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Personal profile

Personal profile

Dr. Gordon O’Brien is a Senior Fellow in Water at the Gulbali Institute, Charles Sturt University. Dr. O’Brien obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree from the University of Johannesburg in 2012. He is a South African Council for Natural Scientific Professionals registered professional scientist and a South African National Research Foundation (C2) rated scientist with an extensive international profile. He has >60 peer-reviewed scientific publications and book chapters. Dr. Gordon O’Brien has water resource management and freshwater ecology experience from 2004. His specialisations include sustainable water resource management, freshwater ecology, fish and fisheries, ecotoxicology and ecosystem services.  Dr. O’Brien specialises in the probabilistic modelling of the effects of multiple water resource stressors affecting vulnerable socio-ecological systems, on large, holistic, regional scales. He has additional specialisation in regional scale ecological risk assessments, environmental flows, ecosystem services, ecotoxicology, ichthyology and fisheries, human capacity development and training. 


Dr. O’Brien has established international collaborations and has co-publications with global scientists. He has managed- and/or led applied research projects from 2004, raising >US$2.5 million for African sustainable water resources research.  Funders or clients of Dr. O’Brien’s research includes governments and non-governmental organisations and international funding organisations. Dr. O’Brien has directly contributed to the development of policies, strategies, legislation, and their implementation for the management of African water resources.


Dr. O’Brien has an extensive undergraduate teaching profile and has supervised numerous Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D., n>12) and Masters of Science (M.Sc., n>20) students to completion. He has management experience including being an undergraduate Programme Leader, Ph.D and M.Sc co-ordinator and director of research programmes. Dr. O’Brien is currently a member of the Inland Freshwater Fisheries Research Group of the Gulbali Institute in Australia and heads up the applied sustainable water resources research programme in South Africa called Rivers of Life (  Dr. Gordon O’Brien has been the co-ordinator of the African Swimway programme, an African continent representative of the World Fish Migration Foundation, he is a member of the International Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, a member of the Durable Rivers Protection Coalition, leads the IUCN WCPA Freshwater Specialist Group, and is a member of, and has been an Executive Committee member of the South African Society of Aquatic Scientists.  He is an associate editor for Water SA and an expert on the Review Panel of the Journal of Ecohydraulics and a specialist editor of Frontiers Environmental Science.  


Gordon’s career vision is to carry out evidence-based research on water resources and their response to multiple stressors, for a sustainable future for our vulnerable ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Education/Academic qualification

Aquatic Ecology, Doctor of Philosophy, Regional Scale Risk Assessment Methodology Using the Relative Risk Model as a Management Tool for Aquatic Ecosystems in South Africa, University of Johannesburg

01 Jan 200530 Dec 2011

Award Date: 04 Oct 2012

Subject keywords

  • Sustainable water resource management
  • Freshwater ecology
  • Fish and fisheries
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Ecosystem services

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