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

Heather Spence, Marine Biologist

Ocean World of Sound – 30 Day Challenge

Check out our new YouTube Channel “World of Sound” and in particular, our 30 day challenge. For about 2 minutes per day, build your active listening skills and explore a variety of underwater soundscapes. It’s a great way to connect with the ocean, pause and collect yourself, and gain listening tools. Let us know what you think!

world of sound playlist



World of Sound 30 Day Challenge youtube playlist






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World Listening Day Workshop 2021

Join us on world listening day July 18 2021 for an ocean soundscape experience. We will begin with a “tune in” exercise to tune our ears, and then explore underwater sounds, including never before heard recordings from the MesoAmerican Reef System. We will have open discussion on discoveries and methods and look forward to your input and insights.


The Unquiet Earth World Listening Day 2021



Who: You! Anyone interested in the ocean, sounds, and learning to ‘tune in’ more effectively. All experience levels welcome.

What: World Of Sound Workshop. Come explore the ocean soundscape with us.

When:  Sunday July 18, 4-5pm Eastern

Where: Online! We will be using Google Meet: https://meet.google.com/kmi-raih-kjd

Why: The ocean has unheard songs and untold stories. Let’s explore together.

How: With appreciated support from the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative!

(This workshop is in memory of beloved colleague Mark Ballora, sonification expert and friend, who left us too early on this day two years ago.)

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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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Virtual Concert

heather spence summer virtual concert series


Tune in May 28 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern for a virtual concert/talk on my soundscape compositions including live Q and A

Craft In America – Summer Virtual Concert Series: Heather Spence

Heather Spence is a marine biologist and musician who explores ocean soundscapes by recording, analyzing, and composing music from underwater sounds. She will be premiering new music compositions that explore the nightlife of coral reefs and incorporate underwater recordings and sonified data collected for her scientific research. Can listening to nocturnal mystery fish and crackling shrimp reveal any insights for ocean conservation? She will also be speaking and answering questions about her work.



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Laz Tiyas and Flory Jagoda

This Friday we lost our Nona Flory – composer, musician, singer, mentor, performer, reviver of the Ladino language… We are grateful for the time we had together and honored to help carry on her amazing musical legacy. Flory Jagoda taught Laz Tiyas her songs by ear, to carry on the tradition of songs passing down from women to women.

Laz Tiyas performing in 2011

Laz Tiyas performing at County Fair in 2011


LAZ TIYAS. A group of women came to Flory in 2008 and asked her to teach them her songs. Since then they have been singing together every week. The name “Laz Tiyas” honors her aunts in her song of the same name.

Laz Tiyas include:

Tiya Mazalta – Janet Dunkelberger – Arlington VA
Tiya Grasya – Maya Giacobbe – Arlington VA
Tiya Luna – Heather Spence – Arlington VA
Tiya Paloma – Martha Halperin – Arlington VA
Tiya Estreya – Cory Giacobbe – Pristina, Kosovo
Tiya Miriam – Judith Wouk – Ottawa, Canada
Tiya Regina – Regina Barker-Barzell, Arlington VA
Tiya Elena – Elena Yepes – Medellín, Colombia

Laz Tiyas street performance 2009

Laz Tiyas street performing in 2009

Laz Tiyas performing in 2019

Laz Tiyas singing on Capitol Hill 2019

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Underwater Sound Recordings: Music of Marine Biology

Music from Other Worlds

LASER talk

Nov 12 2020
Music from Other Worlds

RSVP for this event

November 12 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm Pacific
Location: Zoom

Heather Spence (Marine Biologists and Composer) on “Underwater Sound Research:

Music of Marine Biology”

Cheryl Leonard (Composer and Instrument Builder) on “Phantom Limbs: Composing Music Amidst the Sixth Extinction”

The LASERs are an international program of evening gatherings that bring together artists, scientists, thinkers, inventors, and scholars who are working on paradigm shifts for informal presentations and conversation with the audience. Chaired by Piero Scaruffi. Visit www.lasertalks.com for more details.

