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   Westminster's GSL Project site contains lesson plans.     Find lesson plans at     Westminster's GSL     Project site.


GSL Chemistry Research

Dr. Paul Hooker: As a chemist, I am interested in the chemical composition of the lake and how it changes. At present my research is focused on the element selenium (Se). Though selenium is a nutritionally essential element, it has also proven to be toxic to animals and hazardous to humans... more>>

Studying Selenium  Chemistry professor Paul Hooker says   students are learning about the   focus and dedication required to become good analytical chemists.
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A Westminster student wades into a salt pool.       Dr. Brian Avery and a student observe brine shrimp cysts in the lab.       Pelicans flying above the GSL.

...and is known to bioaccumulate in living tissues which can have many long-lasting effects for both short-term and long-term exposure. Utah had the largest release of selenium into the environment from 1987 to 1993, with a total of 696,515 pounds of selenium released to land and 1,578 pounds released to water. Se also occurs naturally in the seleniferous soils of Utah.

Environmentally, Se is a very dangerous and toxic substance. Even at very low concentrations in the parts-per-billion range, the effects of Se contamination can be devastating. The best-documented episode occurred in the mid-1980's at the Kesterson Wildlife reserve in the San Joaquin Valley, California. This wetland reserve received the majority of its water from agricultural drainage. The water contained Se dissolved at about 50 ppb, but the effects of bioaccumulation resulted in fish with elevated levels of Se up to several hundred parts per million (compared to 1-10 ppm for "normal" fish). The result of this was a decimation of the bird life at the reserve with chicks being born with grotesque deformities.

Students in my research group collect samples of brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) and water from the GSL to analyze for Se content. Brine shrimp are an important food source for the birds that use the GSL. We are presently conducting experiments in which GSL water samples containing brine shrimp have been spiked with increasing quantities of selenium, the brine shrimp being analyzed for selenium bioaccumulation.

A secondary project just underway in conjunction with the National Audobon Society involves the clean-up of 117 acres of GSL shoreline close to the Lee Creek. The vision for this area is to transform a severely degraded part of the GSL into a place of quiet and peace dedicated to wildlife and community education.

GSL factoid:

Researchers have measured GSL salinity as great as 27%, making it about 6 times as salty as sea water.

another fact?