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

Heather Spence, Marine Biologist

The Listener Project

Heather Spence is excited to be working with Jason deCaires Taylor to develop an underwater sculpture into a science lab. Spence, a Marine Biologist, is the founder of GRACIASS (Global Research and Art Center for the Investigation and Advancement of Sustainability Solutions). Her research program in Cancun began in 2007, and in 2010 expanded to include the first Passive Acoustic Monitoring in the Mexican Caribbean. “The Listener” is the result of a long collaboration between Spence and Taylor to find a way to incorporate her underwater sound research into his reef-forming sculpture.

The Listener Heather

Heather Spence and The Listener sculpture.  Photo: Raymundo Santisteban

Spence explains, “By combining the art of sculpture and the science of sound, our project helps people to connect to the environment.” “The Listener” is covered with models of real human ears and actually listens… to fish. Fitted with NOAA-designed equipment, “The Listener” provides much-needed data about sea life and coral reef development. Located within the Punta Nizuc marine protected area off the coast of Cancun, “The Listener” is designed to gradually become a new reef, and provides a fascinating alternative destination for divers.

In the waters surrounding Cancun, pressures from development, tourism, and shipping threaten the second largest coral reef system in the world. GRACIASS is finding creative ways to ease adverse impacts and promote healthy ecosystems. Amid the doom and gloom outlooks on our seas, beaches, and coral reefs, Heather Spence is an optimistic voice, stating, “Where humans are the problem, we can also be the solution!” And according to Spence, solutions will likely be cheaper, easier and more efficient. A noisy machine wastes energy in the form of sound; a more quiet machine operates more efficiently and reduces noise pollution. While many scientists seek research sites far from human development, Spence embraces the challenge and necessity of studying densely populated coastal areas. She favors acoustic monitoring because it is minimally disruptive and does not require a human presence. It is very cost-effective and can gather data night and day, in all weather.

Listen to a SOUND SAMPLE from The Listener!

Collaborators include Oceanwide Science Institute of Hawaii, Michelle’s Earth Foundation, and local Cancun partners MUSA,  Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas, Universidad del Caribe, and Proyecto Domino.

News and Press:

News is traveling around the world, and we are looking to expand the project – stay tuned and spread the word!

Angel Azul Movie 

The Stills blog

Scientific American July 19 2013 “Ghostly Underwater Museum Aims to Divert Tourists from Endangered Reef

Smithsonian Blog “All Ears! An Underwater Sculpture That Listens

Environmental News Network “Art With Purpose: Underwater Edition

GreenMuze “Underwater Sculptures

Artist Blog “New Work 2012

ARC H2O “The Last Supper, The Listener, The Phoenix

OceanMinds “Sculptor from the Deep

DesignAlmiC “Silent Evolution

Eco-Question “Eco-Art Protecting the Wealth of Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Colourful Radio “Underwater Sculpture

CW Interiors India “Dive Into Art



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