Activities  Home  K-4  5-8  9-12   Geo Quiz   Vocabulary Quiz   NewsVideo   Cartoons   Talking Points  Science Webcast 

Additional Resources for Your Classroom

Find over 300 resources that include teacher guides, student supplements, teacher training modules and so much more.

Click here to access instructional material

Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.


Scientists urge changes to ease impact of what flows down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico

Look for an article or photo about another body of water, or about marine life. What is reported or shown?
Find more nature or environmental news and share two facts.
Now look for coverage of university or government research. What's involved?

The environmental impact of human activity is measured in bodies of water, not just in the atmosphere and climate. New research shows the largest offshore "dead zone" ever recorded in the United States. It affects the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River, where a low-oxygen zone covers nearly 8,800 square miles — about the size of New Jersey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says. The below-normal oxygen levels underwater can't adequately support fish, crabs, shrimp and other marine life.

The situation is linked to farming along the Mississippi River. Unusually heavy rains over the Midwest last spring flushed fertilizer and animal waste from farms down into the Gulf via the massive waterway, which drains part or all of 31 states. When that nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reaches the sea, it feeds algae blooms and bacteria that suck the oxygen out of the water -- bad news for commercial fishing fleets in Louisiana that produce more than 40 percent of American seafood.

"This is the largest one we've ever measured. And the northern Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the second largest human-caused dead zone in the ocean," says Nancy Rabalais of Louisiana State University, who began measuring Gulf oxygen levels in 1985. Underwater video shows the transition from life to death as green fades to black. It becomes so dark, divers need flashlights to find their way. "When you're a scuba diver, you're used to having fish swimming all around you. From 30 to 60 feet, we won't see any fish – nothing," Rabalais says of the research video. The abyss stretches over an enormous portion of the Gulf.

A federal Environmental Protection Agency task force will try to shrink the size of the dead zone. "The solution lies upstream in the watershed with better agricultural management practices -- a switch to crops that have deeper roots and don't need as much fertilizer and are still just as profitable as corn," Rabalais suggests. Agricultural experts also suggest crop rotation, selective applications of fertilizer, wastewater treatment and storm water controls to keep rain runoff out of the river.

Scientist says: "We predicted it would be large, and it is large." -- Nancy Rabalais, marine ecologist at Louisiana State University

Fisherman says: "A lot of the fish, they not as healthy as they used to be. The shrimping is depleting pretty much every year. The season gets later and you catch smaller shrimp." – Reggie Walker, lifelong commercial fisherman on Mississippi’s coast

Marine life expert says:"We are now seeing more animals [such as sea turtles and dolphins] gasping for air and dying. These animals are top of the food chain and are a good indicator of the environment. And I can tell you that there is something that is not looking very good." -- Moby Solangi, head of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss.

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2017
We welcome comments or suggestions for future topics: Click here to Comment

Front Page Talking Points Archive

Tech and electronic gifts: See what's new and imaginative for this month’s holidays

Sport or shame? President considers whether U.S. hunters can bring home elephant trophies from Africa

Drinking deaths and other concerns bring restrictions on college fraternities at four campuses

A starting whistle blows this week for holiday shopping online and in stores

Get used to cars without drivers because they're starting to roll out of labs and onto streets

Congress pushes social media firms to block foreign election mischief on their influential sites

‘Reckless, outrageous and undignified:’ 3 Republican senators and an ex-president speak out about Donald Trump

New evidence of huge stars colliding long ago excites astronomers

‘What Happened:’ Hillary Clinton revisits Campaign ’16 in her book and national tour

‘Democracy on the line:’ Supreme Court considers what’s legal when politicians redraw election district maps

Complete archive