students at the great salt lake

About the Great Salt Lake Institute

Our Mission

Connecting people to Great Salt Lake through research and education.

Our Story

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.


Carly Biedul isthe GSLI coordinator and coordinates all GSLI activities, including mentoring students with Great Salt Lake related research, developing student outreach efforts and designing interdisciplinary projects. Carly’s undergraduate background is in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and she was most recently an Elementary Science Specialist while she completed her MEd at Westminster. She is passionate about education as a tool for conservation and connecting with the environment. She loves trips to the lake and can watch brine flies buzz around her feet for hours.

Contact Us





Bonnie Baxter, PhD


Carly Biedul, MEd

If you’re looking for us on campus, we’re located in the Meldrum Science Center, Room 377 or on the 4th floor GSLI office.