Supervisor: Dr. Andrew Trites
Education: MRes Marine and Fisheries Science (University of Aberdeen 2004); BSc (Hons) Zoology with marine and fisheries biology (University of Aberdeen 2003)
Research Interests: Animal Ecology, Marine mammals, Impacts of human activities
Research Area: Alaskan Arctic
My academic research and professional work as a wildlife biologist has centred on the impacts of human activities on wildlife, particularly in the marine environment. I have 8 years of marine mammal research experience where I have studied the impacts of coastal industries on cetacean populations in Canada, the US and Scotland. My research focus is centred on understanding the behavioural ecology of cetaceans and particularly how the behavioural reactions of an animal to human activities is context specific. I am interested in the application of density surface models as a technique to inform future management decisions related to the mitigation and monitoring of the impacts of industry operations on cetaceans in coastal and offshore marine environments.
Behavioural responses of bowhead whales to industrial seismic activities in the Alaskan Arctic: consequences for distribution assessments.
In the western Arctic bowhead whales are exposed to a variety of human activities. Increasing levels of human activity in the region have led to a growing demand for effective conservation strategies that will ensure minimal disturbance and the continued growth of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort population of bowhead whales, while maintaining accessibility to Alaskan Inupiat hunters (a key concern in Alaska). Assessments of distribution and relative abundance of bowhead whales in relation to human activities are key components of conservation and management strategies designed to minimize the effects of human activities on wildlife populations and subsistence harvests.
My research aims to address concerns about the potential impacts of seismic operations on bowhead whales in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. The aim of this study is to identify whether apparent changes in bowhead distribution when exposed to seismic operations are actual changes or reflect behavioural variations that superficially appear as distributional changes. I am interested in assessing how the bowhead’s behavioural response to seismic survey operations may influence the probability of visual detection by an observer. And further, how failure to account for differential detectability during visual aerial surveys affects the interpretation of bowhead whale distributions and estimates of relative abundance.
1) Do age, activity and season influence bowhead whale behavioural responses to seismic operations in the Beaufort Sea?
2) Do these factors affect bowhead whale distribution assessments?
I am using density surface modelling methods for line–transect data within a Generalized Additive Model framework and shall be providing estimates for a ‘Zone-of -Behavioural Effect’ with respect to seismic operations in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea after taking account of variations in behaviour due to reproductive status, whale activity and season.
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. doi: 10.3354/esr00515
- Holst, M. and F.C. Robertson. 2009. Marinemammal 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. 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, North Devon, UK, for CGG Veritas. 78 p.
- Robertson, F.C. and J. Griffiths. 2006. Marine Mammal Observer Report for Shell EPE, Gannet 4D Seismic Survey, North Sea, Project no. 2006026/F2098. 5 p.
- 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. Behavioral 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.
Posters may be downloaded from the following page : http://www.distantfin.net/current-research.html
- 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. Zoology Graduate Student Symposium, UBC
- 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. 2009. The effects of industry activities on the distribution and behavior of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Alaskan Arctic. 13th Annual NW Student Chapter Meeting for the Society of Marine Mammalogy, Western Washington University.
Beaty Biodiversity Museum Way Cool Lecture Series. Vancouver, BC
The Whale Museum – summer lecture series, Friday Harbour, WA
American Cetacean Society-Puget Sound Speaker Seminar Series, Seattle, WA
LGL 5th annual seminar, Sidney, BC
18th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium, Vancouver, BC
Salish Sea Naturalist Association annual workshop, Friday Harbor, WA
LGL 4th Annual Workshop, Sidney, BC.
17th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium, University of British Columbia.
16th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium, University of British Columbia.
Naturalist training workshop, The Whale Museum, Friday Harbor, WA, USA.
Orca Network Ways of Whales Workshop, Whidbey Island, WA, USA.
13th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium, University of British Columbia.
Scholarships and Awards
American Cetacean Society-San Francisco Travel Award
Society of Marine Mammalogy Student Travel Award
American Cetacean Society-Puget Sound Travel Award
Dean Fisher Memorial Scholarship
Zoology Department Travel Award
LGL Ltd. Internship Financial Assistant Award
UBC Tuition Fee Waiver Award
NERC studentship Masters Studentship University of Aberdeen Alumni Fund
University of Aberdeen Zoology Travel Bursary
University of Aberdeen Small Grants Fund
Distantfin personal research,photography and blog
NOAA Fisheries bowhead whale management
Marine Mammal Observer Association
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