Jim Roberts

Position: Independent marine scientist

I was a fisheries observer in South Georgia and one day there was a fire on a Korean fishing boat, so we helped with a response. We needed to give oxygen to the recovering crew. The ones who were a little better were challenged to a game of football in the snow, but they had to borrow oversized wellies to play. The best part was that penguins came to watch us win 8-0.

I’ve been independent since August 2019 and was at NIWA for seven years before that. Before NIWA I was doing a PhD in London on toothfish at the South Sandwich Islands, while also observing on commercial fishing vessels. As a marine scientist I do population modelling of fish stocks and marine megafauna like sea lions, dolphins and seabirds to try and figure out the population effects of fishing and other threats. If I’m lucky I can do projects on multiple-threat assessment. I also do stock assessment. I like to have an overview of the science to get a good idea of the big picture.

Photo: Jim helps Hiromi dissect a Hake.

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My favourite thing about the job is the discovery. As a kid I liked detective novels and who dunnits – complicated stories that are seemingly impossible to understand. If you can get all the evidence, you can figure it out though. That’s why I like marine science.

To those who are interested in pursuing a career in marine science, I have a checkered past and have been down a number of dead ends but they have all been useful. I went to art college, then did a PhD in phytoplankton ecology. Even though I don’t particularly use those skills now it is useful for now where I work on communication as well as fish science. People who have an overview of many things are useful! Also, you aren’t competing for crumbs there is so much to study. Cast the net wide – if you think and look hard enough you can find things to work on!