A male (top) and a female (bottom) brine shrimp. | Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program, wildlife.utah.gov
A male (top) and a female (bottom) brine shrimp. | Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program, wildlife.utah.gov

A group of Utahns are looking to get brine shrimp named as Utah’s state crustacean. The idea started with a student at Westminster College, but an aspiring sixth grade class in Salt Lake City is doing the legwork to make this a reality.

Josh Craner is a sixth grade teacher at Emerson Elementary in Salt Lake City. His students have experience writing letters to their representatives about Great Salt Lake, but writing a bill for Utah’s legislature brings it to a whole new level.

“Jaimi Butler at the Great Salt Lake Institute has been working with us for years. And so when a former student of hers had brought up the idea, hey, what if we made brine shrimp the Utah state crustacean... she said, I would love your class to be involved. I asked the kids, you know, to make sure that they wanted to do that. We’re like we're not really sure what's going to happen, like let's just walk through the process,” Craner said.

Little more than the size of your fingernail, these tiny critters are vital to Great Salt Lake. Owen Wursten, one of Craner’s students, explained their ecological importance.

“A lot of people may not know about them. They are keystone species in the environment, so, basically if they're taken away, then the whole ecosystem sort of collapses,” Wursten said.

Harvesting Great Salt Lake’s brine shrimp for aquaculture feed is a lucrative business, and Khari Turner explained why they’re important to Utah’s economy.

“Brine shrimp are important because they provide about 600 jobs,” Turner said.

Craner’s students worked with Utah Representative Rosemary Lesser to write the bill, which she introduced to the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Teddy Skeen had mixed feelings about the process.

“I'm excited. But I'm kind of nervous because I hope that it does pass,” Skeen said.

Penelope Henriksen hoped the bill will bring more awareness to Great Salt Lake.

“It brings awareness to these brine shrimp so that people will see the situation they're in in the Great Salt Lake, because water levels are shrinking. And with higher salinity, it's harder for them to survive,” Henriksen explained.

If the bill passes, Craner and his students may get the opportunity to see it signed into law by Governor Cox.

Visit Change.org to learn how you can help brine shrimp become Utah’s state crustacean.

UPR Science News Reporter
Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.

Related Articles