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Water: Middle School

Exercise III. File Your Own Pfiesteria Kill Column!!

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Here is one journalist's view of Pfiesteria. Would you agree? "One Weird Microbe!"
"If Pfiesteria piscicida went to a psychiatrist, it might be diagnosed with an acute multiple personality disorder. The one-celled organism sometimes behaves like a plant, sometimes like an animal. It has 24 different stages. In its smaller cyst forms, it can lie dormant for years. When fish are around, it changes into forms that emit a poison and suck off fish flesh. Other times it grows into a large non-toxic amoeba."
- Charleston Post and Courier reporter Tony Bartelme

A journalist has to capture the reader's attention, and she or he usually does it by focusing on the graphic details of an event, bringing the story alive.

Write a story for the school newspaper on a fictional Pfiesteria fish kill. The editor wants you to spin the story as if it was a report on a murder. Points to be emphasized the editor says, are the following:

  • The anatomy of a kill - how does Pfiesteria do it?
  • How does it attack?
  • What mechanism does it use?
  • How many Pfiesteria are present?
  • What happens to the fish?
  • How long does the whole kill take?
  • What is the concentration of the Pfiesteria?

Even though the story is fictional, try to make the circumstances believable. Make sure that the story has an identifiable location, and an appropriate date of occurrence, and get the scientific facts straight.


Web site 2: "Life Cycles of Pfiesteria pescicida" Exit EPA Disclaimer
Web site 7: "Alien in Our Midst? Phantom Algae Suspected in Bay" Exit EPA Disclaimer

(Location and time might be a coastal estuary on the east coast of the United States in the summertime.)

Middle Schools  |  Hysteria Over Pfiesteria  |  Exercises: I  |  II  |  III  |  IV  |  Top

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