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CAREER PROFILE: Dr Frances Robertson - Marine Wildlife Biologist

3 Aug 2014

I am a wildlife biologist and my work has centred on the impacts of human activities on marine wildlife, particularly marine mammals.  


I have over a decade of experience in marine mammal science that includes field research in remote islands of Northern British Columbia and joining island communities of Orkney, Scotland and the San Juan Islands, Washington State. I have spent months on seismic survey ships watching out for marine mammals and have flown the coast of northern Alaska monitoring offshore oil and gas activities on bowhead and beluga whales, ice seals, polar bear and walrus. 


My research and work opportunities have allowed me to specialize in carrying out assessments and monitoring of offshore industry activities on marine mammals that require skills in natural history, species identification and behaviour determination, photo-identification, acoustics as well as strong communication skills to wide-ranging audiences such as government agencies, local people, industry clients and fellow scientists. 


My interest in marine mammals started at an early age and this interest has stayed with me, dictating my undergraduate degree and thesis research into killer whale and vessel usage of a marine reserve in Western Canada; my Masters work on harbour porpoise presence around fish farms in Orkney and finally my PhD research. My doctoral research focused on the behavioural responses of bowhead whales to seismic operations in the South central Beaufort Sea and how such responses influence our understanding of whale distribution through areas ensonified with air-gun sounds. This research has involved extensive statistical modelling, including the use of Distance Sampling methods. More detail and related publications on this project are available at:


Other research projects that I am involved in include a long-term photo-id and foraging ecology study of minke whales in the Salish Sea, Washington State and more information on this project can be found at  


I completed my PhD at the University of British Columbia's Marine Mammal Research Unit this summer. I am hoping to keep some irons in the Arctic as the environment and the people of the region remain of interest and importance to me, but I am excited to launch into some new research projects and regenerate some that have been a little neglected as of late. Regardless of my next move I plan to remain in marine mammal research and look forward to participating in future opportunities to share my enthusiasm for the marine environment through the stories that have stemmed from my experiences and research with groups like Whalefish. After all, enthusiasm is infectious and everyone of us has a story to tell that might just inspire a marine scientist of the next generation.


Frances C. Robertson PhD

Wildlife Biologist, Science Enthusiast.




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