The Great Salt Lake located in Utah is quite interesting because a causeway that was built for transportation caused the Great Salt Lake ecosystem to be split into two ecosystems. Before the causeway, a trestle was built, which allowed the whole lake to get fresh water maintaining the ecosystem neutral. After the causeway --- a solid raised roadway made of 50 million cubic yards of rock, sand and gravel was built the farthest part of the lake was no longer getting fresh water that it needed from the stream because the causeway was preventing the fresh water flow. This caused a dramatic change in the lake; the part of the lake that was not getting any fresh water, except from rainfall, increased its salinity level whereas the other part stayed the same. This created a new living environment for other organisms, such as Halobacterium. The effect that Halobacterium had on the lake was quite intriguing because along the years Halobacterium was causing the lake to change color thanks to a protein called bacteriorhodopsin.
Having been told this by the scientists at ISB two interns, Stephanie Gil and Greg Alvarado were paired up with two teachers from the Bellevue school district. There the students were given experiments for them to conduct and think about how Halobacterium plays a role in the ecosystem as a whole. These labs were given in order for the interns to come up with questions and grasp the concept that all of the organisms in the ecosystem are interdependent, they all interact in some way to keep the life cycle going.
They conducted five different labs:
Other ISB scientists guided John Thomson and he contributed to a simulation that uses the Cytoscape platform to model a network of cell phones. Cell phones are a technology that students understand, yet they also have much in common with other kinds of biological networks, so working with this cell phone network is a first step towards understanding more complex networks.
For more information, and to run the simulation, visit:
This student intern site was created entirely by High School Students.