Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2023

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies


Environmental and Ocean Sciences


Dr. Bethany O'Shea


The Salton Sea is a closed hypersaline lake in Southern California that has been receiving little input over the past few decades, leading to desiccation that is rapidly increasing every year. This large-scale evaporation of the sea has led to increased dissolved solutes, high salinity, and gypsum blooms. Gypsum blooms, the precipitation of gypsum (CaSO42H2O) in the sea, have been a prominent facet of the sea and their distribution is well known. However, much of their chemistry and potential health hazards are still undetermined. Potential health effects from gypsum salt, an atmospheric dust particle present at the sea, have known reports of respiratory illness as well as eye and nose irritation. It is also possible that airborne gypsum may incorporate metals into its structure which could lead to more unforeseen health consequences for the population surrounding the sea. A key to understanding this phenomena could be in the major ion (Na+,Cl-, Ca2+, K+, Mg2+, SO42-, HCO3-) composition of the sea, but that has not been quantified for over twenty years since 2002. The current project attempts to understand the sea’s gypsum chemistry using a current record of major ions collected in Fall and Winter of 2022 and Spring of 2023 as well as comparing it to the last major ion survey two decades prior. This study helps give important context into the changes of Salton Sea chemistry in the past two decades and help unravel the mystery of potential health hazards of gypsum blooms.