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USU landscape architecture students are 'All Hands on Deck' to save Great Salt Lake

Five people, four young and one older, stand along a bridge.
Dave Anderson
Utah State University
The Senior Landscape Architecture Captstones Studio is led by coinstructors Todd Johnson (left) and Dave Anderson (not pictured).

On Friday, USU’s landscape architecture seniors are presenting their capstone projects under the theme of “All Hands on Deck,” an effort aimed at saving the Great Salt Lake. The students have formulated and developed landscape architecture initiatives for five locations related to Great Salt Lake.

The five projects include a proposal for the establishment of responsible development on the eastern shoreline, preservation and design of a landscape commemorating the Bear River Massacre site, plans for a saline lake research center on Antelope Island, a proposal for an ecologically-focused regional park in Salt Lake City, and the creation of a toolkit for designers, planners, and citizens to help guide policy and design approaches intended to return water to the lake.

Dylan McMurdie, a senior in the landscape architecture program, is a part of the eastern shoreline project. He said that urban development has chased the receding water along the lake, which has crowded the lake’s eastern shoreline and threatened the ecosystem. His team created a proposal that integrates wetlands into the inevitable development along the shoreline.

“Our group has focused on bringing the wetlands into development. What we're doing is making it so that more houses have a backyard that is marsh or a wetland where the animals can be happy, the ecosystem can thrive, and also making developers happy, and property owners. Everybody plays a part in this,” McMurdie said.

Todd Johnson, associate professor of practice in the Landscape Architecture program, said the idea for a Great Salt Lake-focused capstone was inspired by a fall graduate student studio, which was supported by the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land Water and Air.

“The principle that came out of our investigations last fall is that we need to stop pointing blame, and get 'all hands on deck.' That really embraces the idea that you've got a role, Dave's got a role, I've got a role, the students have a role, everyone has a role. And everybody in the audience on April 21st should leave that room thinking, 'There's something I can do.' And that's how cultures solve existential problems together,” Johnson said.

Dave Anderson is a professor of professional practice and, along with Johnson, the co-instructor of the senior capstone class. He says this year’s capstone offers a unique learning opportunity for students to engage with the community.

“The opportunity to work with stakeholders out in the marketplace, that is just this tremendous, powerful tool that enriches their experience so much. And it pays off for them when they go find a job because they understand how to do that,” Anderson said.

Seniors will be presenting their capstone projects this Friday, April 21 in the Fine Arts Visual Building, room FAV 210 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. In attendance will be the state director of the Nature Conversancy, former legislators and lobbyists, among other stakeholders.

Max is a neuroscientist and science reporter. His research revolves around an underexplored protein receptor, called GPR171, and its possible use as a pharmacological target for pain. He reports on opioids, outer space and Great Salt Lake. He loves Utah and its many stories.