Shawn Robinson

Research Scientist
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Current research and/or projects

Dr. Robinson is actively engaged in applied ecological research on marine shellfish species such as blue mussels, sea scallops, sea urchins and soft-shell clams. His research team is studying the natural processes by which these animals interact and utilise their environment so that better and more sustainable culture techniques can be developed. One example of this research is the study of an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) project (sometimes known as polyculture) where shellfish are grown in conjunction with other species to produce a more sustainable and productive system. Much of this work involves collaborative projects with industry and academic partners and takes a more holistic view of the aquaculture system combining biology, physics, economics, sociology, and government policy. Results from this novel approach are encouraging and are showing both biological and economic feasibility with the two biofilters (i.e. mussels and kelp) currently being used. Other components are currently being evaluated that will provide both a biological recycling advantage and an economic boost to the aquaculture operation. Much of this work is being done through the training of graduate students who are continuing to spread the IMTA concept.

Some highlights of his research include:

  • Studies on the fisheries and enhancement ecology of the soft-shell clams, Mya arenaria, in the Bay of Fundy.
  • Development and implementation of a sea urchin assessment program for the harvest fishery in south-western New Brunswick. To-date, the stocks in the Bay of Fundy are still in good shape, unlike many other parts of the world.
  • Investigations into the potential for sea urchin aquaculture by studing the ecology of the animals and using on-land culture techniques based on prepared diets developed in-house at the St. Andrews Biological Station.
  • Studying the bio-physical linkages of the early life histories of the sea scallop, Placopecten magellanicus, with the biological oceanography of the Bay of Fundy.
  • Development of concepts, procedures and management guidelines for the implementation of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), an ecologically advanced form of aquaculture in the marine environment.

Research and/or project statements

Dr. Shawn Robinson has been working for the last 18 years as a research scientist with the Dept. Fisheries and Oceans at the Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.  He is also an adjunct professor at the University of New Brunswick and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and is actively engaged in applied ecological research on marine shellfish species such as blue mussels, sea scallops, sea urchins and soft-shell clams.  His research team is studying the natural processes by which these animals interact and utilise their environment so that better and more sustainable culture techniques can be developed.  One example of this research is the study of an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) project (sometimes known as polyculture) where shellfish are grown in conjunction with other species to produce a more sustainable and productive system.  Much of this work involves collaborative projects with industry and academic partners and takes a more holistic view of the aquaculture system combining biology, physics, economics, sociology, and government policy.  Results from this novel approach are encouraging and are showing both biological and economic feasibility with the two biofilters (i.e. mussels and kelp) currently being used.  Other components are currently being evaluated that will provide both a biological recycling advantage and an economic boost to the aquaculture operation.  Much of this work is being done through the training of graduate students who are continuing to spread the IMTA concept.

Professional activities / interests

  • Research Biologist (1982 – 1984). Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, B.C.
  • Biologist (1983) Environmental Sciences Limited, Vancouver, B.C.

Education and awards

B.Sc. Honours Biology, Acadia University, 1979

M.Sc. Biology, Simon Fraser University, 1983

Ph.D. Biology, University of British Columbia, 1988

Key publications

  1. Robinson, S.M.C. and T.W. Rowell. 1990. A re-examination of the incidental fishing mortality of the traditional clam hack on the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria Linnaeus, 1758. J. Shellfish Res. 9:283-289.

  2. Robinson, SMC and RA Chandler. 1992. An effective and safe method for sorting small molluscs from sediment. Limnol. Oceanogr. 38:1088-1091.

  3. Robinson, SMC, JD Martin, and RA Chandler. 1992. Assessment of a large mortality event of scallops in the Bay of Fundy. CAFSAC Res. Doc. 92/30. 13 p.

  4. Robinson, SMC, JD Martin, RA Chandler, GJ Parsons, and CY Couturier. 1992. Settlement patterns of the giant scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) in Passamaquoddy Bay, New Brunswick. CAFSAC Res. Doc. 92/115. 25 p.

  5. Robinson, SMC. 1993. A review of the biological information associated with enhancing scallop production. World Aquac. 24:61-67.

  6. Robinson, S.M.C. and A. MacIntyre. 1995 Biological fishery information for the rational development of the green sea urchin industry. Final Report for the New Brunswick Dept. Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Canada-New Brunswick Co-operation Agreement on Economic Diversification. 90 pp. Biological Station, St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

  7. Robinson, SMC; JD Martin, FH Page and R. Losier. 1996. Temperature and salinity characteristics of Passamaquoddy Bay and approaches between 1990 and 1995 Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci 2139: 59 p.

  8. Robinson, S.M.C., S. Bernier and A. MacIntyre 2001. The impact of scallop drags on sea urchin populations and benthos in the Bay of Fundy, Canada. Hydrobiologia 465: 103-114.

  9. Robinson, S.M.C., J.D. Castell and E.J. Kennedy. 2002. Developing suitable colour in the gonads of cultured green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis). Aquaculture 206: 289-303.

  10. Robinson, S.M.C and Chopin, T. 2004. Defining the appropriate regulatory and policy framework for the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture practices: Summary of the workshop and issues for the future. Bull Aquacul. Assoc. Can. 104-3:73-82.

  11. Robinson S.M.C., L.M. Auffrey and M.A. Barbeau. 2005. Far-field impacts of eutrophication on the intertidal zone in the Bay of Fundy, Canada with emphasis on the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria. pp.253-274. In: Hargrave, B.T. (Ed.) The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry Volume 5-M: Water Pollution Environmental Effects of Marine Finfish Aquaculture. Springer Verlag/Berlin, Heidelberg. 467 p.

  12. Parsons, G.J. and S.M.C. Robinson. 2005. Sea Scallop Aquaculture in the Northwest Atlantic. Chapter 16. pp. 907-944. In: (Shumway, S.E. and G.J. Parsons Eds.) Scallops: Biology, Ecology and Aquaculture (Revised Edition). Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  13. Daggett, T.L., C.M. Pearce and S.M.C. Robinson. 2006. A comparison of three land-based containment systems for use in culturing green sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis (Müller) (Echinodermata: Echinoidea). Aquaculture Res. 37: 339-350

  14. Ridler, N., Robinson, B., Chopin, T., Robinson, S., and Page, F., 2006. Development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture in the Bay of Fundy, Canada: a socio-economic case study. World Aquac. 37: 43-48