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July 15, 2009

USEE Visits the Great Salt Lake Institute

Photo: Issac Hall sampling from a paddle board in the GSL

By: T.J. Adamson (USEE Intern)

Do the brine shrimp really look like Sea Monkeys? How does the Great Salt Lake harness sunlight? How much salt is really in the Great Salt Lake?

Once a month, the USEE staff has been visiting various organizations around the community that are involved with environmental education. The goal is to keep in touch with our connections, learn more about their operations, tour their facility, and discuss ways that we can help each other out. For this month’s field trip we checked out the Great Salt Lake Institute (GSLI). Andree, Nicole, Alaina and I meet with the coordinator Jaimi Butler. Jaimi received a college degree studying brine shrimp and birds. After working at the brine shrimp factory, she now in charge of operating the GSLI and is involved with many projects. We sat down with her as she told us all about their work and what they are doing.

The Great Salt Lake Institute, not to be confused with Friends of Great Salt Lake, is fairly new and located in the heart of Westminster College. They are funded by a verity of grants and receive much of their support form the college. GSLI’s mission is to be dedicated to education, research, and stewardship of the unique ecology and history of the Great Salt Lake. They are not an advocacy group, rather an educational institution that furthers research and creates public awareness. Their goal is to provide a better understanding of the GSL and its relationship to ecology and the environment. GSLI seeks partnerships with public and private groups such as colleges, universities, industry, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to engage in collaborative research efforts.

The GSLI is also working to promote science and environmental education of K-12 students by encouraging student and teacher involvement. They provide lesson plans and project opportunities to educators and link many of the research activities to current curriculum. This is a great resource for any teacher or non-formal educator. Their website offers a wonderful database of free lesson plans, activities, and projects that are open to anyone interested in teaching or learning about the Great Salt Lake. Their website provides a wide selection of lesson plans that are included in following categories: “Land Form Lessons”, “Lake Effect Lessons”, “Brine Shrimp Lessons”, “Salinity Lessons”, “Sand Lessons”, “Lake Lessons”, “Water Lessons”, “Salt Lessons”, “Ecosystem Lessons”, “Tributaries of the Great Salt Lake”, and “Seasons Lessons”. As a free resource, I would defiantly check it out. Visit www.GreatSaltLakeInstitue.org and click on the Outreach tab, then the gsl lesson plans tab.

Students of Westminster College also play an active roll. GSLI provides many opportunities for undergraduate research and scholarships in working with the GSLI. The director of the GSLI Bonnie Baxter, PhD, and Associate Director Brian Avery, PhD are both professors at the college that teach in the science and biology departments. Throughout the years, they have focused much of their research towards studying the Great Salt Lake. Currently, they teach and mentor undergraduate students interested in biological science and ecosystems.

Currently, Jaimi is putting the final arraignments together for the “Camp Great Salt Lake” summer camp. This three day camp is designed to give high school students a “true” college experience. Participants stay in the dorms and spend a few days as scientists. On the first day, students travel to the lake and take a tour on paddle boats that are fully equipped with of research equipment. They collect samples and learn about the many functions of the lake. Day two is spent in a lab at Westminster where they conduct basic experiments with their findings. On the final day they revisit the lake to see and apply what they have learned. The summer camp is open to high school students that are at least fifteen years of age and five teachers. It runs from July 12th through the 14th and cost students $150 and the teachers are paid. Scholarships are available for the students that attend. To apply, visit their website at www.GreatSaltLakeInstitue.org or contact Jaimi at jbutler@westministercollege.edu.

We learned a lot about the Great Salt Lake Institute. If you are interested in participating in or contributing to their studies, they have a free membership directory available online. You can also keep informed by becoming a fan on their Facebook page. For more information or follow their contact information provided below or visit their website where you will find a wealth of information, resources, a blog, and upcoming events.

The Great Salt Lake Institute
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

Coordinator: Jaimi Butler
Director: Bonnie Baxter, PhD
Associate Director: Brian Avery, PhD

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