About the Great Salt Lake Institute
Connecting people to Great Salt Lake through research and education.
Great Salt Lake Institute (GSLI) was established in 2008 with support from Westminster College and an external grant, allowing us to hire a coordinator, involve student employees, and purchase equipment to reach out to the community in a real way. We began by running community field trips and developing high school and college curriculum on GSL. Shortly thereafter, we created a GSLI summer undergraduate research program.
Filling a Niche
Westminster College is uniquely situated between the Wasatch Mountains to the east and Great Salt Lake to the west. We are firmly rooted in an urban landscape in a major metropolitan area adjacent to one of the great terminal lakes of the world. Science faculty at Westminster College noted a general disinterest in the lake by community and research institutions alike and began researching this unique ecosystem.
The advocacy non-profit group, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake, was active in stewardship and K-12 education endeavors at the lake, but scholarly investigations from academic perspectives were lacking. We realized a complementary organization could create a different community in a college setting. The vision was immense-that we could attract researchers from around the world, facilitate large projects, engage in outreach efforts, and all of these endeavors would involve our undergraduate students.
Who We Are
Dr. Bonnie Baxter is the Director of Great Salt Lake Institute. She studies photobiology of halophiles (salt-tolerant bacteria) and microbial diversity of Great Salt Lake with her undergraduate students. She is interested in the astrobiology applications of extremely hypersaline ecosystems, in particular resistance to ultraviolet light and desiccation by halophiles. Recently her students have been engaged in projects involving ancient biomolecules in salt, microbial composition of GSL stromatolites, and lake microbial mercury methylation.
Dr. Baxter is also dedicated to integration of research in undergraduate science education and to outreach efforts that inspire learning and stewardship.
Jaimi K. Butler, GSLI coordinator. Butler brings 15 years of Great Salt Lake experience to our programs. She coordinates all GSLI activities, including developing outreach efforts, mentoring students and designing research projects. As an undergraduate student in Wildlife Biology, she studied Great Salt Lake ecology. As a professional, she worked for a brine shrimp harvest company before working for Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Project. She assists many of the faculty projects, aiding in lake sample collection, boat access and field trip resources.