Heather Spence is a marine biologist and sound artist who combines science and art to harmonize human-environment interactions. She has taught courses on animal behavior, behavioral neuroendocrinology, sensation and perception, personality, etc. Her Passive Acoustic Monitoring research program on the MesoAmerican Reef is featured in National Geographic’s television program “When Sharks Attack”, and is explored in her composition for viola da gamba trio, Vale la Pena?. She composes music inspired by, and inspiring, conservation and performs internationally as a cellist and gambist. She currently advises on science and acoustics at the US Department of Energy and is co-leader of the transdisciplinary Ocean Memory Project/

Cheryl E. Leonard is a composer, performer, and instrument builder whose works investigate sounds, structures, and objects from the natural world. Her projects cultivate stones, wood, water, ice, sand, shells, feathers, and bones as musical instruments, and feature one-of-a-kind sculptural instruments and field recordings from remote locales. She uses microphones to explore aural worlds within her sound sources, and develops compositions that highlight the unique voices she discovers. Her recent projects focus on climate change and extinction of species.

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Marine Biologist response to book The Girl Who Danced With Dolphins

Thanks for joining my Facebook Live event with Cory Giacobbe! If you have any further questions about the book, ocean science, dolphins, or anything else, let me know!



Here’s a photo of me recording dolphin sounds at an aquarium in Mexico.

2015 el balcon delfines



And another pic of me (top) and my friend and colleague Brando Gonzalez (bottom) doing underwater sound research in the ocean

I'm equalizing my ears, while carrying an EAR... with Brando Gonzalez Photo credit: Ray Santisteban

I’m equalizing my ears, while carrying an EAR…
with Brando Gonzalez
Photo credit: Ray Santisteban




And here’s a photo of a whale shark I took – it is feeding! check out that mouth! and the polka dots!

Whale Shark feeding (Photo: Heather Spence)








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Mark Ballora

Mark Ballora, a dear friend and collaborator, was a pioneer in acoustics and “sonification” of data. A memorial service is being held this weekend at Penn State, where he was a professor of music technology.

Naturally I collected my thoughts about carrying forward his energy and vision in musical form. This short composition (<2.5 min) incorporates a musical cipher of his name, coral reef sounds, and audio recordings he made of me pitched at his vocal frequency, as a symbol of my dedication to seeing his voice, missions, and work are carried forward.

Mark Ballora Echoes to Future.wav


Mark and I met at a National Academies Keck Futures Initiative conference and are in the middle of a NAKFI grant on sonifying ocean data: “Layers of Meaning: How the Ocean’s Natural Acoustics and the Music of its Datasets Can Reveal Hidden Connections”



Photos: (c) Kevin Allen Photo

National Academies DASER program on sound and the deep blue sea

Left to right, Mark Ballora, Aaron Rice, Heather Spence

(c) Kevin Allen Photo

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Visiting Artist lecture in Canada

Heather Spence Daniel Kohn Canada














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Ocean Memory Project

The Ocean Memory Project won the NAKFI Challenge!

 Ocean Memory



Sept. 4, 2018


National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Announces Winners of the NAKFI Challenge

WASHINGTON — The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) is pleased to announce the recipients of three $500,000 NAKFI Challenge awards. A 15-year, $40 million dollar program funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation, NAKFI was initiated in 2003 to break down barriers between fields and to promote interdisciplinary research. The NAKFI Challenge awards support activities that will carry forward NAKFI’s work beyond its 15 years as an activity of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Open only to NAKFI alumni who participated in the program’s annual interdisciplinary conferences, the call for proposals generated 78 applications. Applications underwent a round of peer-to-peer community judging by fellow applicants. The 30 highest scoring proposals were then judged by an expert panel consisting of members of NAKFI conference organizing committees. The three winners were chosen by the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine.

The recipients, with NAKFI alumni in bold, and their project titles are:

Jody Deming, University of Washington
* Fiscal agent for grant, Djerassi Residents Artists Program
Daniel Kohn, Kohnworkshop
Heather R. Spence, Marine & Bioacoustics Programs, Michelle’s Earth Foundation (GRACIASS)
Jonathan Berger, Stanford University
Timothy J. Broderick, Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
Margot H. Knight, Djerassi Residents Artists Program
Timothy W. Weaver, University of Denver
Ocean Memory: A New Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Global-Scale Challenges
Memory involves the recall of events, pruned and processed from countless recordings by neural networks and thereby shaping future behavior. The ocean and its inhabitants hold memories of events throughout the evolution of the planet, awaiting our cognition. This proposal established a thriving community exploring and expressing Ocean Memory, a new line of highly evocative scientific inquiry , aiming for a sea change in our ability to address challenges of the Anthropocene. The approach builds upon NAKFI best practices, spanning disciplines required to address agents of memory and adding novel elements of distributed interactive spaces and grants for cross-disciplinary mentoring.

For more info check out:
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