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Sociology professor presents research on Great Salt Lake

A huge snowstorm proved only a minor delay for Carla Trentelman, assistant professor of sociology at Weber State University, in sharing her research

(Photo by: Tyler Brown) During the latest Water Works event, Carla Trentelman gives a talk about the Great Salt Lake. She presented her research about how residents near the Great Salt Lake feel about it.
(Photo by Tyler Brown) During the latest Water Works event, Carla Trentelman gives a talk about the Great Salt Lake. She presented her research about how residents near the Great Salt Lake feel about it.

on the Great Salt Lake with the WSU community. Trentelman’s talk, “Big Smelly Salty Lake That I Call Home,” was originally scheduled for Jan. 10, but had to be rescheduled because of a particularly bad snowstorm that rolled through that night, closing the school.

“I know that there were some folks who had talked about wanting to come, who were planning on coming that first time, but weren’t there,” Trentelman said. “I’m sure that (the weather) affected some of the attendance, but for something like this, I felt like the turnout was decent.”

The rescheduled talk took place on Wednesday night, given in conjunction with Water Works — WSU’s campus-wide focus on water and water issues — and “Basin and Range VI,” a series of related talks and art exhibits orchestrated by Caril Jennings, marketing director for the WSU Department of Performing Arts.

Trentelman’s talk presented the sociological research she’s done on the Great Salt Lake, research examining how residents living near the lake feel about the large body of water and its impact on their lives. Trentelman said a lot of research has been done on the lake, but little, if any of it, has been sociological. Examining the lake from a sociological standpoint focuses more on what people think about the lake, and Trentelman said her research is utilized by different organizations and divisions involved with the lake’s comprehensive management.

“They were very interested in my research,” Trentelman said, “in terms of what it showed about recreation, what it showed about people’s feelings about the lake, sense of place, those sorts of things. And so they did use a chunk of my research in that comprehensive management plan.”

Wednesday night’s talk was an opportunity for everyone to hear about her research.

Trentelman received her Ph.D. from Utah State University, specializing in natural resource and environmental sociology, and began her research in connection with her doctorate. The research she’s done on the Great Salt Lake results from focus groups, a survey, and individual interviews with people with connections to the lake, many of whom live close to it.

For example, one misconception Trentelman brought up about the Great Salt Lake was that people either love it or hate it. She said that isn’t the case. People vary greatly in their thoughts and attitudes about the lake, and it isn’t nearly as black and white as some might believe.

Jennings set up the talk as part of “Basin and Range VI.”

“I had a gallery from 2005 until 2011,” Jennings said, “so, for six and a half years, I had some shows and I always did an annual show in January called ‘Basin and Range.’ I used it to pair up art and people who could talk about environmental issues in our community.”

Jennings said “Basin and Range VI” has been a continuation of that program and is intended to coincide with Water Works to help raise awareness about both art and environmental issues. Because the Great Salt Lake is such a prominent geographic feature, Jennings asked Trentelman to speak on her research.

“Besides our beautiful mountains, the biggest feature about our neighborhood is the Great Salt Lake, and I knew that Dr. Trentelman had done her sociology research on the lake, so that just seemed natural for me.”

Trentelman said she plans to continue with her research on the Great Salt Lake. She’s had one piece published from the data, and said she’s now working on a bit more of a sophisticated analysis of the data for the next piece.

“I’m still working with it. I’m still working with the data set that I talked about last night, both the qualitative and particularly the quantitative date from the survey.”

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