When Clyde Goulden first saw Lake Hövsgöl (Hövsgöl Nuur) in 1994, he knew it was special. He also realized it offered a unique opportunity to study the ecology and biodiversity of the an unspoiled landscape. The lake, the 16th largest on the planet, was in remarkably pristine condition and its watershed, with its large tracts of virgin taiga forest, steppe, alpine tundra and wetlands, lay protected within the boundaries of Hövsgöl National Park.
In 1995, The Academy of Natural Sciences founded The Institute of Mongolian Biodiversity and Ecological Studies (IMBES) to support research at the lake. (IMBES is the precursor to the Academy's Asia Center.) That same year, IMBES organized an international team to investigate the lake's biodiversity and limnology.
It soon became evident, however, that Mongolia faced significant challenges involving environmental protection and economic development; it was experiencing severe economic dislocation following the collapse of the Soviet Union. IMBES addressed some of these challenges through efforts to improve Hövsgöl National Park.
In addition, Hövsgöl is an ecological hotspot for climate change. It lies at both the southern margin for both the Taiga (Siberian Boreal Forest) and continuous permafrost. As such, Hövsgöl provides a unique opportunity to study climate change in a mid-continental setting.
The Hövsgöl Long-term Ecological Research Site (LTERS) was established in 1997 and an extensive research program began soon thereafter. Now, part of an international network of long-term study sites, the Hövsgöl LTERS provides a stage for nurturing Mongolia's scientific and environmental infrastructures, studying climate change and developing sustainable responses to some of its challenges.