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

Heather Spence, Marine Biologist

20th Anniversary of Marine Protected Areas in Cancun, Mexico

Dra. Heather SpenceAn excellent time for the intersection of science and art!

This week I am in Cancun celebrating World Listening Day 2016 and the 20th Anniversary of “Parque Nacional Costa Occidental de Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancun y Punta Nizuc.” On Wedneday, July 20th, I presented at the official ceremony of the National Park held at the Ka’yok Planetarium in Cancun. My talk entitled “Sounds of the Reef” covered my work documenting the local soundscape and steps to mitigate noise pollution. To close the event, I gave a recital in which I performed the world premier of “Sonidos del Arrecife,” a work for solo cello and a soundtrack using underwater recordings.

Dra Heather Spence

 

Followed by some collaboration with the talented Daniel Gallo: ocean-themed cello – ukelele duos with excellent audience participation!

Heather Spence Daniel Gallo

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Finding Dory – Not A Fish You Want At Home

Dory is a Pacific Regal Blue Tang – one of several blue tang fishes, none of which you want to bring home with you.

Her scientific name is Paracanthurus hepatus. Scientific names help us to be clear about which species we are talking about, since fish have different common names in different regions and languages.

Canadian Radio Interview with Dr. Heather Spence about Finding Dory and marine conservation

 

1280px-Blue_tang_(Paracanthurus_hepatus)_02

“Dory” fish facts:

– can grow to about a foot long – a challenge for home aquariums

– live in saltwater exclusively

– eat a lot of algae which is important for coral reef health, since the fish help keep the coral from getting smothered by the algae

– have small but dangerous tail spines

– do not thrive in captivity
Some fish are bred in captivity, like “Nemo” fish or clownfish, but blue tangs are not bred in captivity.

Any “Dory” fish you see in stores are caught in the wild

The methods used to capture the fish in the wild are very destructive and include pouring poison into the ocean. These fish are important for coral reef health so removing them is a problem.

It is wasteful to take them from the ocean because they do not survive long in captivity.
Do not buy these fish! You will be encouraging the stores to capture more.

If you hear of someone who is thinking about buying a “Dory” please encourage them NOT to invest money into a short-lived and destructive practice, and instead support marine conservation efforts.

 

 

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Manatee Appreciation Day

ManateeHappy Manatee Appreciation Day!

Manatees are marine mammals in the Order Sirenia – named after Greek mythological Sirens. These herbivorous, aquatic ‘sea cows’ spend much of their time eating and sleeping. Slow moving, curious, and with high-frequency hearing, they are very vulnerable to being hit by boats with low-frequency motors. Special care should be taken when boating in manatee habitat.

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Lubchenco: “Hope for people and the Ocean” at National Academy of Sciences

Yesterday, Jane Lubchenco addressed a rapt audience at the Arthur M. Sackler Colloqiua of the National Academy of Sciences on “Coupled Human and Environmental Systems.”

Her talk, entitled “Enough with the doom and gloom! Holistic approaches bring hope for people and the environment” focused on success stories in fisheries management and Marine Protected Area regulations.IMG_20160314_180912765

 

Her message isn’t sugar coating – there are plenty of challenges and motivations to be worked out. Yet through top-down and bottom-up approaches, significant improvements can be made. For example, some fish stocks are increasing. Scale-able solutions need to be identified. Get involved, and stay hopeful.

