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Avian Ecology of Great Salt Lake


Department of Wildland Resources


Seagull Running Amongst Flies

My research is dedicated to ensuring that Great Salt Lake (GSL) can always provide the food resources necessary to sustain the avian populations that depend on it for their survival. 

 Millions of birds nest around GSL or spend weeks on it during the summer and fall to fatten up on its abundant brine shrimp and brine flies.    Many birds have evolved special adaptations that allow them to live in a GSL’s hypersaline environment, including Eared grebes, red-necked phalaropes, Wilson’s phalaropes, American avocets, black-necked stilts, snowy plovers, and some duck species.  But these adaptations come at a cost.  These species are now dependent on hypersaline environments  for at least part of the year, leaving their fate tied to that of hypersaline lakes.  That is turning into a Faustian Bargain for them because hypersaline lakes in North America, including GSL, are shrinking due to human diversion of freshwater that used to flow to them. 

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR)  have management responsibility to manage GSL so that it can continue to sustain avian populations, but this requires information about threats to the avian community.  I and my students are the ones that provide this knowledge.  If you are interested in joining this important effort as a graduate student, please send me an email at mike.conover@usu.edu.