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Lake Effect: what an Iranian lake can teach us about Great Salt Lake

A selfie of two bearded people in front of Great Salt Lake.
David Rosenberg

I'm David Rosenberg. I'm a professor of Water Resources Management at Utah State University in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and I also have a joint appointment at the Utah Water Research Lab.

I actually got into Great Salt Lake work because I was working on Lake Urmia, which is in Iran, and we've been hosting Iranians here at Utah State University in collaborations on the two lakes.

And so, one memory that really stands out is driving across the causeway to Antelope Island with my colleague, Masoud Parsinejad, and it's his first visit to the Great Salt Lake. And we’re realizing, you know, we have some other stuff to do, we’re not going to actually make it to Antelope Island to look around.

So we pull off the pavement and park and walk down the embankment, and you're hearing the birds squawking, and you can smell the saltwater, and you can also smell another slight decay, which you can't really identify. And looking out, it's just water, it's lake bed, it's mirage, it's distant mountains. And Masoud, he's just taking this all in. Like, he's super serene and just really appreciating being there.

And while I'm there, I'm also thinking about Lake Urmia, which is halfway around the globe. And these two lakes, they're both at historic low levels right now. Snowmelt drives the in-flows. There's causeways that separate the lakes into north and south arms. And you know, those arms have different salinities. And Salt Lake City is named after the Great Salt Lake and their city of Urmia is named after Lake Urmia. Millions of people live nearby and are breathing the dust from the exposed lake bed. They share so many features.

I think they're just embedded in our cultural heritage. They've been around for a really long time. People really care about them and they want to see them there. They don't want to see them disappear. And you know, to think about connecting what we're doing to millennia ago, to now, I think there's a really strong sense of desire to be able to benefit from the lakes the way our previous generations have and hopefully our future generations can.

Read David and Masoud’s recent review of Lake Urmia research, and how it can apply to Great Salt Lake here.

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.
Ellis Juhlin is a science reporter here at Utah Public Radio and a Master's Student at Utah State. She studies Ferruginous Hawk nestlings and the factors that influence their health. She loves our natural world and being part of wildlife research. Now, getting to communicate that kind of research to the UPR listeners through this position makes her love what she does even more. In her free time, you can find her outside on a trail with her partner Matt and her goofy pups Dodger and Finley. They love living in a place where there are year-round adventures to be had!