Many summers a so called "Dead Zone" appears in the Gulf of Mexico, an area with oxygen levels in the water so low marine life can't survive. It can be a huge problem for Louisiana.
"The overall impact of the Dead Zone is that we don't have marine life in the Dead Zone, and it can have a very negative effect on the fisheries, not only the sport fisheries, but also for food," said state Agriculture Comkmissioner Mike Strain, adding, "Well, what's causing it is runoff coming down the Misissippi River."
That runoff from Midwest farms carries large amounts of fertilizer down the Mississippi River to produce the low oxygen areas in the Gulf, so Tulane University is starting the Grand Challenge contest.
"We're challenging scientists and entrepreneurs all over the world to come up with a solution to resolve the problem of hypoxia, that is to eliminate dead zones in waterways all over the world," said Tulane President Scott Cowen.
Philanthropist Phyllis Taylor is putting up the prize money.
"A million dollar grand prize to be awarded to the team or the individual who achieves our goal," Taylor said.
"They actually have to build a real innovation, invention, prototype, put it in place somewhere, and demonstrate over time that they've reduced the amounts of nutrients that are flowing into the river," said Tulane Assistant Provost and Grand Challenge coordinator Rick Aubry.
The contest won White House interest. "It has been part of president Obama's strategy for American innovation for a while," said Cristin Dorgelo from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
They expect it will take about two to three years to determine who does win one million dollars.
"We're being flooded with interest and emails from throughout the country," said Aubry. Contest detsails can be found on the Tulane website at http://tulane.edu/tulaneprize.