A Recipe For Extreme Organisms

28 June 2018 Published in News & Events

By Brian Switek

Look at the Great Salt Lake and you might think of the vast body of water as lifeless. That’s far from the truth, of course. Not only is the Great Salt Lake home to an incredible number of brine shrimp - fodder for migrating birds looking to refuel - it also boasts microscopic life that’s adapted to the harsh conditions of the super-salty water. They’re called halophiles, and our Natural History Museum of Utah exhibit staff has just come up with a perfect recipe to help them thrive in our exhibit about the local lake.

There’s no single biological category for halophiles. “Most of them are bacteria,” Museum exhibit services supervisor Will Black says, “but they could also be eukaryotes,” or organisms made up of a cell or cells containing their DNA inside a nucleus. Regardless of their classification, though, Black notes that what makes halophiles distinct is right there in their name - halophile is Greek for “salt-loving.”

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Why We Care

  • Sunday evening in March 2016, our family visited Black Rock Beach to view the Great Salt Lake. My one year old son just loved running up and down the beach, and touching his toes in the salty water. It was evening and as the sun settled in the west, the lake came alive with previously hidden texture and beauty. We watched in awe as the magnificence of the lake reviled itself, and I just had to capture the moment with my camera.

    Julie Meadows, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant