Incidents, Accidents and Ecology—how use and management issues on the Great Salt Lake help us understand how this “simple” system works.
While the Great Salt Lake has a reputation for great sunsets, water you can float in, and occasionally, lake stink, it is seldom thought of as “complicated.” In fact, introductory ecology classes often present the Great Salt Lake as an example of a “simple” ecosystem: algae, brine flies, brine shrimp, birds, and that’s about it. However, while the lake’s food web is relatively simple, it is balanced, sometimes precariously, on a series of complicated and sometimes wonderful processes and relationships. At the same time, the Great Salt Lake is probably one of the largest and most valuable (and valued) natural resource “assets” in the state of Utah, with uses ranging from intensive resource extraction to photographic backdrop, and everything in-between. Over the course of time, a number of “incidents and accidents” have led to change, or the potential for change to the lake’s ecosystems. Because the Great Salt Lake’s many stakeholders realize that much of the value of the lake is derived from how it functions, studies undertaken to respond to these incidents have resulted in an increased understanding of the simply complicated ecology of the lake. This presentation will discuss some of the intriguing aspects of the Great Salt Lake’s ecology that have been learned while trying to understand how several incidents have impacted the lake’s systems, and how these lessons can help us to understand and manage the lake in the future.
Ms. Cline has been a “contaminants biologist” for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for almost 12 years, all in the Utah Field Office, specializing in the understanding of how environmental contaminants can impact birds and the ecosystems that support them. Her first assignment was to complete the write-up of a comprehensive survey of contaminants in the open waters of the Great Salt Lake, and its surrounding wetlands, giving her an introduction to the complexities and wonders of the lake. Since then, she has participated with several multi-agency technical teams involved in Great Salt Lake science and management.
Other projects she is involved with include the restoration of the Jordan River floodplain, the cleanup and restoration of Silver Creek in Park City, and an evaluation of how mercury may be impacting National Wildlife Refuges (and vice-versa) in western North America.
Ms. Cline has a Masters Degree in Environmental Toxicology from Clemson University(2003), and is a graduate of Weber State University in Ogden Utah. Off the job, Chris hikes, skis, bikes, and boats when she can get away from her ongoing home improvement and woodworking projects, and serves as a volunteer cat-herder for a local non-profit arts organization.