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

Heather Spence, Marine Biologist

When Sharks Attack: Mayhem in Mexico

Catch Marine Biologist Dr. Heather Spence on Nat Geo Wild’s show When Sharks Attack: Season 4 Episode 5 “Mayhem in Mexico” in which she explores the impact of sound on shark behavior.

Heather Spence Mexico NatGeoWild

Don’t let the name of the show put you off – there’s a lot of good info and pro shark messaging! #SharkWeek #SharkFest #FriendsOfSharks

Watch it here

Heather Spence National Geographic


Bookmark and Share

‘Reef Recall’ cello+soundscape performance July 8 in DC

_20151009_113752As part of my ongoing work on Ocean Memory, on July 8 2018 at noon I will present a new composition for live solo cello with recorded coral reef soundscape composition entitled ‘Reef Recall.’ The piece explores past crustacean and fish conversations in the context of natural and human-imposed cycles. The performance is sponsored by the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and DC Listening Lounge ‘Sound Scene XI: Mapping Memory’.

Full performance schedule and details:





Bookmark and Share


Sound file samples for NAKFI conference:

Murmur (Soundscape composition by Heather Spence and Klaus Dobbler for the European Water Soundmap)


Raw audio from the MesoAmerican Reef near Cancun Mexico –

Listen for the grunting fish

Listen for the scratching spiny lobster

Listen for the boat motor (caution: loud)






Bookmark and Share

Sound Walk guide

Sound Walks can happen anywhere, anytime – all you need is to focus on listening. Whether for a minute or a day, taking the time to prioritize your ears (and your body – sound can be felt as well as heard!) leads to surprising discoveries and a sense of connectedness with the surrounding environment.

July 18 is World Listening Day. To celebrate, I encourage you to lead your own Sound Walk. Here’s a checklist to get you started.

  1. Do you want to do the sound walk by yourself, or with others? Do you want to record the experience?
  2. Where and when? Consider the types of sounds you may hear (‘natural’, manmade,…) at different times of day, as well as practical concerns such as shade, accessibility, desires and abilities of fellow sound walkers, etc. You might want to plan a route, or see where whim takes you.
  3. Begin the walk by just listening, taking in the rich acoustic information, avoiding talking in order to listen closely
  4. When ready, share observations. What did you hear? How would you describe it? Where is it coming from? How does it make you feel?
  5. Continue alternating listening and sharing – and at the end, please share your experiences with me and World Listening Day!


For more information and ideas:




Acoustic ecology


Deep listening

World Listening Project

Acoustic niche

Passive Acoustic Monitoring


Bookmark and Share

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
Bookmark and Share

Sound Walk for Dolphin Day

Celebrate Dolphin Day by going on a sound walk!


Sound is central to dolphin lives. They use sound not only for communication, but also to “see” using echolocation!

You can learn more about sound in the environment and have a good time by going on a Sound Walk:

Choose a location. Any location. Alone or with a group.
Close your eyes and listen to any sounds you hear.
Now open your eyes and move to another nearby location. Do the same thing.
What sounds are the same? What sounds are different?
Try to describe the sounds. What is the source of the sound? What does the sound “sound” like?
What sounds are produced by living creatures? By machines?
Which sounds seem pleasant? Unpleasant?

Keep going as long as you can! You can also try multiple locations, indoors or outdoors.

You’ll be amazed at the things you discover when you actively focus on the wealth of sonic information that is all around us!

Spread the word and raise awareness of noise pollution and the importance of sound to dolphins!

Bookmark and Share

Sound and the Sea panel at National Academy of Sciences

In March I had the honor and privilege to curate and moderate a panel on Sound and the Sea at the National Academy of Sciences, as part of the DASER series. Bringing together science, music, policy and more we explored the ocean as a world of sound and how we can better respect and listen to it.

Videos of the presentations are now up on you tube -check them out!

Bookmark and Share

Cancun Fish party at night!

My latest publication, released today online in the Bulletin of Marine Science (available here as an open access article), describes Passive Acoustic Monitoring of fish off the coast of Cancun, and finds that their sounds are more frequent, persistent, and diverse at night versus during the day. This is crucial information for environmental management, which currently relies on daytime visual survey data. Nocturnal fish sounds are important!

Fish Silhouette Clip Art

Bookmark and Share


Check out the new GRACIASS website, www.graciass.net
And please follow GRACIASS on facebook and twitter!


Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

« Previous Entries Next Entries »