Frances C. Robertson
PhD, University of British Columbia, Dept. Zoology, BC.
Thesis title: Effects of seismic operations on bowhead whale behaviour: Implications for distribution and abundance assessments.
M.Res., Marine and Fisheries Science, University of Aberdeen, School of Biological Sciences, UK.
Thesis title: The effects of acoustic deterrent devices on harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and seals in the vicinity of fish farms in Orkney, Scotland.
B.Sc., Zoology (Marine and Fisheries Biology), University of Aberdeen, School of Biological Sciences, UK.
Thesis title: A study into the usage of an ecological reserve by killer whales (Orcinus orca) in British Columbia, Canada from 1995 to 2001.
RESEARCH & PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
My academic research and professional work focuses on the impacts of human activities on marine mammals. For over a decade I have studied the impacts of coastal and offshore industries on cetacean populations in Canada, the US and Scotland. I have acquired vital research skills through volunteering and working for academic, non-profit, and industry research groups. I have lead vessel and aerial based aerial surveys for marine mammals, including baseline, monitoring and mitigation surveys. I have successfully collaborated with numerous sectors including academia and the private sector, and have established a global network of connections. I write and review for peer reviewed journals, I also engage the public in my research with outreach presentations, newsletters, and blogs.
Mitacs Elevate Post Doctoral Scholar, Simon Fraser University 2016-Present
Research Scientist, SMRU Consulting 2016-Present
- Scientific writing for technical reports and peer reviewed journals
- Reviewer for peer reviewed journals (inc. Aquatic mammals, Methods in Ecology & Evolution, Endangered Species Research),
- Research data analysis, interpretation and presentation of results for scientific and technical reports.
- Statistical analysis and data handling skills with a variety of software programs, including R, Excel, Distance, and Quantum GIS.
- Statistical Modeling e.g. Generalized Additive Models, Density Surface Models, Spatial Models, Zero-inflated data, Mixed Effects Models.
- Distance Sampling Workshops – Introductory and Advanced. Centre for Ecological and Environmental modeling, St. Andrews University, August 2011
- Ecological Modeling for Marine Mammalogists workshop, 18th Biennial SMM Conference Quebec. 2009
- Teaching Assistant. 2nd and 3rd year Introductory Ecology, University of British Columbia 2010 - 2012.
- Strong science communication skills in writing, public speaking and use of online media tools.
- Website design and development (inc. distantfin.net, northeastpacificminke.org, coastalconnectionvancouver.com, daniel-frances-2016.weebly.com, studiolobue.com).
PROJECTS & CONTRACTS
2015 - Marine Mammal Biologist – SMRU Canada
Sub-contractor for SMRU Canada, reports include an assessment of PAM used for seismic survey mitigation.
2014 - Expert Witness for the Quileute Indian Tribe and Quinault Indian Nation in U.S. et al. v. Washington et al.
Conducted research on distributions and likely availability of marine mammals in the offshore waters of Washington State in the 1850s. This resulted in two reports for the purposes of ongoing litigation involving resource use rights in Washington State.
Lead Wildlife Biologist – Technical lead for Stantec, marine mammal aerial survey crew, Quebec
Technical lead for an aerial survey team conducting baseline marine mammal surveys in the St. Lawrence, Quebec. Duties included training of all crew members, daily coordination with pilots and crew, database design, training and data guide compilation, survey data compilation and validation.
2013 - Marine Mammal Biologist – Aerial observer, Smultea Environmental Consulting, San Diego
Aerial survey team member conducting marine mammal surveys and behavioral response studies.
2012 - Lead Protected Species Observer – Aerial lead, LGL Ltd. for Shell, Beaufort Sea
Lead for the aerial observer team conducting marine mammal surveys in support of Shell’s drilling program in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska. Duties included HSE reporting, daily team coordination, data compilation and validation of aerial survey data collected during study and field season set up and gear down in Deadhorse, Alaska.
2010 - Protected Species Observer – Aerial observer, LGL Ltd for Shell, Beaufort Sea
Aerial survey team member conducting marine mammal surveys sponsored by Shell in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska. I was the deputy team leader of the survey. Duties included data compilation and validation of aerial survey data collected during the study and preparation of survey reports.
2009 - Marine Mammal Observer – Vessel based, LGL Ltd for Lamont Doherty, Massachusetts
Vessel based marine mammal and turtle visual observer. Primary duties included visual monitoring for marine mammals and sea turtles and working with the observer team to implement mitigation when required. I was also co-authored the final report.
Wildlife Researcher – Environmental Impact Assessment reports, LGL Ltd.
Research and writing for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for proposed seismic survey operations for Lamont Doherty and the NSF. I conducted literature reviews for marine mammal species occurrence, habitat use and distribution and assisted in the preparation of the reports.
