Tulane University has announced an ambitious challenge that comes with great rewards. The university is now offering $1 million in rewards for anyone who can provide a solution that will help reduce the size of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.
The dead zone that occurs in the Gulf of Mexico is a recurring problem that happens every year. The dead zone is caused by the onset of hypoxia in certain parts of the gulf. Hypoxia is a condition that occurs when oxygen levels in water drops to a point where marine life cannot thrive or survive in certain areas of the ocean. Scientists believe that the hypoxia is caused by excessive nutrient run-off due to human activities such as sewage processing and farming. The Tulane University challenge is open for both individuals and teams.
"I am extremely pleased to announce the launch of the first of what I hope will be several Tulane Grand Challenge Prizes," says Phyllis Taylor of Taylor Energy, the main sponsor of the challenge. "In partnership with Tulane University, I have sponsored a $1 million prize to be awarded to the team or individual that achieves our goal of creating a significant and workable solution to hypoxia."
Private organizations as well as Federal and State authorities have been trying to tackle the problem for years. However, the problem is getting worse. In 2013, the size of the dead zone exceeded that of the total land area of Puerto Rico. Due to nutrient run-off from the Mississippi River, dealing with the problem is becoming increasingly difficult. Tulane University is hoping that the prize money can help motivate the right kind of people who may hold the answers to the problem.
"Prizes have led to breakthroughs ranging from Lindbergh's transatlantic flight to new approaches to cleaning up oil spills," said Cristin Dorgelo, assistant director for Grand Challenges in the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Aside from the ecological ramifications of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, there are also economic factors in play. As the marine life within the dead zone is decimated every year, thousands of people who depend on the gulf for their livelihoods lose millions of dollars in revenues. While many people are optimistic about the Tulane University challenge, others are more skeptical. Millions of dollars in funding have already been spent in trying to find a solution to the dead zone. While the prize money may be just another drop in the bucket, it may just be the last drop needed to find the right solution to the problem on hand.