Land & Environment

USU's Wayne Wurtsbaugh Named Fellow in Global Aquatic Sciences Group

USU professor Wayne Wurtsbaugh has been named a Fellow of the international Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

Utah State University limnologist Wayne Wurtsbaugh is among a select group of scientists elected to the inaugural class of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Fellows.

“We are extremely pleased to announce these Fellows, who have advanced the aquatic sciences via their exceptional contributions,” said Jim Elser, president of ASLO, which is comprised of more than 4,300 members from 58 countries.

Quinney College of Natural Resources dean Chris Luecke describes Wurtsbaugh, professor in the Department of Watershed Sciences and the USU Ecology Center, as “one of our country’s pre-eminent limnologists, making substantial contributions to our understanding of nutrient dynamics in lakes, the function of salt lakes and the complex interplay of physics, chemistry and biology in aquatic ecosystems.”

“Utah State University is proud to have a scientist of Wayne’s stature among our faculty,” Luecke says.

Wurtsbaugh says one of the challenges in his field is simply explaining what a “limnologist” is. Some years ago, he created “Have You Hugged a Limnologist Today?” bumper stickers to raise awareness.

“Essentially, we do the same thing oceanographers do, except we study inland waters,” he says. “Limnology is the study of the biological, chemical and physical features of lakes, rivers, wetlands and other inland waters.”

Wurtsbaugh, who joined ASLO as a graduate student in 1977, has served on the association’s board and several committees and, with a colleague, created the organization’s Image Library, which provides the public free, online access to more than 2,300 aquatic sciences images for educational purposes.

Wurtsbaugh’s current research focuses on the world’s saltwater lakes, including Utah’s Great Salt Lake.

“As with lakes around the world, both saltwater and freshwater, the Great Salt Lake faces challenges from carbon influxes, climate change, pollution and excess nutrients from agricultural practices and wastewater,” he says.

Wurtsbaugh’s studies of salt lakes have taken him around the world, including research on Argentina’s Mar Chiquita as a 2010 Fulbright Senior Fellow. With colleagues in Iran, he’s studying that country’s Urmia Lake, an imperiled inland sea that bears a striking resemblance to Great Salt Lake.

“Urmia Lake is drying up,” Wurtsbaugh says. “Without intervention, the Great Salt Lake could suffer a similar fate.”

Among his faculty responsibilities, Wurtsbaugh teaches classes in limnology and aquatic ecology. The latter is a favorite as it affords his students a hands-on opportunity to study an ecosystem in peril. A recent class prepared an exhaustive report of Utah’s Farmington Bay, which the students supplied to the Utah Division of Water Quality, the Central Davis Sewer Improvement District and other public agencies tasked with management of the Great Salt Lake bay.

“This class and other research projects with students are very rewarding,” Wurtsbaugh says. “It’s exciting to watch students get their first taste of research and embark on continued studies of their own. It’s a lot of fun.”

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Contact: Wayne Wurtsbaugh, 435-797-2584,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

With a student volunteer, Wayne Wurtsbaugh, right, prepares brine shrimp kits to give to youngsters at USU's Science Unwrapped program in January, 2015. The USU limnologist was featured speaker at the event, which focused on Utah’s Great Salt Lake.

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