2008 - Wildlife Researcher – Research contract for Alaskan marine mammal stock assessment, LGL Ltd.
Research for cetacean species inhabiting the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Primarily summarizing natural history, demographics, current status and the impacts of human activities on each species. This study was sponsored by the E&P Sound and Marine Life Joint Industry Program (JIP).
Marine Mammal Observer – Vessel based, BP/CCG Veritas, North Atlantic, Claire Field
Vessel based visual marine mammal observer. Primary duties included visual monitoring for marine mammals and coordination with the PAM team to track groups of vocalizing animals and implement mitigation according to the JNCC guidelines.
2007 - Marine Mammal Observer – Aerial observer, LGL Ltd for Shell, Beaufort and Chukchi Seas
Aerial survey team member conducting marine mammal surveys for Shell in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, Alaska. Duties included data compilation and validation of aerial survey data collected during the study, preparation of survey reports and standing in as team lead when needed.
Marine Mammal Observer – Vessel based, Wintershall, North Sea
Vessel based visual marine mammal observer; member of a 9 person visual and acoustic monitoring team involving 3 vessels. Primary duties included visual monitoring for marine mammals and coordination with observers on two support vessels and the acoustic monitoring team to track marine mammals and implement mitigation actions when required.
Lead Marine Mammal Observer – Vessel based, CGG Veritas, Gulf of Mexico, Walker Ridge Blocks
Vessel based visual marine mammal observer and team leader of a 3 person monitoring team. Responsibilities included training the team, data compilation, writing and submitting weekly reports to the US Minerals Management Service and co-authoring the final report.
2006 - Marine Mammal Observer – Vessel based, Shell EPE, Gannet oil field, North Sea
Vessel based visual marine mammal observer; member of a 2 person team. Responsibilities included implementing JNCC mitigation guidelines when required.
- Coastal Connection Vancouver, Organizing Committee, 2014-2017
- Marine Mammal Observer Association, Executive Committee, 2008 – 2016
- Research Assistant: The Northeast Pacific Minke Whale Project, 2005 - 2008
- Research Assistant, marine mammal research unit, UBC, Canada, 2006
- BC Cetaceans Sighting Network, 2006
- Field Assistant, Cascadia Research Collective, 2005
- Research Assistant – Killer whale boat impact study, 2005
- Field Assistant & naturalist, Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, Canada, 2002 & 2003
- Field Assistant: University of Aberdeen student expedition to Malawi, Africa, 2001
PUBLICATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, and A.W. Trites. In Press. Behavioral responses to seismic operations affects density analyses of bowhead whales. Marine Ecological Progress Series. http://www.int-res.com/prepress/m11665.html
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, J.R. Brandon, T.A. Thomas, and A.W. Trites. 2015. Correction factors account for the availability of bowhead whales exposed to seismic survey operations in the Beaufort Sea. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management. 15: 35-44
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T. Thomas, W.J. Richardson, B. Wursig and A. W. Trites. 2013. Seismic operations have variable effects on dive-cycle behavior of bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea. Endangered Species Research. 21: 143-160 (Available here)
- Smultea, M. A., J. Brueggeman, F.C. Robertson, D. Fertl, C. Bacon, R. A. Rowlett and G. A. Green. In Press. Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) behaviour near icebreaker operations in the Chukchi Sea, 1991, Arctic.
- Thomas, T. A., W. R. Koski, W. J. Richardson, F. C. Robertson, B. Würsig. In prep. Season and whale activity effects on surfacing, respiration and dive behaviors of bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea.
- Robertson, F.C. 2015. Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) for marine mammal detection during seismic surveys: A summary of performance and effectiveness. for SMRU Canada. 26pp
- Trites, A. W. and F.C. Robertson. 2014. Response to questions regarding Renker’s conclusions and fur seal commercial trade. for The Quileute Indian Nation, c/o Foster Pepper PLLC, and The Quinault Indian Nation, c/o. Nielsen Broman and Koch PLLC. 48pp
- Trites, A.W., and F.C. Robertson. 2014. Distribution and likely availability of whales, dolphins, porpoise, and fur seals in the offshore waters of Washington State in the 1850s. Report prepared for The Quileute Indian Tribe, c/o Foster Pepper PLLC, 1111 Third Ave, Suite 3400, Seattle, WA, 98104 and The Quinault Indian Nation, c/o Nielsen Broman & Koch PLLC, 1908 E. Madison St. Seattle, WA, 98122 pp 44
- Holst, M. and F.C. Robertson. 2009. Marine mammal and sea turtle monitoring during a Rice University seismic survey in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, August 2009. LGL Rep. TA4760-3. Rep. from LGL Ltd., King City, Ont., for Rice University, Houston, TX, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia Univ., Palisades, NY, and Nat. Mar. Fish. Serv., Silver Spring, MD. 66p.
