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The Voyage of the Ocean Trash with Jenni Brandon


NGSS Standards:


K-ESS3-3, 5-ESS2-1

Crosscutting Concept:

Cause and Effect

Systems and System Models

0120 - The Voyage of the Ocean Trash with Jenni Br
Download PDF • 55KB

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a vast, swirling soup of trash, twice the size of Texas. Can we ever clean it up? That’s what 8 year old Ila wants to know. She lives in Hawaii and likes to pick up trash whenever she goes to the beach. She lives closer to the garbage patch than most of us. We talk to Jenni Brandon, a researcher who has been to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - a place where few people will visit, but where we all have an impact. She tells us how surreal it is to sail through trash, why the garbage patch exists, and what scientists are doing about it.

Sea life growing on trash, with tire

Nets and floats from the garbage patch

The above photos were taken on Jenni's research trips to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. You can see the sea life growing on nets and tires.

Here’s a video that Lindsay helped make several years ago about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with Dr. Miriam Goldstein, a researcher who has worked with Jenni Brandon.

About Jenni Brandon

Growing up, Jenni was a lot like Ila, the girl who loves to clean up trash on the beach. She loved going to the beach to snorkel, and was the person in her family who would sort the recycling. Jenni told us she got interested in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch when she was reading People magazine in college. “Those pop science articles really do work!” she said. Although she was studying marine science, she had never heard about ocean pollution or plastic in the ocean before. “That became my focus and my obsession.” Jenni quickly began to find out all she could about the problem. She is now studying microplastics, and she’s been writing for six years about reducing plastic use on her blog, Green Graces.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The problem of trash in the ocean was uncovered by Captain Charles Moore in 1997. A racing boat captain and oceanographer, Moore was sailing through the North Pacific Gyre when he started to notice plastic in what he thought was pristine ocean. He founded the Algalita Foundation to draw attention to the problem of plastic trash and study it. Moore wrote a book called Plastic Oceans. You can get the short version in this 2009 TED talk.

Since Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, similar patches have been discovered in the North Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

Curious about the Ocean Cleanup, the project by Boyan Slat? He was only 19 when he gave this TED talk, and just finished building a prototype. He’s now 21.

How to Learn More

Find out more about the problem of ocean trash (fun science term: Marine Debris!) here. NOAA has plenty of educational materials!

Here are some foundations to check out:

How to Help

  • Help clean up your local beaches and waterways. Jenni recommends the Surfrider Foundation if you’re looking for an organization to join.

  • Contact one of the above organizations to get involved!

Design a solution! And email it to us at!

Great books on plastic: Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific

Garbage Patch (about Miriam and Scripps scientists, aimed at kids)

Moby Duck (aimed at adults, but I think older kids would

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