Heather Spence, Marine Biologist
Orchestrating Coastal Marine Ecology Investigation and Outreach

Heather Spence, Marine Biologist

World Listening Day

World Listening Day is July 18! Time to start planning and prepping!

The Unquiet Earth World Listening Day 2021

World Listening Day 2021: The Unquiet Earth


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Earth Day 2017

 1. the planet on which we live; the world.
Today, we celebrate all life with explicit recognition of the abundance and opportunities our planet provides. Let each of us take at least a few moments today to reflect on how fortunate we are and consider how we can strengthen our communities and ecosystems.
michelle gardner quinn quote
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Work-from-home marine biology and biodiversity project!

Seeking highly motivated research assistants for marine biology/sustainable ecology research. Assistants will review literature for a long term project which utilizes cutting-edge bioacoustic analysis and theory to describe the soundscape of a threatened coral reef. Position lasts two weeks (or through the semester depending on interest, qualification, and availability), and begins immediately following acceptance.

Compensation: Work from home, no expense necessary. No monetary compensation, but assistants receive first hand experience with problems in behavioral biology, bioacoustics, and conservation.

Qualifications: This is a good project on which to get your start in marine biology, animal behavior, or sustainable ecology. An undergraduate degree in biology, psychology, ecology, or a related field is preferred. Experience with academic search engines strongly preferred. Spanish fluency a plus.

Contact: Send brief cover letter expressing interest (one paragraph including any prior experience in the sciences or other motivation) and CV/Resume to Dr. Heather Spence – info (at) heatherspence.net

Remora - a fish that sticks itself to the whale shark with that round flat part of its head

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Whale Shark Citizen Science

Below is a picture I took today off Isla Mujeres, Mexico, of the dorsal fin of a whale shark that was damaged by a boat propeller. Unfortunately, whale sharks get hit and hurt (sometimes fatally) by people in boats. Indeed, people being reckless or simply unaware can cause damage. To protect whale sharks, people will have to be the solution. Researchers are asking everyone who sees a whale shark to help. Individual fish can be identified by scars or by the unique pattern of spots behind their gills.  You can find out how to help researchers track whale sharks by going to the ECOCEAN website.

What we don’t understand about whale sharks would fill the oceans. Learning more about whale sharks will help us to coexist with them.

whale shark damaged fin

whale shark damaged fin

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Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Festival and Conference

Tuesday, July 15 – Sunday, July 19, 2009

is the Whale Shark Festival, held in Isla Mujeres (an island in the Mexican Caribbean a short ferry ride from Cancun) where the world’s largest groups of whale sharks have been found. A variety of events will engage community participation, including scientific presentations, and research with “citizen science” components.

From the Whale Shark Festival website:

In addition to celebrating the beauty of Isla Mujeres, the Whale Shark Festival is a concerted effort to raise awareness of the need to preserve the area’s marine ecosystem.  It is part of the second largest barrier reef on the planet, and serves as the nursery of the Caribbean and the migratory path of whale sharks as well as sea turtles, water foul and game fishes.

Rhincodon typus

Rhincodon typus

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Save Cancun’s Green Belly Button

Pass the word!

*Please Forward*
Cancun city authorities are considering moving the Ayuntamiento (city
offices) from the present location to one of Cancun’s last remaining
green areas.  The proposed location is in SM34, just west of the
Cathedral, along Avenida Kabah (basically it’s just about across Kabah
from Home Depot).

Instead of renovating and restoring dilapidated buildings at or close
to the present site the thinking is to start all over and in the
process destroy one of the last vestiges of native plant and animal
life in Cancun.

Locating the offices in this new area would not only destroy needed
habitat for animals and plants it would bring more traffic to the area
and would cause huge parking headaches for residents who live nearby.
People who live nearby know that Avenida Kabah is already VERY
congested along there, more traffic in that area will cause serious
problems to the flow of traffic there.

Cancun has grown so quickly that authorities here have rarely stopped
and given thought to protecting green areas within the city.  It’s
time that they stop chopping trees without consideration for the
long-term negative impact it will have on plants, animals and people.

