Fiona McConnell, Principal Investigator

Fiona McConnell is Associate Professor in Human Geography at the University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow in Geography at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. As a political geographer Fiona’s research aims to develop new areas of thinking regarding governance beyond the state, how political legitimacy is articulated by marginalised communities, and changing practices of diplomacy and mediation. To that end her research has focused on issues around sovereignty, legitimacy and diplomacy with a particular interest in communities officially excluded from formal state politics. She is the author of Rehearsing the State: the Political Practices of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile” (published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2016) and the co-editor ofGeographies of Peace (published by IB Tauris in 2013) and Diplomatic Cultures and International Politics (published by Routledge in 2016).


Byambabaatar Ichinkhorloo, Mongolia Co-Investigator

Byambabaatar Ichinkhorloo is a social anthropologist whose research explores the relationships between humans, society and environment in postsocialist Mongolia. His research interest ranges from diverse economies, social networks, exchanges, natural resource management, pastoralism, mining impacts and Development intervention. He has focused on ideas about environmental justice and equality through practices of collaboration, resistance, and reciprocal help. He is currently examining how local communities use their ‘customary’ laws, practices and different tactics on their relationship and communications with national and local governments and foreign companies. To examine this relationships, Byamba aims to explore how the projected depletion of resources and harmful effects of bigger projects frame people’s everyday experiences, make near futures and shift powers.

Troy Sternberg, Oxford Senior Researcher

Troy Sternberg is a researcher at the School for Geography and the Environment at the Univeristy of Oxford, where he works on pastoral environments in the Gobi Desert. His focus is on natural hazards, environmental processes, the effectiveness of traditional nomadic strategies and the comparative ecological impact of livelihoods across the Asian steppe. In Mongolia his interest is in developing rural water access, quantifying drought and degradation and placing Mongolian pastoralism and the Gobi environment in a broader global context. To understand change his fieldwork encompasses Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India and the Middle East. Awards include British Academy, Thesiger-Oman Desert Fellowship, John Fell Fund, British Science Award, EU, Royal Geographical Society and the US Fulbright Scholarship. His latest publication Climate Hazard Crises in Asian Environments was published in 2017.


Ariell Ahearn, Oxford Co-Investigator

Dr Ariell Ahearn is the Course Director for the MSc/MPhil in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance and a departmental lecturer in the School for Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. Since 2004, she has worked extensively in rural Mongolia with mobile pastoralist communities around land use and rural development issues. In 2016 she engaged as an expert on a multi-disciplinary team to conduct a qualitative analysis of herder livelihoods and socio-economic changes in relation to the Oyu Tolgoi mega mine in the Gobi desert as part of the facilitation of a complaint through the IFC’s Office of Compliance Ombudsman. She has published on rural development in Mongolia on topics covering household separation, education, gender and local administration of land.


Kemel Toktomushev, Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) Co-Investigator 

Assistant Professor of Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences; Research Fellow to the Institute of Public Policy and Administration Dr Kemel Toktomushev is a Research Fellow with UCA’s Institute of Public Policy and Administration and an Assistant Professor of Political Science with UCA’s School of Arts and Sciences. Dr Toktomushev has held a fellowship with UCA’s Central Asian Faculty Development Programme (CAFDP). He has extensive experience in both Western and Central Asian environments, and his primary research interests focus on regime security, virtual politics, and the informal political economy of Central Asia. Toktomushev is the author of Kyrgyzstan – Regime Security and Foreign Policy published by Routledge, United Kingdom. Toktomushev holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Exeter and a Master of Science in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He is also a Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education alumnus.


Stephen Lezak

Stephen Lezak, Researcher

Stephen Lezak is an independent researcher and writer based at the University of Oxford. Currently he consults on two projects at the Oxford School of Geography and the Environment, including the Gobi Framework. He also leads a module for MSc and MPhil candidates titled “Critical Ecologies.” His past research in climate change psychology has been featured in media outlets such as The Washington Post. His current research interests include the regulation of infrastructure and extractive industries in Central Asia and conservation and biodiversity practice in the Gobi region.Follow me on ResearchGate




Batdavaa Bachaa – Mongolia

Davaa studied for a master’s degree in the Department of the Social and Cultural Anthropology, School of Arts and Sciences of the National University of Mongolia. He was a researcher on audit and assessment of the implementation of the World Bank project named “Stabilized Livelihoods” in Mankhan Soum, Khovd province. He was foreign relations manager for the Intangible Cultural Heritage sector in the “Cultural Heritage Center” under the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism of Mongolia. Davaa was esearch assistant for Joseph Bristley and Professor Rebbeca Empison from the University oCollege, London.

Chuka Chuluunbat – Mongolia

Chuluunbat Purvee (Chuka) has an MPhil in Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. He lectured at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, National University of Mongolia, where he is now a PhD candidate. He is a Mongolia representative of an international NGO which works to help children’s medical care and education worldwide. As a result children and communities in several soums of Khovsgol and Khentii provinces of Mongolia benefitted.

Nadia Mijiddorj – Mongolia

Nadia is a Mongolian wildlife scientist and ecologist and being engaged with Gobi communities since 2002 for understanding local communities’ interaction with environment.

Tsesu Purevsuren – Mongolia

Tsesu is the project’s Senior Field Researcher. She has prior experience working on research projects in Bayanhongor and Uvs provinces in addition to her work on understanding the impacts of mining in the South Gobi. She has helped to lead ethnographic film research trips with international teams.

Nara Darinchuluun – Mongolia

Nara is the project communications and outreach coordinator. A sociologist by training, Nara focuses on project outputs and events.


Almaz Tchoroev – Kyrgyzstan

Almaz is the project’s researcher. He received his master’s degree at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. Currently Almaz works for one of the leading media organizations. He is a media professional with broad experience in producing current events, managing social media pages and general experience in strategic communications.



Andrew Barry: Chair of Human Geography, University College London:

Dawn Chatty: Emerita Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration, University of Oxford:

Marc Foggin: Honorary Research Associate, Institute of Asian Research, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia:

Sara Jackson: Lecturer in Geography, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Raffaello Pantucci: Director of International Security Studies, Royal United Services Institute

Madeleine Reeves: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester:

Jill Shankleman: JSL Consulting Ltd

David Sneath: Director of the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, University of Cambridge