My Internship in Altai [2016]

My name is Audrey Jost, and I am from France and I study Biology and Ecology. During the last year of my Master’s degree program, I went to Russia for 4 months to work on felid conservation. Thanks to Jennifer Castner and The Altai Project’s help, I was accepted to participate in an internship at the Altai State Nature Reserve to participate in their Snow Leopard conservation program, in conjunction with WWF-Russia.

My decision to go to Russia in particular was not only influenced bdsc_1283y the opportunity of working in felid conservation, a field I am passionate about, but also because I wanted to improve my Russian, a language I have studied for several years. My journey began in March 2016, when I flew from France to the Altai Republic in Russia. I was warmly welcomed at the airport and it put me at ease. The majority of my time was spent in Gorno-Altaisk, the capital of the Altai Republic, where I analyzed camera trap data. However, I was also able to explore Yailyu, a village deep within in the Reserve, where I witnessed the beauty of Altaian nature. Under the supervision of the resident snow leopard expert, my internship began with the task of identifying the individual animals currently inhabiting the region, using imagery caught by camera-traps. After become familiar with this theoretical work, I traveled from Gorno-Altaisk to the south of the Republic, not far from the Mongolian border.

A team of 10 people, including volunteers from Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Ekaterinburg drove to Chikhachev Ridge in the Altai Mountains to commence field work. This expedition was my first experience of camping and living in the wild and I was not disappointed! The weather was warmer than I expected, even though the cold came back when we reached the top of the mountains. As we climbed up 3500m, I was glad to have warm clothes! We checked and deployed several camera-traps, all thedsc01047 while witnessing amazing landscapes and scenery. It was a little magical to think we were actually following the trails of snow leopards. We managed to collect various types of data at each site and as I stayed longer than other volunteers, I also got the chance to go to Kuraisky and South Chuisky Ridges. Throughout this journey, I faced some difficulties and I have to admit that sometimes the language barrier was hard. However, in addition to seeing some wonderful sites and experience the life of a wildlife conservationist, I also met incredibly nice people who were always ready to help me and who stayed by my side during tough times. I went back to France in August after a visiting with friends in Ekaterinburg and Moscow, and took my last university exam at the end of August. I received my results in September, and I’m happy to say that passed my Master’s degree with honors! I would like to thank all the people who made it possible: Jennifer Castner, my new colleagues in Russia, my university, and of course my parents. This experience was a life changing experience that I won’t ever forget.