Orla O’Brien

Associate Research Scientist II,
Spatial Ecology, Mapping, and Assessment (EcoMap)




M.S., Marine Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 2017

Sc.B., Marine Biology, Brown University, 2010


Orla O’Brien is an associate scientist at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, in the EcoMap group. She manages the aerial survey team, which conducts aerial surveys in wind energy development areas near Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. These surveys identify species such as marine mammals, turtles, and fish, monitor changes in animal populations, and document changes in habitat use. The aerial team also conducts surveys to assess biodiversity in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

In addition to leading the data collection efforts for aerial surveys, Orla conducts analyses of these data that further our understanding of marine mammal distributions and how they change over time. Her master’s work focused on the behavioral ecology of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia.

  1. Select Publications

    Hodge, B., Pendleton, D., Ganley, L., O’Brien, O., Kraus, S., Quintana-Rizzo, E., Redfern, J. In Review. Identifying predictors of species diversity to guide designation of Marine Protected Areas. Conservation Science and Practice.

    Redfern, J., Kryc K., Weiss L., Hodge B., O’Brien O., Kraus, S., Quintana-Rizzo, E., Auster, P. (2021). Opening a marine monument to commercial fishing compromises protections for species from the sea surface to sea floor. Frontiers in Marine Science.

    Quintana-Rizzo, S. Leiter, T.V.N. Cole, M.N. Hagbloom, A.R. Knowlton, P. Nagelkirk, O. O’Brien, C.B. Khan, A.G. Henry, P.A. Duley, L.M. Crowe, C.A. Mayo, and S.D. Kraus (2021) Residency, demographics, and movement patterns of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) in an offshore wind energy development in southern New England, USA. Endangered Species Research

    O’Brien, O., Allen, S. J., Krützen, M., & Connor, R. C. (2020). Alliance-specific habitat selection by male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Animal Behaviour164, 39-49.

    Crowe, L. M., O’Brien, O., Curtis, T. H., Leiter, S. M., Kenney, R. D., Duley, P. and Kraus, S. D. (2018), Characterization of large basking shark Cetorhinus maximus aggregations in the western North Atlantic Ocean. J Fish Biol. doi:10.1111/jfb.13592