edOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
In response to President Obama’s call for institutions and philanthropists to help find solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, Tulane University announced Monday that it would offer a $1 million prize to the researcher or entrepreneur who devises the best plan to combat annual “dead zones” in lakes and oceans.
In a statement, the university said that it was soliciting innovative solutions to battle hypoxia, or oxygen-depleted water caused by an excessive amount of river-borne fertilizers and other nutrients being carried into larger bodies of water as part of the “Water Innovations: Reducing Hypoxia, Restoring our Water” Grand Challenge.
The grand prize would be funded by Patrick F. Taylor Foundation President Phyllis Taylor, Tulane University President Scott Cowen said. The competition begins with a 30-day period for the submission of comments about the prize, as well as letters of interest, to the university’s Grand Challenge website.
[ Watch the Video: Asking Public To Combat ‘Dead Zones’ ]
“We are so grateful to Phyllis Taylor for her generosity and vision that will ensure universities are well positioned to advance the state of the world by championing innovative processes such as Grand Challenges,” Cowen said. “We applaud Mrs. Taylor for inaugurating the Tulane Prize and targeting hypoxia, a threat to water regions everywhere.”
“Tulane has long been a leader in social innovation. This competition advances that mission while strengthening Tulane’s leadership in water law and policy and coastal research,” added Taylor. “The grand prize will be awarded for a testable, scaled and marketable operating model that significantly, efficiently and cost effectively reduces hypoxia. Marketing opportunities should bring benefits beyond the prize for winners and all competitors.”
According to the contest website, hypoxia-caused “dead zones” are a common and persistent threat to the world’s fragile coastlines and inland lake ecosystems. They can damage the well-being and productivity of environments home to a diverse group of living creatures, as well as essential natural resources.
Dead zones are often believed to be a problem isolated to the northern Gulf of Mexico, but the university explains that they are actually an issue of global proportion. Hypoxia occurs when the oxygen required to support life become depleted, which can impair near-shore fisheries as well as other businesses, families and communities that rely upon that industry. Nutrient enrichment can also jeopardize the long-term well-being of estuaries and coastal wetlands.
“In short, clean water is critical to the ecological, cultural and economic well-being of Louisiana, the nation and the world,” the university said. “Addressing hypoxia is a grand challenge because solutions must meet a suite of simultaneous and sometimes conflicting needs – from protecting water resources and near-shore ecosystems to ensuring the capacity and vitality of agricultural productivity.”