The North Arm of Great Salt Lake can contain 30% salt, and in this environment,
most life is excluded. I study DNA repair and photoprotection, and it turns out, these Halophiles are
exciting models for these questions.
The other extreme condition of the lake is sunlight, and the excess Ultraviolet (UV) exposure has
the potential to introduce a high level of DNA damage. My group is actively investigating
pigmented proteins that may block some of this damage. We are also looking at the ability of
Halophiles to repair damage that they incur from UV light. The pigments, including
Bacteriorhodopsin and Carotenoids, result in a beautiful rosy hue seen in the North Arm.
In addition, I am currently involved with a national "Great Salt Lake Consortium" team, and all
together we are surveying the microbial diversity of the lake. Our plan is to use
non-cultivation techniques to obtain genomic information about the lake's tiniest
inhabitants. The entire ecology of the lake is dependent on this rich community of
The GSL is a stopping place for thousands of birds migrating between Canada and South America.