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SFS Annual Meeting


Experience Great Salt Lake: A Translational Ecology-Themed Tour

Sunday, May 19, 8:00-4:00
Cost: $60 (lunch and transportation provided)

Great Salt Lake is the largest saline lake in North America (4th largest on Earth) and is a unique and important ecosystem that is of hemispheric importance to migratory birds. Much of the surrounding landscape has been described as “stark,” but it possesses an otherworldly beauty that continues to fascinate visitors from around the world. In striking contrast, the many wetlands surrounding the lake are lush and diverse, hosting about 7.5 million birds annually. The lake’s unique ecosystem has also generated unique industries, ranging from mineral extraction to a multi-million commercial fishery for brine shrimp. The lake also lies at the bottom of two watersheds where over 80% of Utah citizens resides.

Competing interests over the relative importance of Great Salt Lake’s economic and ecological values have resulted in stakeholder conflict and resource management challenges, and many scientific investigations aimed at finding solutions. This makes the lake an ideal setting for exploring the application of translational ecology.

This day-long tour along the shores of Great Salt Lake will allow participants to explore the beauty of Great Salt Lake and learn about this unique ecosystem. At stops along the tour, local scientists and resource managers will discuss how principles of translational ecology have been applied to protect the lake from increasing threats its important resources.

An Unforgettable Bird Watching Tour at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Sunday, May 19, 8:00-4:00
Cost: $60 (lunch and transportation provided)

The Great Salt Lake lies on the eastern edge of the Pacific flyway and the western edge of the central migratory flyway, which makes its freshwater marshes and surrounding habitats critical resting and feeding habitat for migratory birds. The Bear River Migratory bird refuge is the largest marsh complex around the lake and among the most important wildlife sanctuaries for migratory birds in the United States. Over 200 species of birds visit the refuge annually, numbering in the millions.

Chris Luecke (Dean, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University) will host a bird watching tour along a 12-mile loop through the heart of the refuge. Plenty of stops along the way will provide participants ample opportunity to observe and photograph birds using a mosaic of habitats, including: upland, mudflat, river delta, brackish and freshwater marshes, temporary ponds, and uplands. This ideal location, combined with the fact that this field trip takes place during spring migration means that it will be easy to see many species of birds along the way.

Explore the Ecology of Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island State Park

Friday, May 24, 8:00-4:00
Cost: $60 (lunch and transportation provided)

Wrap up your visit to Utah with a day exploring the unique ecosystem of Great Salt Lake from its largest island, Antelope Island State Park. We’ll introduce you to the chemistry, geology, and ecology of the lake, with opportunities to sample water that is three times saltier than the ocean and see its star inhabitant, the brine shrimp. Migratory birds visit Great Salt Lake by the millions each year, so there will be opportunities to do a little birdwatching. Here's your chance to literally “get your feet wet” in one of the most interesting aquatic ecosystems in North America. We’ll also spend time on land enjoying the stark beauty of Antelope Island. As one of Utah’s most visited State Parks, Antelope Island offers exceptional wildlife viewing. You'll have an opportunity to learn about how the herds of bison, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep are managed, and we just might find a few different species of owls while we’re there.

This day-long tour will be led by Mark Larese-Casanova, Director of the Utah Master Naturalist program with Utah State University Extension. Bring your binoculars, long pants and shirt, and water shoes or sandals. Headnets will be available to borrow.