C.E. "Shades" O'Brien, Ph.D.


Resident Lecturer in Tropical Marine Ecology




Ph.D. in Ethology
Université de Caen Normandie (France)

M.S. in Marine and Estuarine Science
Western Washington University (WA, USA)

B.A. in Biology
Oberlin College (OH, USA)


SFS 3131 Marine Megafauna Ecology and Conservation
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 3530 Tropical Marine Ecosystems: Monitoring and Management
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 3730 Tropical Marine Ecology
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 4910 Directed Research
(The School for Field Studies)

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Faculty Profile

I became interested in the sea and marine biology at a very young age, devouring books and documentaries about marine life throughout my childhood. This interest persisted into adulthood, and, even though I attended college far from the ocean (Oberlin College, Ohio), led me to supplement traditional classwork with numerous marine internships and field classes during summer and winter terms between undergraduate semesters. The most memorable of these was a summer course at SFS Turks and Caicos in 2006, where I first participated in ecological field work while assisting with the tagging of sharks and sea turtles. Since then, my studies and career have been driven largely by my fascination with the ecology, evolution and behavior of marine invertebrates, especially cephalopods (octopus, cuttlefish, squid and nautilus) and other molluscs (e.g. snails, clams, chitons). For my M.S. at Western Washington University, Washington, I examined changes in shell thickness of Nucella (a genus of intertidal snail) in response to water-borne cues from predatory crabs. A few years later, I traveled overseas to Normandy, France, to attend the Université de Caen, where I studied the effects of prenatal and maternal stress on the biology and behavior of baby cuttlefish. Most recently, I have been studying the behavior and ecology of the octopods common in the tropical western Atlantic.

Areas of Expertise

  • Marine ecology
  • Ethology
  • Cephalopod behavior


O'Brien, C. E., Roumbedakis, K., & Winkelmann, I. E. The current state of cephalopod science and perspectives on the most critical challenges ahead from three early-career researchers. Frontiers in Physiology 9 (2018): 700.
Barrett, C.J., Bensbai, J, Broadhurst, M.K. Bustamante, P., Clark, R., Cooke, G.M., Di Cosmo, A., Drerup, C. Escolar, O., Fernández-Álvarez, F.A., Ganias, K., Hall, K.C., Hanlon, R.T., Hernández-Urcera, J., Hua, Q.Q.H., Lacoue-Labarthe, T., Lewis, J., Lishchenko, F., Maselli, V., Moustahfid, H., Nakajima, R., O’Brien, C.E., Parkhouse, L., Pengelly, S., Pierce, G.J., Ramírez, J.G., Robin, J-P., Sajikumar, K.K., Sasikumar, G., Smith, C.L., Villanueva, R., Yến, D.T.H. ICES Journal of Marine Science (2022): fsac200. https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsac200
O'Brien, C. E., Ponte, G., & Fiorito, G. Octopus. Elsevier Reference Module in Life Sciences (2018). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128096338900748?via%3Dihub
O’Brien S.L. & O’Brien, C.E. Journal of Molluscan Studies 88 (2022): eyac020.https://doi.org/10.1093/mollus/eyac020
O’Brien, C.E., Bennice, C. & Leite, T. Zootaxa 5060 (2021): 589-594. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5060.4.8
O'Brien, C. E., Di Miccoli, V., & Fiorito, G Journal of Molluscan Studies 87, (2021): eyab032. https://doi.org/10.1093/mollus/eyab032
O’Brien, C.E., Medeiros, S.L. & Leite, T.L. Marine Ecology (in Press).


Oral presentation at the 2018 Cephalopod International Advisory Council (CIAC) meeting (“Cephalopod Research Across Scales: From Molecules to Ecosystems”) in St. Petersburg, Florida (USA), Nov. 12-16, 2018. “‘Model’ behavior? Temperamental differences in Octopus vulgaris.”
Keynote lecture at the 2017 COST Action CephsInAction and CIAC meeting (“Cephalopod Science; from Biology to Welfare”) in Heraklion, Crete (Greece), March 28-30, 2017. “Cephalopod Research: Visions of the Future; Behavior, Cognition and Neurobiology.”
Oral presentation at the 2017 COST Action CephsInAction and CIAC meeting (“Cephalopod Science; from Biology to Welfare”) in Heraklion, Crete (Greece), March 28-30, 2017. “Effects of Reproductive Stress on Offspring Behavior in the cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis.”
Oral presentation at the 2016 Société Française pour l’Étude du Comportement Animal (SFECA) conference in Caen, France, March 22-24, 2016. “Effects of maternal stress on behavior in juvenile cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis).”
Oral presentation at the 2015 Société Française pour l’Étude du Comportement Animal (SFECA) conference in Strasbourg, France, April 20-23, 2015. “Effects of artificial incubation and prenatal predator exposure on hatchling behavior in Sepia officinalis.”