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News Release 09-192

NSF Releases Online Multimedia Package on Marine "Dead Zones"

Reader-friendly multimedia package covers the impacts, surprising causes and pioneering methods for studying Oregon's "dead zones"

Photo of a pile of beached crabs that suffocated in a dead zone.

Pile of beached crabs that suffocated in a dead zone. Dead zones may produce miles of such piles.

October 8, 2009

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The Earth currently has more than 400 so-called "dead zones"--expanses of oxygen-starved ocean covering hundreds, or even thousands, of square miles that become virtually devoid of animal life during the summer; the worldwide count of dead zones is doubling every decade.

Most dead zones, such as the Gulf of Mexico's notorious dead zone, are caused by pollution that is dumped into oceans by rivers. But every summer since 2002, the Pacific Northwest's coastal waters--one of the U.S.'s most important fisheries--has been invaded by massive dead zones that are believed to be caused by an entirely different and surprising phenomena: changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulation that may, in turn, be caused by climate change.

How could climate change cause dead zones? What do dead zones look like and what are their ecological impacts?  And how, on Earth, are scientists sleuthing out the causes of perplexing marine processes that cover such huge swaths of the sea?  Find out in the National Science Foundation's new online, multimedia package on dead zones.

Entitled Dead Zones: Mysteries of Ocean Die-Offs Revealed, the multimedia package is posted at It  features:

  • a webcast with Jack Barth, an expert on Oregon's dead zones from Oregon State University;
  • a dynamic, narrated slide show;
  • compelling videos;
  • eye-catching photos;
  • enlightening illustrations
  • informative, easy-to-understand texts; and
  • downloadable documents. 

Dead Zones: Mysteries of Ocean Die-Offs Revealed is ideal for reporters, general readers, fishermen, water-enthusiasts, teachers, students, researchers and conservation organizations.


Media Contacts
Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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