Where can students go to track developments, such as shipping delays or sea creature journeys, that dominate news headlines?

Using tracking sites to bring current events to students

Where can students go to track developments, such as shipping delays or sea creature journeys, that dominate news headlines?

There is a lot of conversation about supply chains and logistics in the news these days. As a picture is often worth a thousand words, maps and tracking sites that allow students to visualize the traffic making up these supply chains can be helpful.

It is possible to track much of the shipping traffic through websites like Marine Traffic. The site is an interactive map showing the movement of many types of commercial ship traffic throughout the world. It is possible to see the general build-up around southern California ports and the normally heavy traffic around the Panama Canal. VesselFinder is a similar tool but seems to include at least some river traffic as well. It allows one to track a specific cruise ship, for instance.

Marine Vessel Traffic allows for tracking through the Great Lakes and appears to allow one to track naval ships. AdsbExchange provides similar information for air traffic. It allows one to filter by type of aircraft–Boeing 777s, for instance–by airline, or only to show military aircraft. FlightAware is a similar interactive map showing flights. It allows filtering by destination or departure location as well as by airline or aircraft type. FlightRadar24 is a third option that provides some additional features with a paid subscription.

Besides ships and planes, there are many ways to see live traffic patterns via the web. For instance, Local Conditions.com can provide traffic maps for a variety of metropolitan areas in all 50 states. The site also provides weather conditions and radar maps. Another common news item these days seems to be about forest fires. Tracking wildfires can be managed from the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) from NASA.

Besides human traffic, the web allows one to track a lot of other life on our planet. Ocearch shark tracker tracks a number of sharks and other aquatic creatures, including seals, dolphins, and alligators. It allows viewers to track some turtles, including a green sea turtle named Andrea who seems to live near Sanibel Island, Florida. GTOPP provides a tracking website of pelagic predators including sharks, turtles, tuna, and seals. Pacificwhale.org provides an app to track whales and dolphins. A limited view map on their website provides some sighting data as well. Whalemap provides mostly data of right whale sightings in Canadian and Atlantic waters. Icarus’s Global Monitoring with Animals has an Animal Tracker App for smart devices that allows real time tracking in both English and German.

The web allows for tracking of ships, planes, whales, and other large creatures. However, the web also has the WheresGeorge website that allows one to track dollar bills by serial number. One tracked bill moved 13,905 miles in just under eight years. Of course, one important tracker not mentioned earlier tracks one jolly old elf and eight or nine reindeer by NORAD each December.

Thanks to Erin Carter, a Winona State University doctoral student and biology instructor at Century Community College, for her inspiration for a portion of this article.

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Steven M. Baule, Ed.D., Ph.D.
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