The Great Salt Lake PELI Project (Partnership for Education and Longitudinal Investigation of American White Pelicans) aims to understand the effects of water diversion and climate change on the migration patterns, breeding behavior, and survival rates of the pelicans on Gunnison Island. Great Salt Lake Institute undergraduate students work in partnership with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and their robust pelican research program.

The first phase of the PELI project was installing 15 PELIcams on Gunnison Island, the protected breeding grounds of the pelicans. Installed in early March 2017, these cameras allow us to monitor the pelican colonies, taking a picture every three minutes. A time-lapse of the 2018 breeding season can be seen below.

Help us analyze close-up images of the pelicans at Zooniverse as heard on National Public Radio's Science Friday.


Westminster Student Research

Westminster undergraduate students have been working alongside experts on a number of cool projects. They assist in the yearly banding effort, help to establish a minimum banding size for baby pelicans and measure the mortality of pelicans on Gunnison Island, and assist in analyzing the images from the PELIcams.

Students fitting cameras on pelican

cheerful student

student at Great Salt Lake

student holding a pelican

Get Involved

There are three ways the public can get involved with pelican research in Utah.



Help look for pelicans with Green wing tags.

When you see pelicans with wing tags, please report the following information to or email

  • Date
  • Location
  • Tag color and code
  • A picture of the pelican



Help analyze all of the images that we’ve been collecting at



Discover where the pelicans are using the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ unique program, PeliTrack. Through the program, pelicans are outfitted with small backpacks which transmit their location every couple days. 

* Citizen sightings are critical to the PELI Project and help determine the status and migration patterns of the American White Pelican population.

Partner Organizations

This project would not have been possible without the following community partners that have contributed considerable resources and time to making the project happen.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has been researching American white pelicans on the Great Salt Lake for over 20 years. They employ many research methods, including PeliTrack, to closely monitor pelican migration and movements.

The Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program monitors avian and aquatic life on the Great Salt Lake. By studying these populations over time, researchers can learn about wildlife population patterns.

MesoWest, located at the University of Utah, collects data from weather stations located across the country. The MesoWest group also has several weather stations deployed around the Great Salt Lake, including one on Gunnison Island. Live data from that weather station can be viewed here.

Tracy Aviary  is a Salt Lake City aviary that houses many local and exotic species of birds. The aviary promotes education and conservation through several research grants. Great Salt Lake Institute received a research grant through Tracy Aviary, which was instrumental in helping the institute purchase cameras and conduct research on Gunnison Island.

Great Salt Lake Audubon, a chapter of the national Audubon Society, was founded in 1912 and is the oldest conservation organization in Utah. This volunteer organization strives to meet its mission through volunteer opportunities, seminars, educational field trips, urban riparian restoration, and informative general meetings with guest presenters. They also support local research efforts such at the PELI Project.