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Meet Héloïse Frouin-Mouy, Bio-acoustician

April 25, 2023

As part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, meet Dr. Héloïse Frouin-Mouy.

Heloise is on the beach with her son, daughter, and husband. They are holding trash collectors, buckets, and have gloves on after doing a beach clean up. Héloïse and her family completed a beach cleanup. Photo provided by Héloïse Frouin-Mouy

Where did you grow up? 

I was born and raised in France, where my parents and brothers still live. My family is from Vendée, on the French Atlantic coast, and my passion for life in the oceans probably started from observing the local coastal ocean and its inhabitants.  

Where did you go to school and in what subject did you get your degree(s)?

I earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Biology from the Université de La Rochelle, France. I went to the Université du Québec à Rimouski, Canada, and graduated with a Master’s of Science in Oceanography. Then, I got my Doctorate in Biology from the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Canada.    

How did you come to work at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center?

After receiving my Ph.D. and a postdoc at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, both in marine mammal toxicology, I had the opportunity to expand my skills to the field of passive acoustics. I worked for 9 years as a bio-acoustician in a Canadian company providing consulting services in underwater acoustics. Something was missing in my life and I realized I wanted to go back to research. In 2021, I got the chance to join the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division’s Passive Acoustic Ecology Program as a postdoctoral research associate. 

Heloise kneeling facing away in front of recording equipment in the snowy, frozen land of Canada. She is recording a hooded seal several yards ahead of her.
Héloïse recording the airborne and underwater sounds produced by hooded seals off the coast of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo by Harrison Macrae

What do you do at the science center?

I am a NOAA affiliate working for the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies. My work mainly involves fieldwork preparation, data collection, data analysis, as well as writing manuscripts, reports, and grants. My current research aims to better understand beaked whales’ diving and calling behavior in the Gulf of Mexico using passive acoustic tracking, an alternative tool to tagging. This knowledge will be used to obtain more reliable and robust population density estimates from passive acoustics data.     

What do you like most about your position?

Since joining NOAA Fisheries, I really enjoy working with great colleagues in an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment. It’s very stimulating to engage with scientists who are knowledgeable, curious, and passionate. Moreover, after 10 years working on Arctic or subarctic marine mammal species, I particularly appreciate the opportunity of fieldwork in a warm environment.        

What advice would you give to people interested in supporting and conducting whale and dolphin science?

Our Marine Mammal and Turtle Division Director, Mridula Srinivasan, has previously provided great advice on “how to become a marine mammal scientist.” One thing that resonates particularly with me is about the knowledge transfer across scientific disciplines. My advice is to pursue a discipline that you are genuinely interested in and that can be easily applied to marine mammal occupations.       

Heloise and Dr. Ludovic Tenorio retrieving moorings on a ship in the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Héloïse Frouin-Mouy and her colleague, Dr. Ludovic Tenorio, retrieving moorings in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/ Melissa Soldevilla

Are there new technologies you are excited about investigating or applying to your work now or in the future?

I am passionate about new technologies and how they can change the way we do research. In the past, I developed a dual-drone approach to simultaneously monitor visual and acoustic behavior of marine mammals. As a drone enthusiast, I would love to expand this approach (or a similar one) in my research. Another exciting technology that we are currently interested in is uncrewed systems such as ocean gliders equipped with passive acoustic monitoring devices. These new platforms may help us to conduct dolphin and whale assessments in remote regions.

Why is protecting and conserving whales and dolphins important?

Protecting the ocean and conserving its biodiversity is important to ensure a sustainable future.  Marine mammals are essential to the balance of marine ecosystems and they are sentinels of changes in the overall health of the ocean. 

What is the biggest threat or concern for U.S. whale and dolphin populations right now? What can everyone do to help protect them?

Almost all marine mammal species face at least one threat, which are caused either directly or indirectly by human actions. They include:

  • entanglement and bycatch in fishing gear 
  • habitat destruction
  • prey availability reduction 
  • noise and chemical pollution
  • increase in vessel traffic and ship strikes

One important issue is the lack of public awareness on biodiversity conservation. Scientists are communicating their research in the hope that policy makers make more informed decisions. Nevertheless, public attention and interest in the fate of endangered species is a crucial prerequisite for funding of conservation programs. A good example is the Rice’s whale, which is the world’s newest whale species and is already one of the most endangered whales in the world. Because this species is not well known to the general public, it fails to attract funding for research. Public engagement around science can make a difference.  

Is there a book, quote, or person that influenced you to be the person that you are today? Tell us why.

The French oceanographer Jacques (-Yves) Cousteau is my childhood hero. He was a marine explorer who, in the 1970s, raised awareness of marine ecosystems. A quote that I like is “Curiosity is the essence of the scientific mind” (Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson). Curiosity is a powerful tool for great science but also for everyday learning and opportunity.    

Heloise, her son, her daughter, and her husband holding Polar Express tickets and wearing Santa Claus hats.
“All aboard! All aboard!” Héloïse and her family before boarding the Polar Express in Miami (2022). Photo courtesy of Heloise Frouin-Mouy

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to be with my husband and my two kids. We love to be outdoors whenever possible and spend a lot of time exploring around Miami and learning about its different heritages.

Contact Heloise

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on April 25, 2023