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

Heather Spence, Marine Biologist


GRACIASS = Global Research and Arts Center for the Investigation and Advancement of Sustainability Solutions

The GRACIASS initiative brings together people from all over the world to explore solutions for maintaining the viability of coastal ecosystems, and develop sustainable residential and tourism strategies for the future.

Headquarters: Cancun, Mexico

Why Cancun?

Cancun = unique, natural, connected location

Uniquely situated at top of Mesomerican Reef, second largest coral reef in the world!

Unique nursery and breeding grounds for fish and other animals

Unique natural land and water features

Uniquely planned coastal tourism development

Uniquely internationally accessible

Uniquely internationally recognized


Cancun has unlimited value in the natural HOWEVER, Cancun has limited value in the man-made:

Cancun cannot compete with other locations in standard tourism amenities

because they will continually require more investment to change the natural to artificial

Cancun will never have the best ____ (high rise, golf course, amusement park, etc)

because the unique natural conditions limit Cancun’s ability to support these amenities

e.g. small and shifting land/dunes, fragile coral reefs, wetlands


What to do?

Promote Cancun as a natural wonder and model of sustainability for the world

Refocus from change to reliability, Add nostalgia to adventure

Quality not quantity

Advertise natural features

Organic food production



Scientific Research combined with Arts, with ongoing Outreach

Research on the dynamics of coastal (reef) ecosystems including humans and tourism

Support collaborations and strengthening of current monitoring/research efforts

Develop passive acoustic monitoring for species and ecosystems

Citizen Science – community participation and awareness and increase data collection

Arts as cultural participation and exploration of successful coexistence humans/nature

Venue for expression, discussion, interaction

Interdisciplinary research in arts and sciences

Inspiration, motivation, participation, discovery, celebration


GRACIASS fills gaps in information and outreach needed for successful planning and tourism publicity

GRACIASS provides support, space, positive reinforcement for research and arts for sustainability

GRACIASS establishes Cancun as THE place for sustainable tourism

GRACIASS attracts researchers, artists, other conscientious people to visit Cancun

GRACIASS collaborates and emphasizes actions made by region’s non-profits, businesses, universities

GRACIASS incorporates new findings into ongoing outreach efforts, including to management, schools

GRACIASS leads world meetings and dialogue



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