The Gobi.ome Project 2018

[Twitter @gobiome1]

This year, we decided to go on a big adventure as a group, to assess biodiversity in the Gobi Desert (Mongolia). We are going to bring a pocket sequencer, molecular biology toolkit, and a drone to get as much information as we can about this mysterious region of the globe, that is hosting some protected wild animal species.

Main Themes / Goals

A. Extremophiles and Wildlife [極限生物と野生動物]
To identify extremophile species cohabiting with wild animals in a cold desert climate known for its high content in heavy metals. The Oyu Tolgoi copper/gold mine is expected to contain interesting species. 

B. Monument microbiomes [歴史的記念物の微生物]
To analyze the microbiome of historical and cultural monuments (collaboration with MetaSUB international consortium)


8/10 - 8/31 Preparations in Tsuruoka, Japan
9/01 - 9/12 Fieldwork in Mongolia
9/13 - 9/20 Return to Japan & wrap-up

The Team

Dr. Josephine GALIPON (Keio University, IAB, Japan) Project leader
Focus: Tardigrades, Monument Microbiome
Nationality: France + Canada
After two trips to Mongolia in 2013 and 2017, this time she is bringing scientific equipment. She is interested in the technological aspect of the project – to do molecular biology on-site using portable equipment – but also in the possibility of finding a new species of tardigrade, cute microscopic animals with eight legs who can resist complete dehydration.


Ms. Mariko USUI (Keio University, Japan) 4th-year undergrad
Focus: Health & Environment, Bacteria
Nationality: Japan
Mariko spent some time in Singapore as a teenager and has been actively involved in health science research at Keio University. She is particularly interested in the impact of people’s environment and lifestyle on their health. Mongolia is the ideal place to research this due to the presence of urban and nomadic lifestyles, industrial sites, and wild reserves.

Ms. Marta CANO GUERRERO (University of York, UK) 3rd-year undergrad
Focus: Wildlife Conservation, Bacteria
Nationality: Spain
Marta has spent part of her high school years in the USA and joined Josephine’s lab in 2017 as an intern.she will be in charge of collecting and analyzing environmental DNA from wild animals in the Gobi. Intestinal bacteria found in these samples, compared with those of captive animals may give us clues about their health status and eating habits in the wild.

Ms. Andreea BOSTEAN (University College London, UK) 3rd-year undergrad
Focus: Archaea, Dinosaur Eggs
Nationality: Romania
Andreea first came to Japan in late 2017 as an intern for a Japanese biotech company and is planning to join us directly in Ulaanbaatar after a second internship at a research lab in Canada. She will be in charge of surveying Archaea, ancient unicellular organisms that are a source of interesting molecular biology tools.

Mr. Tomoro WARASHINA (Keio University, Japan) 3rd-year undergrad
Focus: Insects
Nationality: Japanese
The blood of butterfly collectors runs in the family. Tomoro and his father have spent their whole lives hunting for bugs all over Japan and thanks to having been born into it, Tomoro has accumulated encyclopedic knowledge about the insect kingdom. This time, he will help survey insects found at the sampling sites during the Gobi.ome project.

Mr. Sota ITO (Keio University, Japan) 2nd-year undergrad
Focus: Plant Biology
Nationality: Plant Kingdom
Since the age of 9, Sota has been studying a variety of Heloniopsis orientalis (Order: Liliales, Family: Melanthiaceae), an interesting plant on which an “adventitious bud” (basically, a new baby plant) tends to appear at the extremity of leaves after they are cut from the mother plant. During the fieldwork, he will be surveying plant species in the Gobi area.

Mr. Tomoki TAKEDA (Keio University, Japan) 2nd-year undergrad
Focus: Environmental DNA, Microbiome
Nationality: Japanese
Tomoki has had experience with bioinformatics and comparative genomics in his first project as an undergraduate and is excited at the opportunity to apply this knowledge to data acquired on the field. His skin turns rather dark during the summer, so we are expecting he can be easily spotted from a distance even if he gets lost in the Gobi desert.



Collaborators in Mongolia

  • Dr. Boldgiv BAZARTSEREN, Ph. D. (National University of Mongolia) – [Google Scholar]
     …  …  … 

  • Ms. Anne-Camille SOURIS, M. Sc. (Association GOVIIN KHULAN) – [Website] [LinkedIn] [ResearchGate]
    Focus: Wildlife Conservation, Mongolian khulan/hemione
    She has been studying Mongolian wild Equids for about 10 years, and in 2008, she started a conservation program that aims to enhance protection of the not well known but threatened Mongolian khulan/hemione (or Mongolian wild ass) and its habitat, and in which the local community is directly involved. She will bring to the Gobi Biome project her expertise on the Mongolian khulan and other Gobi wildlife, and on fieldwork in the south Gobi. The Gobi biome project could make a great contribution to Gobi wildlife conservation and could lead to further research and conservation actions in partnership with Anne-Camille’s non-profit conservation organization and local partners.


Ulaanbaatar to Dalangadzad (bus 10-11 hours)

Dalangadzad to Small Gobi A (car 5-6 hours)

Small Gobi A to Oyu Tolgoi mine (car 2-3 hours)

Oyu Tolgoi mine to Dalangadzad (car 5-6 hours)

Dalangadzad to Ulaanbaatar (bus 10-11 hours)



  • Monument microbiome of Chingghis Khan statue – Ulaanbaatar
  • Monument microbiome of Warrior statue – Dalangadzad
  • Microbiome (air/soil) at the Oyu Tolgoi mining site
  • Microbiome (air/soil) at several locations inside Small Gobi A
  • Microbiome of Wildlife Intestinal Flora
  • Plants, Insects (according to international regulations)