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Unlikely Partnership Draws Attention to Gulf's Dead Zone

Kalei, left, with baby Calypso, right, at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Indianapolis Zoo
/
Kalei, left, with baby Calypso, right, at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Kalei, left, with baby Calypso, right, at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Credit Indianapolis Zoo
/
Kalei, left, with baby Calypso, right, at the Indianapolis Zoo.

You wouldn’t think Indiana and Louisiana have much in common. But that hasn’t stopped the Indianapolis Zoo from developing a partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana. Their goal? To draw attention to the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone.

 

“So it’s a phenomenon that, to my understanding, didn’t even really exist before the 1970s, but is an environmental response to high nutrient loads,” says Seth Blitch, the Coastal Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana.

Those high nutrient loads induce dangerously low oxygen concentrations in the Gulf.

According to Judy Palermo, the senior manager for public relations at the Indianapolis Zoo, “It’s an area where you can’t live.”

The Nature Conservancy helped the Indianapolis Zoo film a video of wild dolphins swimming off the coast of Grand Isle for the zoo’s new dolphin exhibit. The video will help explain the connection between Indiana and the Gulf’s Dead Zone.

“One of the tenets of conservation ecology is that everything is connected in some way,” says Blitch. “That’s true everywhere and it’s particularly evident in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. The Basin itself drains about 41 percent of the United States.”

Palermo adds: “Ten to eleven percent of the nitrates and phosphates in the Gulf come from Indiana.”

Palermo hopes the new dolphin exhibit will help the zoo’s visitors better understand that connection between society and ecology.

“We always say we’re a conservation organization that just happens to have a zoo. The choices we make in Indiana don’t just affect us. They affect animals states away.”

Copyright 2015 WRKF

Nick Janzen began his journalism career right here at WRKF. Reporting primarily on science and the environment, he also covers sports and local news. Born and raised in New Orleans, Nick earned a bachelors in political science from the University of Alabama before moving to Baton Rouge to pursue a masters in coastal science from Louisiana State University. Nick is a proud sci-fi nerd and passionate soccer fan.