For more on the role of hope in environmental management –

Smithsonian article by Dr. Nancy Knowlton: Why we have trouble talking about success in ocean conservation 

Paper I wrote about Hope and Environmental Management in Cancun (in Spanish)

 

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2016 – Futuristic hope

Worried about the state of our global ecosystem? Already 2016 is off to a good start with 5 forward-looking, inspiring events that took place in DC. They provide a hopeful glimpse at what’s to come in the not-so-distant future:

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Feb 5 @ Inter-American Development Bank (IDB): “Colombia 2030: A Sustainable and Peaceful Future”

This morning the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, beautifully described his vision for prioritizing education to reach ambitious yet possible goals

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Feb 4 @ Inter-American Development Bank (IDB): “It’s disruption time! How the collaborative economy is transforming world economies”

Robin Chase, Founder of ZipCar, and Luis Alberto Moreno, IDB President, discussed how ‘excess capacity’ – e.g., cars sitting unused – means opportunity for business and sustainability. Why should people invest in having only one job, when having several jobs provides more job satisfaction, diversity and security? If you think this is abstract futuristic talk, you should have heard the IDB employee’s enthusiasm. There will still be roles for institutions, but they will play adapted roles.

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Feb 4 @ Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences: “Social media tour of Sentient Chamber”

Hosted by Alana Quinn of CPNAS, Philip Beesley led a tour of his art installation “Sentient Chamber” which explores human-nature interactions with whispers, subtlety and mesmerizing fractals that draw you in to their enveloping tentacles and visions of a more gentle future.

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Feb 4 @ Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences: “Ideation, Translation, and Realization: DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER)”

What is creativity? How do we use it to promote a sustainable future? Rich discussion included recognition of a need to provide opportunities for slow, complex, fragile, inter-disciplinary explorations, both in school and in the workplace

Presenters: Kimberly Suda-Blake (Senior Program Director, National Academies Keck Futures Initiative); David A. Edwards (Founder and Director, Le Laboratoire); Richard N. Foster (Co-Chair, Presidents’ Circle of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine); Patricia Olynyk (Director, Graduate School of Art, Washington University); Philip Beesley (Director, Living Architecter Systems Group); JD Talasek (Director, Cultural Programs, National Academy of Sciences)

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Jan 29 @ Georgetown University/ Indigenous Delegation “The Invisible Killer – Radioactive Pollution in Unsuspected Places”

Even Snowzilla couldn’t get this group down. Native American and #CleanUpTheMines representatives gathered to raise awareness about thousands of hazardous abandoned uranium mines throughout the United States and promote a stronger bonds between human groups and with nature

 

For more pictures: https://www.instagram.com/heathers2pence/ 

 

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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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A poetic conversation with David Mayer de Rothschild

DR: Hi

HS: Coo’

DR: It sometimes feels as if we’re trying to ruin the planet before the end of the century, as if we were trying to meet some sort of apocalyptic deadline. Of course this isn’t news to you… we’re doing all sorts of colossally awful things to the planet… dumping tens of thousands of tons of plastic into our oceans… We need to stop being at war with Nature! I don’t know anyone who actually harbors a personal grudge against Nature.

HS: Resources abound, When we are thankful for them, Today and all days

DR: Yes!

HS: Nuestros impactos, Pueden ser soluciones, Vale la pena!

DR: Word…. Thank you… As from where I’m sitting the language we use to speak of the world and its creatures, including ourselves, may have gained a certain analytical and expertise pomp, but in return it has lost much of its power to designate what is being analysed or to convey any respect or care or affection or devotion toward it. We’re loosing a sense of hope!

HS: Decisions need hope, Focus not on what we lost, Explore what we have!

DR: The Environmental Movement has become the undertaker of the wilderness, publishing dimensions, statistics, and rates of decay and our scientists catalog the destruction of the environment, but have so far been unable to as effectively “study” possibilities and potentials.

HS: We have the science! But we need recognition, We need promotion

DR: Are we paddling up shit creek? I can’t help but think that while early life might have been one of struggle, of limited local resources and early death, there wouldn’t have been concern about exhausting global resources. Were we evolved for different circumstances – for endless horizon and unlimited resources? Have our brains not had time to catch up to the changes our brains have made?

HS: Let’s use our good brains; Optimally Foraging; Our past and future

DR: We need to find our roots again and listen to what nature has to say!

HS: Down is up to roots, Reaching for their sky, Where does your route lead?

DR: Playing with textures! This is telling me to take my shoes off and roll around! When was the last time your feet touched the earth?!

