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Rising to the Challenge

Friday, December 15, 2017

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December 15, 2017

Dear Tulane Community:

It felt like a million bucks. Yesterday, I joined Tulane University alumna, board member and Only the Audacious chair Phyllis Taylor in awarding Adapt-N, a team from Cornell University, the $1 million Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge Grand Prize.

With funding from the Phyllis Taylor, Tulane presented this challenge to the world in 2014. The goal was to find the most innovative and effective solution to end the annual “dead zones” that occur in waters throughout the world, including the Gulf of Mexico.

Dead zones, which are an unintended consequence of modern living, are typical of the dramatic global and local problems that Tulane is addressing. The same nitrogen-rich fertilizers that help farmers feed the world are carried by storm runoff to major bodies of water where they spur out-of-control algae growth. This explosive growth eventually depletes oxygen from the water and creates vast areas where fish and other marine life perish. This is bad for the environment, the waters of the world and the fishing communities they support.

Enter Phyllis Taylor and Tulane’s audacious goal of improving the human condition through multi-discipline research, collaboration and innovation. Suddenly, a seemingly intractable problem is being addressed – and not only through the efforts of Adapt-N. Three other finalists also emerged from the challenge with marketable solutions to dead zones.

It will fill all of us with excitement, pride and hope as we see these solutions flourish and areas once designated as annual dead zones begin to teem with life year-round. For this and all of her support, please join me in extending our heartfelt gratitude to Phyllis Taylor and in congratulating Adapt-N and the other finalists, Cropsmith of Farmer City, Illinois; Pivot Bio of Berkeley, California and Stable'N of Carmi, Illinois, for rising to the challenge.

Signature of Mike Fitts