Denise Herzing

Research director, Explorers Club
Jupiter, FL, United States

About Denise


Dr. Denise Herzing, Research Director of the Wild Dolphin Project has completed 28 years of her long-term study of the Atlantic spotted dolphins inhabiting Bahamian waters. She received her B.S. in Marine Zoology in 1979; her M.A. in Behavioral Biology in 1988; and her Ph.D. in Behavioral Biology/Environmental Studies in 1993. She is an Affiliate Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. In 2008 Dr. Herzing received a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is also a fellow with the Explorers Club, a scientific advisor for the Lifeboat Foundation and the American Cetacean Society, on the board of Schoolyard Films and on the Permanent Study Group of SETI. In addition to many scientific articles, she is the author of the new book “Dolphin Diaries: My 25 years with Spotted Dolphins in the Bahamas” and “The Wild Dolphin Project (2002)”.
Dr. Herzing has authored and co-authored many papers in the fields of whale biology, animal communication, and human consciousness. Coverage of her work with the spotted dolphins has appeared in National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Ocean Realm and Sonar magazines. Her work has been featured on Nature, Discovery Channel, PBS, ABC network television, BBC in England and NHK in Japan.
Her fields of interest are animal consciousness, behavior and communication of cetaceans, and interspecies communication. Dr. Herzing has given presentations and lectures to the following research, education and conservation organizations: Society for Marine Mammalogy, European Cetacean Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and American Cetacean Society.


English, Greek, Spanish

TED Conference


Areas of Expertise

Acoustics, Behavior, Marine Mammalogy, Dolphin Biology

An idea worth spreading

What would it be like to really understand the mind of a nonhuman intelligence? Dolphins are probably the second most intelligent species on the planet, but how can we bridge the gap between two so seemingly disparate species? As social mammals dolphins have complex long term relationships, politics, & understand semantics, syntax, and abstraction. Yet they live in an alien aquatic world that we can only begin to understand. What if we could build technology to help bridge the gap between humans & dolphins? Progress in scientific frameworks and emerging technologies and tools have shown us that many animals are much smarter than we have imagined & are communicating in diverse and complicated ways. Can we find any universal aspects to communication or build a cross-species bridge to understand such alien species? As we explore the universe it may be a good idea to understand other minds on our own planet as a model for both etiquette and interaction with other intelligent beings.

I'm passionate about

Animals and the health of the planet
Building awareness about other minds on this planet
Redefining intelligence to include non human species
Protecting the environment and minimizing human impact

Talk to me about

Dolphins and their plight
Astrobiology and the possibility of life and other intelligence in space
Living and working on the ocean
Greece and ancient archeology and civilizations

People don't know I'm good at

Cooking, gardening, music, dancing, windsurfing, instigating trouble.
Watching storms on land and the water and enjoying them.
Living modestly so I can continue to do my work.
Living in gratitude.

My TED story

My TED story starts when I was 12 years old. I entered an essay contest in Minnesota where I grew up. The question was "What would you do for the world if you could do one thing?" My answer " I would develop a human/animal translator so we could understand the minds of other animals on the planet." My passion stems from wanting to explore other minds on our planet to help create respect for animals and the earth. This desire drove me to pursue a career in marine biology, focus on dolphin communication in the wild by finding a field site to study them underwater, and build my own non-profit foundation to umbrella my long-term project. I have spent 28 years (4 months every summer) observing a resident community of free-ranging dolphins in the Bahamas. I follow their social lives and record their underwater vocalizations and behaviors so I can decode & decipher dolphin communication. Emerging technology & computerized tools now make "cracking the code" possible in our lifetime.