Westminsters Great Salt Lake Institute Celebrates a Decade

 GSLI turns ten

Apr 27, 2018

Westminster College’s Great Salt Lake Institute (GSLI) is 10 years old. The lake and the institute have changed considerably since biology professor and GSLI director Bonnie Baxter and her colleagues created Great Salt Lake Institute in 2008.

“GSLI is a unique organization that rose to fill the gaps in academic work on Great Salt Lake,” Baxter said. “Westminster took a chance on us, and we have blossomed because of the undergraduates who are our heart and soul.”

Since 2008, Great Salt Lake has dropped two feet in elevation while gaining a community of researchers and advocates. The mission of GSLI at Westminster College is to connect people to Great Salt Lake through research and education. GSLI supports undergraduate research, facilitates collaborative projects, engages with K-12 teachers and connects with community partners.

“It seems our understudied, unique salty ecosystem is finally receiving the research attention it deserves though the efforts of our passionate lake community in this past decade,” said Jaimi Butler, GSLI coordinator. “We hope GSLI has been a part of this turn-around.”


Much has been accomplished in a decade of salty hands and muddy boots. Just a few highlights for GSLI include the following:

  • Sparked research efforts on duck hunters, brine shrimp, biofuels, pelicans, microorganisms, art, spiders, microbialites, salt, dance, astrobiology and poetry.
  • Engaged more than 200 students and 24 faculty members in lake research.
  • Employed more than 50 students in campus jobs.
  • Brought in over $2 million in grants for programming.
  • Collaborated with over 30 community partners.
  • Supported more than 200 publications and presentations.
  • Generated more than 60 news articles.
  • Involved with over 50 large community events.
  • Provided supplies and curriculum to hundreds of high school teachers.
  • Became an official steward of Spiral Jetty with Utah Museum of Fine Arts to assist the Dia Art Foundation.

Most recently, GSLI’s Baxter and Butler collaborated with Westminster art professor Matt Kruback in a project called SALT: Scientists and Artists Learning Together. Funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation, SALT engages summer researchers in art and science to build bridges across the curriculum.

“Art and Science share creativity, process and inquiry,” Baxter said. “Great Salt Lake is a perfect anchor for this interdisciplinary exploration.”

While Great Salt Lake rose and fell — and served 10 years of pelican babies born on Gunnison — many other things have transpired: almost a million more humans live along its shores. There are plans to divert water from the lake, to create a huge inland port, to build a prison on the shores and the possible development of a class V landfill operation. GSLI wants to help educate people and gather research efforts to protect Great Salt Lake’s critical ecosystem.

“I see a future that is made better by all of us working together with inquisitive minds and creativity. We are looking forward to the next 10 years with the trillions of more brine shrimp, millions more birds, thousands more pelican babies and hundreds of our students,” Baxter said.

Click here to learn more about GSLI.

Students collecting samples