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Research Associate Fleur Visser received PhD-degree in Amsterdam

On Thursday 24th of April, Fleur Visser successfully defended her PhD-thesis on social and migratory behaviour of dolphins and whales in the Agnietenkapel at the University of Amsterdam (UVA).

The value of the thesis “Moving in concert: Social and migratory behaviour of dolphins and whales in the North Atlantic Ocean” lies in the integration of hard-core observations of social surface behaviour with several advanced research tools. She investigated for example migratory patterns of baleen whales in the context of the oceanic spring bloom, reflected in chlorophyll a concentration assessed through remote sensing satellite data.

The impact of whale-watching boats

Visser also combined behavioural data with diving patterns through the use of non-invasive suction-cup tags and she analysed the behavioural context of vocalizations through the use of tag recordings. Next to fundamental studies, Fleur also included a study of applied value on the impact of whale-watching boats. She concluded that high-season tourism with over five boats at the time is disturbing natural time budgets and likely detrimental to the animals.

Many years of fieldwork

The thesis of Fleur Visser is a remarkable accomplishment as she managed to do many years of fieldwork at and around the Azores, Portugal, for five well-written scientific papers, now embedded in a well-balanced thesis, financed completely by a large variety of smaller and larger grants solely earned through personal funding. The committee members were unanimous in their acknowledgement of her incredible determination and perseverance.

IBL-Research Associate

Fleur Visser has been an IBL-Research Associate for several years now and currently works on a four-year contract paid by the American Office of Naval Research (ONR). She conducted her PhD-project part-time at the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), while having appointments at the Netherlands Organization of Applied Scientific Research (TNO) in The Hague and University College Cork in Ireland. Through Dr. Frans-Peter Lam at TNO, she got involved in the so-called 3S-Project investigating the effects of military sonar on marine mammals. In 2011, she founded her own organization for marine research: kelp.

Prof. dr. Jeff Huisman was the promotor of the UVA and Prof. dr. Graham Pierce of the University of Aberdeen was second promotor. Prof. dr. Peter Tyack of the University of St. Andrews was also on the committee and Dr. Hans Slabbekoorn represented Leiden University during the ceremonial defense.


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