Great Salt Lake

Brine shrimp, brine flies, birds, algae, and bioherms in Great Salt Lake

World consumption of prawns depends upon aquaculture, because wild stocks cannot meet demand and are overharvested. Their aquaculture depends upon commercial harvesting of brine shrimp (sea monkey) eggs to feed immature prawns. Most brine shrimp are harvested from Great Salt Lake in Utah, providing up to $150 million annually. This fishery harvested up to 98% of annual brine shrimp production before management was imposed. Our studies examine the food chain between algae, brine shrimp, and birds. 

Another food chain in the Great Salt Lake consists of bioherms, brine flies, and birds. This is just beginning to be examined. 

A third of waterbirds in the Western U.S. reside or migrate through Great Salt Lake and the waterbirds rely on brine shrimp and brine flies for food. Our studies examine the lake’s basic ecology to develop informed management strategies. In addition, Great Salt Lake is a harsh environment (salinity 5 times the ocean) so biodiversity is reduced, providing a simple system for studying complex ecological processes.

Ecotoxicology of heavy metals on brine shrimp and brine flies

The purpose of this project is to determine toxic levels of mercury, copper, arsenic, lead, and ammonia, to brine shrimp and brine fly larvae so that water quality criteria (WQC) can be developed for GSL.