October 13, 2020
Last week, Algae Research Supply had the honor of interviewing Jaimi Butler, Coordinator of the Great Salt Lake Institute in Utah.
The Great Salt Lake Institute has been around for over 12 years, and is funded through a Westminster College grant. Their mission is to use research and education to connect the greater community to the Great Salt Lake.
As Coordinator, Jaimi works with college students and faculty to connect them to the research going on at Great Salt Lake.
Jaimi got a Fisheries and Wildlife degree from Utah State University, and her life goal was to work outside and in nature. “Birds and bugs,” jokes Jaimi, “I wanted to be in the mud and the salt.” She loved classes involving Math and Chemistry, but her favorite part of college was meeting incredibly interesting people and finding new connections from Utah State- which she continues to make to this day.
Before working at the Great Salt Lake Institute, Jaimi worked in the brine shrimp harvesting industry, harvesting shrimp from the lake for use in commercial aquaculture. There, she helped the harvesters understand population and ecosystem dynamics so the overall ecosystem was not interrupted by their activities. After that, Jaimi was a field biologist for the State of Utah, and aided with the management of brine shrimp harvesting from that end.
Though she loved her jobs, she felt restricted in the impact she could make. She couldn’t share her passion for the ecology of the environment and the lake to the extent she wanted to as a field biologist.
At the Great Salt Lake Institute, she enjoys being part of a “hub of information and experience” to help students and those passionate about the ecosystem learn more about the Great Salt Lake. She feels incredibly lucky to have the ability to do fieldwork and interact with nature as often as she does, “It’s the coolest place to work. Ever.”
According to Jaimi, “There are 8 million things that [she] could be doing in a day.” As Coordinator, she writes grants for undergraduate research, manages grants, and spends funds received from grants. She also works with students and aids them with their projects and connects with the community through community science projects. Pre-COVID, she would help with community events such as the Spider Festival (an event on Antelope Island to celebrate the Western Spotted Orb Weaver).
Jaimi’s favorite part of her job is working with the "super cool people" she sees at the Institute -- students, faculty, research, farmers -- or anyone else working with the Great Salt Lake. “It’s really satisfying to feel like you're making a difference in this little place in the world.”
Another thing that Jaimi loves is that she can work with artists that are creating land art and art of the Great Salt Lake. She loves seeing how people can connect to the lake in different and creative ways. Jaimi herself has let her creativity shine by designing things for the Great Salt Lake’s etsy shop.
Above (left to right), are Bonnie Baxter (director of GSLI), Dr. David Parrot (assistant director of GSLI), and Jaimi Butler (coordinator of GSLI), with singing brine shrimp puppets.
In terms of our future young scientists, Jaimi has this advice: ”follow your passion… your passion may not always be playing with the salt and the bugs and the mud, but maybe you’re really great at illustrating… or your superpower is driving big equipment.” As she knows from experience, not everyone has a straight path, but if you follow your passions it will lead you to somewhere you’ll love.
To learn more about the Great Salt Lake Institute, check out their website here: https://westminstercollege.edu/student-life/great-salt-lake-institute/about-the-great-salt-lake-institute
To explore brine shrimp, and be just like Jaimi, try the Brainy Briny Kits!
-Erin F. Fox, 2020