. Pijanowski has traveled and conducted soundscape research across much of Mongolia, from the eastern steppes, the Gobi, across the central highlands and to the western provinces. He has studied in over 25 countries around the world.
Sam_Teaching Assistant PNG

Sam Lima

Teaching Assistant
Sam Lima is a PhD student at Purdue University. She will join the team as Teaching Assistant.

Dr. Chantsaa Jamsranjav

Resident research associate at the American Center for Mongolian Studies and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Soundscapes. Currently, she is working as a researcher on the interdisciplinary US NSF-funded Coupled Human Natural Systems project called ‘Using Sound to Evaluate the Resilience of Coupled Human-Natural Systems in Mongolia’. This is a large, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary project consisting of three study teams including an ethnography and social study team, a sound study team, and an ecology team. As a Mongolian scientist on this project, she serves as the key liaison between project scientists and local herding communities. She also serves as an interdisciplinary scientist, conducting both vegetation sampling and interviews on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) with local herders. She trains and advises undergraduate and graduate students from the Mongolian Universities and PhD students from the Purdue university working in this research project.



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Liz B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
Batkhuu SQ600

"As a sociology major student, this program was very helpful to explore urban issues and migration processes in contemporary Mongolia. Through this program, I sharpened my academic capabilities while refining soft skills essential for my future studies.’’

Batkhuu B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019

"The ACMS field school is a unique experience that has changed my life and teaching. In most programs, international participants are isolated from the country in which we are studying except for controlled visits to local people and sites. Not so with ACMS! Half of the participants in each field school are from Mongolia, ensuring that local and international participants have a chance to understand each other’s perspectives.’’

Janis M

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
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