Frances Robertson

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Frances Robertson 2017-05-18T13:44:16+00:00
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Frances Robertson

Research Scientist (NA)


Frances has 15 years’ experience studying the impacts of coastal and offshore industries on cetacean populations in Canada, the US and Scotland. Her research has focused on assessing the effects of vessel traffic, oil and gas exploration and fish farm activities on cetacean behaviour, habitat use and distribution. She completed her Masters of Research in marine and fisheries biology at the University of Aberdeen in 2004 and prior to starting her PhD in 2008 worked as a marine mammal observer in the seismic survey industry. Her doctoral work focused on the effects of seismic survey operations on bowhead whale behaviour and distribution in the Western Arctic. Frances is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow at Simon Fraser University where in collaboration with SMRU Consulting she is studying marine mammal behavioural responses to tidal turbines. In addition to her research work Frances has been a member of the Marine Mammal Observer Association (MMOA) for 6 years, serving as Chair of the Executive Committee from 2015-2016 and has participated in reviews of mitigation regulations for both the JNCC and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. She has worked with members of the Iñupiat community in Alaska on monitoring and mitigation projects, and has worked for the Quileute Indian Tribe and Quinault Indian Nation in Washington State.  In her spare time, Frances studies the foraging ecology of minke whales in the coastal waters of Washington State and is a member of the organizing committee for Coastal Connection Vancouver, a group that aims to unite professionals working in research, management and conservation of aquatic environments.

Degrees and Education

2014 University of British Columbia. PhD Zoology.

Effects of seismic operations on bowhead whale behaviour: Implications   for distribution and abundance assessments.

2004 University of Aberdeen. MRes Marine and Fisheries Science.

2003 University of Aberdeen. BSc Hons Marine and Fisheries Biology.

Areas of Expertise

  • Marine Mammal Surveys: Design, training and implementation of vessel, land, and aerial surveys for mitigation, behaviour, abundance and distribution. Including species identification and range determinati Photo-id, small boat operations, and focal follow approaches using theodolites, vessel and aircraft.
  • Field leadership skills: Leading vessel and aerial surveys for industry monitoring and mitigation. Implementing mitigation procedures and gaining crew co-operation in accordance with regional guidelines or regulations. Technical training for implementation of data collection, documentation and reporting protocols. Health, Safety Security and Environment (HSSE) duties and reporting.
  • Acoustics: Passive Acoustic Monitoring and data collection, signal identification and analysis using C-Pods and PAMGuard.
  • Data management and Statistical modelling: Database development and maintenance, distance sampling methodologies, density surface modelling, mixed effects modelling, generalized additive modeling.
  • Member of the Marine Mammal Observer Association and Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, J.R. Brandon, T. Thomas A. W. Trites In Press. Correction factors account for the availability bias of bowhead whales exposed  to seismic operations in the Beaufort Sea. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management.

Smultea, M. A., J. Brueggeman, F.C. Robertson, D. Fertl, C. Bacon, R. A. Rowlett and G. A. Green. 2016. Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) behaviour near icebreaker operations in the Chukchi Sea, 1991, Arctic, 69(2): 177-184

Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, A.W. Trites. 2016. Behavioral responses affect distribution analyses of bowhead whales in the vicinity of seismic surveys. Marine Ecological Progress Series 549: 243-262 DOI: 10.3354/meps11665

Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T. Thomas, W.J. Richardson, B. Würsig and A. W. Trites. 2013 Behavioural responses of bowhead whales to industrial seismic activities in the Alaskan Arctic. Endangered Species Research 21: 143-160

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.

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

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. Distributions and likely availability of whales, dolphins and fur seals in the offshore waters of Washington State in the 1850s. for The Quileute Indian Nation, c/o Foster Pepper PLLC, and The Quinault Indian Nation, c/o. Nielsen Broman and Koch PLLC. 44pp

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. 66 p.

LGL Ltd. 2009. Environmental assessment of a marine geophysical survey by the R/V Marcus G. Langseth in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, June-July 2010. LGL Rep. TA4858-1. Rep. from LGL Ltd., King City, Ont., for Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY and National Science Foundation, Division of Ocean Sciences, Arlington, VA. 203 p. (F.C. Robertson was one of the principal preparers of document).

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 and 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. 29 p.

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, UK, for CGG Veritas. 78 p.

  • Low visibility real time monitoring (IOGP)
  • Expert witness for the Quileute Indian Tribe and Quinault Indian Nation in US et al. vs. Washington et al.
  • Technical working group member for use of MMO/PAM data for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.
  • Technical working group member for Recommendations for improving MMO/PAM Requirements in New Zealand.
  • St Lawrence marine mammal Aerial Surveys (Stantec and Energy East)
  • Beaufort Sea marine mammal Aerial Surveys (LGL Ltd and Shell Alaska Ventures)
  • Effects of seismic operations on Bowhead behaviour and distribution (University of British Columbia)
  • Northeast Pacific minke whale project

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