Roger Payne, a biologist whose work with whales spilled over into the music world, has died. The New York Times reports that Payne, who discovered that whales can sing and worked tirelessly for their preservation, passed away Saturday from metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. He was 88.

Payne and colleague Scott McVay confirmed in 1967 that whales can sing, and in 1971 he founded the Ocean Alliance for the study and protection of whales and their environment. His work amplifying whales’ voices in the 1970s and ’80s was instrumental in establishing official legislation restricting whalers. Payne even released an album, Songs Of The Humpback Whale, which charted on the Billboard 200 and became the best-selling nature sounds album of all time. Musicians including Kate Bush, Judy Collins, Incubus, and Paul Winter sampled Payne’s recordings in their own work.