Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion


Burns, Loree Griffin. Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. 2007. 58pp. Lexile 1200

No one expects a scientist's research project to come about because a mother sends a newspaper clipping to her son.  Yet that’s what happened to oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer in 1990.  The newspaper article described hundreds of Nike sneakers washing up on Pacific shores.  Two years later, thousands of rubber duckies did the same.  The items had spilled out of shipping containers that went overboard from ships during bad weather.  Ebbesmeyer realized that the spilled items offered a unique way to study ocean currents.  He enlisted volunteers to collect the items along the U.S. and Canadian Pacific shore, recording the place and date.  Ebbesmeyer’s study expanded beyond ocean currents to issues of trash clogging the Pacific.  This excellent entry in the Scientists in the Field series shows readers the work of an ocean scientist while also imparting information about ocean currents and environmental problems. Color photographs, maps, and useful diagrams supplement the text, which is followed by a glossary, notes, and lists of further reading and websites.  Booktalk this with sneakers and rubber duckies to draw in readers.

Reading Std #1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and implicitly, citing specific textual evidence to support conclusions drawn from it.  Burns contends that the problem of trash in the oceans is larger than generally recognized, which she presents through the work of a scientist.  Have students summarize content and cite explicit and implied evidence for that thread in the book.  This would be an excellent jumping-off point for more research, including an update on the topic since the book was published in 2007.