Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
We are off the air in Washington County at 89.1. While we investigate the problem, listen here or on the UPR app.

The surprising history and sexualization of Great Salt Lake's brine shrimp

Jaimi Butler standing in front of crowd at Cache Bar showing an old advertisement for 'sea monkeys'
Emily Calhoun
Jaimi Butler standing in front of crowd at Cache Bar showing an old advertisement for 'sea monkeys'

Jaimi Butler started her career as the only woman on a brine shrimp harvesting rig on Great Salt Lake. Butler has since made a name for herself as a Great Salt Lake scientist, an advocate, writer, and recently comedian.

An example from her talk “I just have to go back and say if Great Salt Lake were a woman, I think she would tell us that she wanted us to keep her wet. ”

After researching brine shrimp history, Butler found it interesting that brine shrimp or ‘sea monkeys,’ as they are more commonly known, were sexualized in marketing cartoons in the 1970s.

Example advertisement from 1971 for sea monkeys
Karl
Example advertisement from 1971 for sea monkeys

“I started looking around and I found all of these interesting things where we were objectifying and sexualizing brine shrimp and their legs and brine shrimp don't have legs," Butler said. "And never once did I see anything about male brine shrimp having two penises.

Butler’s talk to a crowd of more than 50 people at the Cache bar blended science and humor, as well as the phalluses and fallacies related to the lake.

Jaimi in front of a screen showing brine shrimps
Emily Calhoun
Jaimi in front of a screen showing brine shrimps

So this talk was inspired by a manuscript I found at the University of Utah, from a guy named Dr. William Behle ...." Butler explained. "And then I came on this ‘The Men of Great Salt Lake’ and I was inspired. I was angry, because I knew at the time that there were lots of other people working on Great Salt Lake.”

Butler is just one of many women who have been advocating for the lake for decades.

She worked with students from Emerson Elementary lobbying for the brine shrimp to be made the state crustacean in 2022. During her talk, she read part of a poem they wrote called Brine Shrimp Matter.

“Brine shrimp matter to us. They are small, but they do a lot for us. Praise the way they feed so many amazing birds. Brine shrimp can only live in saltwater only in the south side of the Great Salt Lake only in certain salinity. Their arms look like spaghetti. Brine shrimp are beautiful creatures. They help our ecosystem and our economy."

With a few lines added by Butler: "Praise the discovery that male shrimp have two penises. They look like microscopic water weenies.”

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.

Emily Calhoun is a biology PhD student studying mosquito population genetics in Utah. She has a radio show called Panmixia where she shares her love of music. She is so excited to practice her science communication skills here at UPR.