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Scientist says Utah Lake shows how a community can protect the environment

Ben Abbott stands in front of a banner.
Jed Liu
Ben Abbott, professor of ecosystem ecology at Brigham Young University, spoke at USU last month.

This year's Science Unwrapped Series at Utah State University is focused on dramatic changes happening in our climate and environment. Ben Abbott, professor of ecosystem ecology at Brigham Young University, kicked off the series last month, addressing science and policy.

Abbott is studying the effects of change on ecosystem health and placing emphasis on community action to bring about changes in public policy. Utah Lake has been the focus of recent efforts.

“Utah Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Utah. 150 square miles," Abbott said. "It is the centerpiece of Utah Valley and has been for millennia.”

The Utah Lake ecosystem has faced a number of environmental challenges including runoff, algal blooms, carp introductions and development throughout the years. The lake itself is very resilient, but the voices of community members have gone a long way in protecting the ecosystem.

Most recently, Abbott and other members of the community have voiced concern over a dredging and island-building proposal by Lake Restoration Solutions, looking to house up to 500,000 people on Utah Lake. The proposal, deemed unconstitutional by the state of Utah and incomplete by the US Army Corps of Engineers, is unlikely to move forward, but has sparked further conversation on the best restoration practices for Utah Lake.

Abbott emphasizes the power of individual community members using their voices to impart change and protect their ecosystem.

"So we have to go beyond just knowing the thing. And I think that the most important action we can take is talking to people about these issues, sharing our values," Abbott said.

The next Science Unwrapped is on October 21st, and will cover how chemical contaminants travel the globe.

Erin Lewis is a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a PhD Candidate in the biology department at Utah State University. She is passionate about fostering curiosity and communicating science to the public. At USU she studies how anthropogenic disturbances are impacting wildlife, particularly the effects of tourism-induced dietary shifts in endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana populations. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting and getting outside with her dog, Hazel.