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Heather Heenehan

Heather Heenehan smiles for a photo.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Ph.D. Candidate (Adviser: David Johnston)
Marine Science and Conservation


Heather Heenehan joined the Ph.D. program in marine science and conservation in 2011 after earning a master’s in coastal environmental management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke. Her research focuses on the ocean soundscape in critical habitats of spinner dolphins in Hawaii and the management implications of ocean noise.

Since joining the Ph.D. program, Heenehan has served as a teaching assistant in nine courses, and in spring 2015, she co-taught the “Marine Megafauna” course, a course for which she helped develop an iPad app during her first year in the program. She also was part of a team that applied for funding to develop an iPad-based system for experiential teaching on underwater acoustics at the Duke Marine Lab that has been used in multiple courses, for undergraduate research, and during many outreach events. She is a participant in The Graduate School’s Preparing Future Faculty program and Certificate in College Teaching.

Heenehan’s teaching extends beyond the college classroom, as she has been an active participant in outreach efforts such as the Girls in STEM Mentorship Program, the Scientists with Stories program, and the Scientific Research and Education Network. Her outreach work has been featured in a number of Duke publications and local media, and she has also blogged about it for the Huffington Post.


“In addition to my teaching in Duke classrooms, a lot of my teaching happens in local K-12 classrooms. I tend to spend a fair bit of time in middle school classrooms, which people often cringe about since middle schoolers are a little bit tough and a little bit rowdy. … The cool thing about sound and what I research is that it fits really well into the sixth-grade curriculum so I’m able to go in and use the words they learned about last week. … And the students really enjoy seeing the things they’re learning about in sixth grade are things you can use later.”

On getting sixth-graders to stop and listen


On the 3 P's of her teaching philosophy



Excerpts from Heenehan’s Nominations

“Heather has developed and organized both laboratory and lecture portions of course modules and taught them flawlessly. Most recently Heather co-instructed one of my courses, and her approach was both engaging and novel. The students in the class found her approachable and informative, and the course evaluations indicated that her contribution was incredibly well received.”

“I have no doubt that Heather will continue to be an excellent educator and mentor as she pursues a faculty position. She will incorporate science education and communication into her curriculum. She will bring her research into the classroom. She will collaborate with educators at all levels to bring scientists into all types of classrooms.”

“Heather is a highly-sought-after TA, recognized for her dedication to the job and her energy for bringing new ideas to curriculum and instruction. She is also known for her technological prowess and bringing new technology to the classroom. … She is the kind of TA that you can assign to almost anything, and that every faculty member is happy to have. Supervising instructors agree that she goes above and beyond her formal duties, and she is an active mentor to her peers, to our professional masters students, and to resident undergraduates.”

“Heather is generally seen as a ‘go-to’ TA by the other graduate students, someone who can help them think about their developing teaching pedagogy and style. … She is generous with her time reviewing job materials, and her own teaching statement has become something of a model among her peers.”


List of 2016 Dean's Award recipients