There will be a peaceful protest against this proposal tomorrow
(Sunday, June 21) at 5:30 pm at the proposed site in SM34, close to
Avenida Kabah and Avenida Itzal.

Participants are asked to wear a white t-shirt with a large green dot
painted in the center of it, to show solidarity.  The green dot
represents Cancun’s threatened green “belly button” (Cancun’s ombligo

*Please Forward*


Hola los invito a reunirnos este domingo a las 17:30 hrs en el ombligo
verde para demostrarle a las autoridades que el medio ambiente nos
importa y que definitivamente estamos en desacuerdo con la tala de
todos los arboles y las especies que ahi habitan para hacer oficinas
de gobierno…por favor acudan gracias


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This Saturday – Earth Hour 2009

Remember to turn your lights off this Saturday, from 8:30-9:30pm, your time, wherever you are in the world. This is a demonstration of our need to come up with solutions and ways to save energy, our natural resources, and the one and only planet that is our home. For more information about the hour and activities around the world, you can check out the earth hour website.

This is also an opportunity to enjoy the natural light of the earth, you might be surprised. Take the time to go outside and star and moon gaze. To participate in star counting research and other earth hour activities, and to learn more about light pollution, you can check out the website for the International Dark Sky Association.

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Balloons do NOT go to heaven

When you release a helium balloon into the sky, it does NOT go to heaven.  Every balloon eventually comes back down, often, in the ocean. Limp balloons in the water are a serious hazzard. Fish, dolphins, and turtles mistake them for food and attempt to eat them. Animals and plants get tangled in the ribbons. Many dead whales and other sea creatures have been found with balloons in their stomachs. Balloons cannot be digested, and block the passage of food, causing the animal to slowly starve to death. Releasing balloons causes suffering and death of animals, and has no place in celebratory events.

Tragically, some people use balloons as a symbol of rising to heaven. Oprah’s Big Give show recently gave accolades for a balloon release to send messages to the deceased father of two young girls. What an unfortunately memorable and publicized event – how will those innocent girls feel when later they realize the reality, and consequences of their actions? How many people will be ignorantly inspired to make their own similar events? Many alternatives might be used to show respect or send messages or celebrate. Balloon releases need to be stopped!

A few words from Oprah would probably do the trick, but you can help by helping people think about other ways to express their emotion. BALLOONS DO NOT GO TO HEAVEN.

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Dive In

Seaing is believing. Seeing, and hearing, for yourself the amazing life, colors, and dynamics of the ocean environment is invaluable. Divers invariably have a greater appreciation of the underwater world after experiencing it first hand. Not only do you get to see things you don’t normally see walking on the shore or even snorkeling, but you experience the alien deep water environment, with the changes in pressure, currents, and changes in light and sound. Different locations seem like different worlds – even the same location at a different time of day is completely different. Some organisms are active during the day, some at night, some at twilight or dawn.

So dive in and experience the ocean world for yourself. Just make sure to get the proper training, and always go fully informed, with the proper equipment, and a buddy you trust.

Diving at night reveals a different world

Heather Spence, Marine Biologist, night diving in Puerto Morelos. (Photo Credit: Hitamar Palma Munoz)

Diving at night reveals a different world.  Animals such as snapping shrimp are more active at night. Turn off the light and note the natural lights and sounds around you.

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Upcoming/Ongoing Events


There will be beach cleanups with local school kids this summer, check back for the exact dates!

You can also organize your own! If you are interested, let me know and we can help you organize it, provide scissors for cutting six pack rings, educational materials, structure for the cleanup i.e. separating the trash and using it to assess what kinds of trash are the biggest problems, etc


Presentations in the local schools, hotel zones. To participate, you can:

Donate copies (with logo of your choice)

Assist with logistics (transportation, projection equipment, etc) or giving the presentations

Provide comments and suggestions for the 2nd edition


A kids section every Sunday in the Novedades newspaper, called  Periodiquito, has a page written by the National Parks office, with a different eco-theme every week, and an activity.  Check out the great prizes for kids who bring their completed activity to the Park or Novedades office! Win tours on the SubSee, books, posters, stickers, and more!


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