Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Environmental Studies

Thesis Type

Honors College, Environmental Studies Electronic Thesis

First Advisor

Nathan Sanders

Second Advisor

Karen Nordstrom

Third Advisor

David Barrington


Mongolia, botany, conservation, traditional knowledge, ecology


Vansemberuu, Saussurea dorogostaiskii Palib., is a Critically Endangered plant endemic to northern Mongolia and central southern Russia. A poor competitor species growing in alpine talus, it is listed as threatened by climate change, medicinal harvest, and overgrazing, and its cultural significance and ecology is minimally documented. In Mongolia, this species is primarily found in the conserved area surrounding the Darkhad Valley, overseen by the Ulaan Taiga Protected Areas Administration (UTPAA), but management plans are absent. As requested by the UTPAA, I studied the uses, value, local knowledge, and habitat of this species through both Traditional and Scientific Ecological Knowledge of this species, to construct management recommendations. To document and find themes in the local knowledge, I conducted, coded, and compared open ended interviews with Darkhad citizens to determine their knowledge and values about the specie’s ecology, harvest, and conservation, and how that related to demographics. I found themes of distrust, knowledge loss, and intrinsic value of the plant. To assess its habitat on a macro and micro scale, I compared environmental factors of topography, plant community composition, talus, and soil where the plant grew and did not and created a model for its presence. I found the plant grew on steeper slopes with lower plant coverage, greater talus coverage, and warmer soils. A model that includes ammonium, rock coverage, and soil temperature best accounted for the presence of vansemberuu. Furthermore, both local and personal field observations describe this plant as growing in clusters in talus with some vegetation and soil. I recommend management actions that include Community Based Conservation Management through collaboration, increased education based upon traditional knowledge, in situ cultivation research and efforts, and continued assessment. Conservation efforts necessitate local and scientific knowledge of S. dorogostaiskii and management must include the community to work towards the survival and continued use of this species.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.