student looking through a miccrscope at the Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake Student Research

Great Salt Lake remains largely unexplored and offers new territory for novel undergraduate research projects. It's a hands-on laboratory where students can be involved with everything from gathering and analyzing samples to writing comprehensive research papers.

Open Invitation

We welcome your participation in our study of Great Salt Lake. We want to hear from you, whether you're a scientist, a poet, a performance artist. We are interested in helping people make connections to enhance study, understanding and appreciation of the lake and its surroundings.

To get involved, email us at

Current Research

  • Dan Jones: (faculty mentor—Bonnie K. Baxter, Westminster College)/Photo protective Adaptations of Halophilic Archaea
  • Galen Muske: (faculty mentor—Bonnie Baxter, Westminster College)/Microbial Diversity of Culinary Salts
  • Christopher Mansfield: (faculty mentor—Frank Black, Westminster College)/Environmental Influences of Methylmercury Photo-Degradation Rates at the Great Salt Lake
  • Josh Nole Schmidt: (faculty mentor—Frank Black, Westminster College)/Comparison and Trends of Mercury Concentrations in Brine Flies and Spiders at the Great Salt Lake
  • Brett Denney, Edgar Chavez: (faculty mentor—Bonnie Baxter, Westminster College)/DNA Detection in Salt

Completed Research

  • Kate Amadio: (faculty mentor—Greg Carling, PhD candidate at the University of Utah)/Mercury Loading and Methylation in the Great Salt Lake Watershed
  • Nicole Baily: (faculty mentor—Dr. Brian Avery, Westminster College)/Molecular Identification of Cestode Parasites of the Brine Shrimp, Artemia, from Great Salt Lake, Utah
  • Lindsy Brickell: (faculty mentor—Dr. Bonnie Baxter, Westminster College)/Cartenoids and DNA Damage in a Great Salt Lake Halophilic Archaea
  • John Buchannan: (mentor—Tracy Aviary personnel)/Avian Populations in City Creek Canyon, Utah
  • Jay Bowman-Kirigin: (faculty mentor—Dr. Paul Hooker, Westminster College)/Isolation Quanitation of Carotenoids in Halophiles from the Great Salt Lake
  • Sarah Carver: (faculty mentor—Dr. Christy Clay, Westminster College)/Estimating the Wintering Grounds of Migratory Shorebirds Using Stable Isotopes.
  • Elizabeth Duffin: (faculty mentor—Bonnie Baxter, Westminster College)/UV Damage and Repair in a Great Salt Lake Haloarchae
  • Jim Goodman (faculty mentor—Dr. Frank Black, Westminster College)/The Importance of Arachnids in Biomagnification on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake
  • Alexander Griffin: (faculty mentor—Dr. Bonnie Baxter, Westminster College)/Genomic Comparisons of Great Salt Lake Microorganisms
  • Isaac Hall: (faculty mentor—Bonnie Baxter, Westminster College)/Isolation and Quantification of Great Salt Lake Algae
  • Meghan Johnston: (faculty mentor—Dr. Kerry Case, Westminster College)/Campus Opportunities for Novel STEM Based Learning
  • Angela Marler-Boyd: (faculty mentor—Dr. Brian Avery, Westminster College, Westminster College)/Generic Model Organism Database setup for the Artemia Genome Project
  • Allie Roach and Cordell Johnston: (faculty mentor—Dr. Betsy Kleba, Westminster College)/Seeking and Identifying Members of the Archael Community of the North Arm of Great Salt Lake
  • Johanna Tietze: (faculty mentor—Bonnie Baxter, Westminster College)/Great Salt Lake Microalgae populations as Indicator Species of Habitat Quality: Novel Methods for Monitoring.
  • Bobby Sheen, Carla Suarez, Kristin Gillette: (faculty mentor—Dr. Brian Avery, Westminster College)/Development of a High-Resolution Melting Curve Method to Study the Genetic Diversity of the Brine Shrimp (Artemia) Population of Great Salt Lake, Utah


The W.M. Keck Foundation awarded us a $250,000 grant to support Building Research, Innovation, and Novel Experimentation (BRINE).

One project that falls under BRINE is our research on the mercury levels in spiders that live at Great Salt Lake. Check out the coverage we got in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Utah Lake

Utah Lake

Spider egg

Can you make out the tiny white ball near the center of this photo? It's a spider egg mass!

black widow spider

Black Widow Spider

sample gathering

Materials used to gather samples from the lake

burrowed spider

These spiders like to burrow into the ground

Jeff Collins in lake

Jeff Collins dropping cinder blocks in the lake. Hopefully these will be colonized by brine fly larva.