The Dead Zone: Activities

The Dead Zone

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Dead Zone Mapping Activity: Graphing Hypoxia
Graphing Dissolved Oxygen from 1993 Cruise Data in the Gulf of Mexico

The purpose of the following series of activities is to help students visualize the dead zone and to provide them with dissolved oxygen (DO) data to analyze and interpret. Students will plot and analyze DO from the July 23-28, 1993, scientific cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. The activities are designed to engage the students individually, within a group and as a class to plot, observe, analyze and interpret several different spatial slices of the dead zone. In addition, these graphing activities can also be used to graph other variables such as salinity, density and temperature. The five graphing and mapping activities are described in order from simplest to most complex.


  • Activity #1 – Profile mapping of dissolved oxygen (DO) by depth for each station – Individual student
  • Activity #2 – Cross section map of the hypoxic zone by transect – Student groups
  • Activity #3 – Constructing a master location map using transects and stations – Student groups
  • Activity #4 – Mapping the area of the dead zone – Student groups or whole class
  • Activity #5 – Building a 3-dimensional model of the dead zone – Student groups or whole class

Materials to Complete all Activities:

  • Louisiana offshore map*
  • Station data sheets*
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencils, paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Colored markers
  • Graph paper
  • Calculator
  • Colored paper
  • Long sheets of paper
  • Tape
  • String or colored thread
  • Wooden shish kabob sticks (10″) or straws
  • Blue, black and red permanent marker
  • Hard foam, styrofoam sheets or copier paper box
  • Clay, play dough, other modeling material
  • Garden clippers (optional)
  • Crepe paper
  • Wood or metal poles or stakes

* The enlarged map of the Louisiana’s offshore area with latitude, longitude, transects and station labeled will be prepared in Activity #2.

The Data:
The data provided for these activities were downloaded from the U.S. Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Nutrient Enhanced Coastal Ocean Productivity Program (NECOP) website, The website has several data sets which consist of physical, chemical and biological parameters from cruises in the Gulf of Mexico. A condensed version of the July 23-28, 1993, data is provided with these materials (see file names below). The data set has been reduced and formatted in Microsoft Excel to be student and teacher friendly for these activities. The activities are set up as pencil and paper exercises. However, some of the graphing activities can be conducted using Excel graphing options. Data sets from additional years on the NECOP website can also be downloaded and used for class activities on the dead zone.