Questions for ‘Scientist tackles water pollution with epic swims’

What's hidden in the river? During his epic swim of the Tennessee River, a German scientist sampled — and then studied — the pollutants he encountered.

Courtesy of Andreas Fath

To accompany feature ‘Scientist tackles water pollution with epic swims’


Before Reading:

1. What’s the farthest distance you’ve ever swum?

2. Can you name a river, lake or other body of water near you? Can you think any action that you or your community might have taken that could play a role in polluting this water?


During Reading: 

1. How long is the Tennessee River? How long did it take Andreas Fath to swim its entire length?

2. What are two major kinds of pollution in bodies of water?

3. List five types of measurements that Fath and his team took while he swam the Rhine River, in Europe.

4. What are two tools researchers used to analyze water samples from the Rhine? How many types of chemicals did they look for?

5. How can the medicines you take end up polluting local streams or rivers?

6. Name at least seven animals that live in the Tennessee River.

7. How often did Fath have to eat during his swim? How many calories did he eat per day?

8. How did a sensor on Fath’s ankle work during his Tennessee River swim?

9. What are microplastics?

10. How do plastics and chemicals move up a river’s food chain?

After Reading: 

1. How does water pollution affect both animals and the people who live nearby?

2. What can you do to keep the water around you cleaner?


1. Using information from the story, what was the average distance that
Fath swam per day when he swam the Rhine? How far did he average per day in his swim along the length of the Tennessee River? Show your work.

2. There are 4 calories in each gram of carbohydrate (sugars or starches) or protein eaten. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories. Assume that Fath got 30 percent of his calories each day from fat, 35 percent from carbs and 35 percent from protein. Then how many calories from each type of nutrient did he consume each day? Show your work.

3. Check out a website that offers the nutrient values of commonly eaten foods (such as Put together three meals for Fath to eat on one day that includes commonly eaten foods. It should deliver his target calorie load per day and in the proportions described in question 2 above. How much would it weigh (in grams or ounces/pounds)? Show your work.