- LGL Ltd. 2008. Cetacean stock assessment in relation to exploration and production industry sound. Rep. from LGL Ltd, King City, ON and LGL Alaska Research Associates, Anchorage, AK, for the Joint Industry Program of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers. LGL Report TA4582-1. (M. Gilders & many co-authors, including F.C. Robertson).
- Pierpoint, C. and F.C. Robertson. 2008. Marine mammal observations during a 3D seismic survey of the Claire field, carried out by CGG Veritas for BP. 29p.
- Robertson, F.C., J. Agee and A. Gill. 2007. Marine Mammal Observer’s Report: A 3D Seismic Survey, Walker Ridge III, Gulf of Mexico. Rep. From Marine Team Offshore Ltd, North Devon, UK, for CGG Veritas. 78p.
- Robertson, F.C. and J. Griffiths. 2006. Marine Mammal Observer Report for Shell EPE, Gannet 4D Seismic Survey, North Sea, Project no. 2006026/F2098. 5p.
- Wright, A. Robertson, F. Cosentino, A.M. (eds) 2016. Incorporating new mitigation technologies into guidelines for seismic surveys and other underwater acoustic activities: Producing performance standards. Marine Species and Threats, Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.
- Wright, A.J., and Robertson, F.C. (eds) 2015. New mitigation methods and evolving acoustics exposure guidelines. Report from the European Cetacean Society Conference Workshop, St. Julian, Malta, European Cetacean Society Special Publication Series No. 59, 76 p
I regularly contribute to the news sections of the Marine Mammal Observer Association (both in writing and editing, www.mmo-association.org), the Northeast Pacific Minke Whale Project (www.northeastpacificminke.org), and on my own blog page (www.distantfin.net). Some other examples of my outreach writing include the following:
- American Cetacean Society Newsletter 'Spyhopper'. Qtr 4 pg 8-13. Seismic operations: do they scare bowhead whales away or make them more difficult to count? https://acsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/SpyhopperQtr-4-2014-FINAL.pdf
- Marine Mammal Research Unit Newsletter. Issue 9. Number Crunching: Do seismic operations scare bowhead whales away or make them more difficult to count? http://www.marinemammal.org/newsletters/february-2014-number/
- Marine Mammal Research Unit Newsletter. Issue 7. From the Field: Searching for bowheads in the Beaufort Sea. http://www.marinemammal.org/newsletter/2013/May/field.php
- Robertson, F.C. 2015. Effects of seismic operations on bowhead whale behaviour: implications for distribution and abundance analyses. National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Seattle, WA
- Robertson, F.C. 2014. A distance sampling approach to determining how seismic survey operations affect bowhead behaviour and distribution in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. UBC Fisheries Centre Applied Ecology Seminar Series, Vancouver, BC
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski and A.W. Trites. 2014. The effect of variable detectability on density assessments of bowhead whales during seismic survey operations in the Beaufort Sea. Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T. Thomas, W.J. Richardson, B. Wursig and A. W. Trites. 2012. Seismic operations affect bowhead whale behaviours and sightability in the Alaskan Arctic. UBC Zoology Graduate Student Symposium, Vancouver, BC
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T. Thomas, W.J. Richardson, B. Wursig and A. W. Trites. 2012. Seismic operations affect bowhead whale behaviours and sightability in the Alaskan Arctic. Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK
- Robertson, F.C. 2011, The Bowhead whale in the age of oil, 15th Annual NW Student Chapter Meeting for the Society of Marine Mammalogy, University of British Columbia.
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski and A. W. Trites. 2015. The effect of variable detectability on density assessments of bowhead whales during seismic surveys. 29th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society, St. Julian, Malta.
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T. Thomas, J.R. Brandon, W.J. Richardson, B. Wursig and A. W. Trites. 2013. A question of availability: Seismic survey sound effects the visual detectability of bowhead whales. Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage AK
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T. Thomas, J.R. Brandon, W.J. Richardson, B. Wursig and A. W. Trites. 2012. A question of availability: Seismic survey sound effects the visual detectability of bowhead whales. 13th International Conference of the American Cetacean Society, San Diego, CA - Honourable Mention
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T. Thomas, W.J. Richardson, B. Wursig and A. W. Trites. 2011. Seismic sound affects the dive-cycle behaviour of bowhead whales in the Alaskan Arctic. 19th Biennial Conference for the Society of Marine Mammalogy, Tampa, FL.
- Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T. Thomas, W.J. Richardson, B. Wursig and A. W. Trites. 2011. Behavioural responses of bowhead whales to industrial seismic activities in the Alaskan Arctic. Zoology Graduate Student Symposium, UBC
- Robertson, F.C., A. Mackay, and S. P. Northridge. 2005. The effects acoustic deterrent devices on harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) in Orkney, 19th European Cetacean Society Conference, La Rochelle France.
- Workshop Organizer. Mitigation methods and evolving acoustic exposure guidelines. European Cetacean Society Conference, Malta
- Workshop Organizer. Incorporating new mitigation technologies into guidelines for seismic surveys and other underwater acoustic activities: producing performance standards. 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. San Francisco.
2015 - Salish Sea Naturalists Gear Up Workshop and Naturalist Training Workshop, Friday
Fleetwood Villas Retirement Community guest lecture, Surrey, BC
2014 - The Whale Museum summer lecture series, Friday Harbor, WA.
2013 - American Cetacean Society-San Francisco Speaker Seminar Series, Sausalito, CA
2012 - Beaty Biodiversity Museum Way Cool Lecture Series. Vancouver, BC
The Whale Museum - summer lecture series, Friday Harbor, WA
2011 - American Cetacean Society-Puget Sound Speaker Seminar Series, Seattle, WA
LGL 5th annual seminar, Sidney, BC
2010 - 18th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium, Vancouver, BC
Salish Sea Naturalist Association annual workshop, Friday Harbor, WA
2009 - LGL 4th Annual Workshop, Sidney, BC.
17th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium, University of British Columbia.
2008 - 16th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium, University of British Columbia.
2006 - Naturalist training workshop, The Whale Museum, Friday Harbor, WA, USA.
Orca Network Ways of Whales Workshop, Whidbey Island, WA, USA.
2005 - 13th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium, University of British Columbia.
SCHOLARSHIPS AND AWARDS
2013 - UBC Zoology Department Graduate Travel Award
2012 - American Cetacean Society-San Francisco Travel Award
2011 - Society of Marine Mammalogy Student Travel Award
American Cetacean Society-Puget Sound Travel Award
Dean Fisher Memorial Scholarship
Zoology Department Travel Award
2010 - 11 - LGL Ltd. Internship Financial Assistant Award
2008 - 12 - UBC Tuition Fee Waiver Award
2008 - 10 - NSERC-IPS 2
2003 - NERC studentship Masters Studentship
University of Aberdeen Alumni Fund
2002 - University of Aberdeen Zoology Travel Bursary
University of Aberdeen Small Grants Fund
CERTIFICATIONS, SKILLS, AND COURSES
- Specialist field data collection skills – marine mammal tracking and photo-id
- Aerial surveys for marine mammals, design, training and implementation
- Small boat operations - Canadian Restricted Radio Operators License.
- Use of 7x50 range finding binoculars, laser range finders, theodolites etc.
- Photo-id of cetaceans,
- Field leadership skills
- Leading vessel and aerial survey teams conducting surveys for industry
- Health, Safety Security and Environment (HSSE) duties and reporting
- Technical training for implementation of data collection, documentation and reporting protocols
- Marine mammal observer experience - Ship based and aerial platform surveys
- Species identification and range determination; conducting monitoring and gaining crew co-operation in accordance with mitigation guidelines.
- Passive Acoustic Monitoring and data collection, signal identification and analysis
- Deployment of PAM from ship platforms.
- Experience with Chelonia T-Pod porpoise detectors
- Marine Mammal Observer qualifications
- Cold water survival & Offshore Helicopter Safety/HUET with EBS. CSET Alaska, 2008, 2012
- MED A2-Small passenger carrying vessel safety (Transport Canada), 2009.
- NSTC (North Slope Training Cooperative – North Slope Operators), 2007.
- JNCC Marine Team Marine Mammal Observer Training, UK, 2006
- MMS Gulf of Mexico Protected Species Training, University of Plymouth, UK, 2007
- Canadian Transport Medical ticket, 2009
- Marine mammal rescue
- BDLMR Marine Mammal Medic Training, UK, 2002
- Primary responder with the BC Marine Mammal Response Network, 2010
- Experience with marine mammal necropsies
- Society for Marine Mammalogy
- European Cetacean Society
- American Cetacean Society
- Marine Mammal Observer Association
OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES AND INTERESTS
- Chair of the Marine Mammal Observer Association Executive Committee 2015-2016
- Organizing Committee for Coastal Connection Vancouver
- Northeast Pacific Minke Whale Project Co-Investigator
- Marine Mammal Research Unit science social media outreach coordinator, 2012-2015
- Student Rep, Fisheries Centre, UBC, 2013
- Student Rep for the Health and Safety Committee, Aquatic Ecosystems Research Lab, UBC, 2010-2014
- Student Rep for the NW student chapter of the Society for Marine Mammalogy 2009-2012
- Photography and Design.