Students in Dan Bedford's Honors course conduct fieldwork atop Malan's Peak.
OGDEN, Utah – When asked how much time he has spent at the Great Salt Lake, Weber State University associate geography professor Daniel Bedford responds, “Not nearly enough.” Although he has been studying the lake’s character for six years, he believes there is plenty more to be learned.
As a 2008 recipient of WSU’s Honors Eccles Fellowship, Bedford is teaching a one-semester honors course about the Great Salt Lake this fall, meaning he and his students will have multiple opportunities to frequent the lake. In doing so, they will set out to discover why it is one of Utah’s Seven Wonders.
“The Great Salt Lake is immensely interesting—like a different planet,” Bedford said. “I want to get students out there. I want them to see what a natural wonder they have right in their own backyard.”
Bedford, who has published articles about the Great Salt Lake in professional journals such as “The Geographical Review” and “The Professional Geographer,” feels the lake is often misunderstood.
“When the nonprofit organization Friends of the Great Salt Lake ask people to complete this sentence, ‘The Great Salt Lake is …,’ the four most common answers are: big, salty, stinky and buggy,” Bedford said. “You can say yes to all of those, of course, but the lake is much more than those things.
“From lake effect snows and artistic features like the spiral jetty to the brine shrimp industry and shorebirds, the Great Salt Lake influences weather, climate, wildlife, economy and culture. Through this class, I hope my students will learn just how valuable and important the lake is, not just in northern Utah but internationally as well.”
Bedford is one of the first professors to receive the Honors Eccles Fellowship under newly amended criteria that give faculty the opportunity to teach courses related to their research interests. He will receive three hours of release time, during which he will continue his research and prepare for class, and three hours of teaching time each week.
Judy Elsley, director of WSU’s honors program, is pleased that the revised fellowship combines research with teaching.
“Oftentimes, faculty members are too busy to continue their research projects or they don’t have the opportunity to showcase what they’ve done because the topics don’t fit in their regular lineup of classes,” she explained. “It’s good for faculty members because it encourages and supports their research, and it’s good for students because the professors are so passionate about their research topics.”
“We are very excited about Dan’s class because it goes beyond the classroom walls,” Elsley said. “Students will benefit tremendously from that.”
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Students in Dan Bedford's Honors course take in the view of the valley from Malan's Peak.