HS: Supported by Earth, Gravity draws us closer, Everything connects

DR: We’re one of only a few things that grow without roots! Maybe if we all ate more root vegetables we all might just end up being a little more grounded?

HS: Beneath our footprints, Lives a dark rich underworld; Roots reach for Earth’s core

DR: Our feet… are our receptors to Mother Earth…

HS: Plant yourself firmly, Two direct Earth connections… Four if you’re a dog…

DR: I sometimes wonder, if we we weren’t all so afraid of being animals and didn’t try so hard to disguise this, maybe there would be greater honesty and openness to our interactions with each other.

HS: For any creature, There exists the perfect niche, We can get along

DR: It always fascinated me that fruit ripens. It is a natural part of the plant’s life cycle, the process that makes it sweet and attracts animals (like us) to spread its seed. But even though we know this fact, when we go to the store we somehow conspire to forget that we are eating fruit from a tree.

HS: Ah, pollination! In the air and all around, Plants are having sex

DR: It’s kind of amazing … We have so much to learn on how to remain balanced with Nature! If only we could start listening that would be a huge step in the right direction.

HS: Listen to the trees, Ocean, wind, dirt, and all life, We too are Nature!

DR: Loving this creativity! It’s a pretty rad way to get you dreaming…

HS: Our eyes are lenses, Seeing what we want to see, Even in our dreams

DR: We just need to learn to open our eyes and feel! The purity and beauty of humanity still exists!

HS: Balance with nature, Is possible everywhere, Even in cities… Nature surrounds us, Trees connecting sky and Earth, Humans holding hands…

P1040305DR: Excited…. I keep on thinking about our outdated brain model! Isn’t it funny that we’re more scared of being bitten by a snake than we are of losing the entire species?

HS: Socially minded, we trackour interactions, and plan our futures

DR: I can’t but help think that somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that Nature is more than climate change.

HS: Priorities are, Respect Restore then Replace. Sooner is better!

DR: Genius! Maybe its time we start to listen to Nature

HS: Land, ocean and air, Cross political borders, With unknown desires

DR: Let’s promote weapons of mass education!

HS: Finite resources, choice of competition or, collaboration…

DR: Who am I to judge…

HS: Night time cedes to day, Diurnal species rejoice; Seeds, full of promise…

DR: I feel blessed… Thank you… Sometimes being an explorer has its perks! Still dreaming of the open ocean! Hello you little beauty!

HS: Skip skip skip to my loo —

DR: Being a Brit I’ve never understood why you would describe a loo as a restroom! I don’t know about you but it’s always felt a little bit like false advertising!

HS: — Quick before we go to sea, Or head to my head!

DR: Nothing like a little hop skip and hang to make you feel alive!

HS: Riding on water, Wanting to save what’s inside, So time to make waves…

DR: Time to go get lost out on an adventure! Sweet!

 

 

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Have a listen!

Have a listen to this sound sample I recorded at night, underwater near Isla Mujeres, Mexico, using the stationary Marine Passive Acoustic Monitoring device the Ecological Acoustic Recorder

The crackling, ‘static’-like sound is snapping shrimp, the low-pitched pulsed sounds towards the end of the clip are fish!

Snapping Shrimp  Photo credit: Hitamar Palma Muñoz

Snapping Shrimp Photo credit: Hitamar Palma Muñoz

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Prioritizing Sustainability Through the Arts and Sciences

Congratulations to all who participated in the International Conference “Prioritizing Sustainability Through the Arts and Sciences” in Cancun, Mexico  February 16-19 2015
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Proceedings will be posted online on www.GRACIASS.net.  If you have something further to contribute, let me know soon!
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GRACIASS prioritizing logo erick
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International Association for the Study of Dreams

cropped-final-masthead iasd

On June 6, 215 I will be presenting at the International Association for the Study of Dreams conference in Virginia Beach, VA about Dolphins and Dreams

To find out more, check out the IASD website

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