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Professor presents sociology of Great Salt Lake

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45″ alt=”(Photo source: Caril Jennings) Carla Trentelman poses by the "Spiral Jetty" at The Great Salt Lake. Jennings is giving a talk on Thursday.” src=”×200.jpg” width=”300″ height=”200″ /> (Photo source: Caril Jennings) Carla Trentelman poses by the “Spiral Jetty” at the Great Salt Lake. Trentelman is giving a presentation about the lake on Thursday.

Is it smelly and buggy, or a beautiful, though somewhat salty, paradise? Either way, Weber State University students may soon have cause to re-examine their feelings about the Great Salt Lake.

Carla Trentelman, assistant professor of sociology at WSU, is scheduled to give the talk “Big Smelly Salty Lake That I Call Home” on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Fireplace Lounge of the Shepherd Union Building. The talk will be the first in the series “Basin and Range VI,” a series given in conjunction with Universe City and Water Works — WSU’s yearlong campus-wide focus on water — and will examine the Great Salt Lake from a sociological perspective, specifically how the lake affects people who live near it and the sorts of feelings, perspectives and attitudes people have toward the lake.

“The relationships that people have with the lake are actually far more nuanced than we’re typically aware of or than we think here in Northern Utah,” Trentelman said. “One of the things that you hear is that people either love it or they hate it. It turns out that, at least with the folks that live closest to the lake, it’s not that simple.”

Trentelman received her Ph.D. from Utah State University and specialized in environmental and natural resource sociology. In line with that specialization, Trentelman chose to examine the Great Salt Lake from a sociological point of view.

“I realized that I could play with Great Salt Lake as a sociologist,” Trentelman said. “As I started digging into what we already knew about the lake, it turned out that we didn’t know very much at all in terms of the sociology of the lake or social sciences — any social sciences related to the lake.”

Trentelman said there had been a few small studies on the lake, but “as a sociologist, the lake was virgin territory.”

Her research stems from interviews, focus groups, and a survey to examine the intricacies of the relationship between people and the largest body of water in Utah. Trentelman said people feel both positively and negatively about the lake. Some people see it as smelly and bug-infested, and other are quicker to see the scenery, sunsets and night skies, and bird life. Trentelman’s talk examines people and their perspectives.

“Basin and Range VI” will feature two talks in addition to Trentelman’s: Physicist Dan Schroeder will give the talk “Why the Government Wants You to Waste Water” on Jan. 17, and Shalae Larsen, principal landscape architect at Io Design Collaborative, will present “Oasis: Meaningful and Sustainable Landscapes in the Arid West” on Jan. 24.

Also in conjunction with the “Basin and Range VI” talks is the Watershed Exhibit currently open in the Shepherd Union Gallery. The exhibit focuses on the water aspect of WSU’s geographic location and features paintings by LeRoy Jennings and photography by Tom Bunn, as well as maps, poems and other artworks. The gallery can be found on the first floor of the Shepherd Union Building.

Caril Jennings, marketing director for the WSU Department of Performing Arts, orchestrated the “Basin and Range VI” art exhibit and three different talks, and said she’s used her “Basin and Range” series “to pair up art and people who could talk about environmental issues in our community.”

Jennings said she thinks considering environmental aspects of life is extremely important.

“And art’s always a good vehicle to get people’s attention,” she said.

Jennings also said she wanted Trentelman to speak on her research because it offers people the chance to re-evaluate their own conceptions about the Great Salt Lake and water issues in the geographic region.

“Just listening to what she has to say about what other people have to say about the lake gives you the chance to re-examine what you think.”

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