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Prof. G.C. O’Brien

Senior Lecturer
013 002 0252
Mbombela, Building 6. Annexure 3. Office 114 (first floor)



Aquatic Ecology, Zoology, Water resources Management, Ecotoxicology, Ichthyology and fisheries, Human capacity development and training.


  • Bachelor of Science (Zoology and Botany) from Rand Afrikaans University in 2001.
  • Bachelor of Science, Honours (Aquatic Health) from Rand Afrikaans University in 2002.
  • Master of Science (Aquatic Health) from University of Johannesburg in 2004.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Aquatic Health) from University of Johannesburg in 2012.

Currently Teaching

  • Diploma in Nature Conservation: Resource Management 201 (REM201).
  • Diploma in Nature Conservation: Animal Studies 102 (ZOO102).
  • Bachelor of Science: Water Management 202 (WMG202).
  • Bachelor of Science, Honors: Resource Management (REM501).

Research Focus Areas

  • Regional scale, holistic management of water resources including risk assessments,
  • Water resource sustainability and protection,
  • Freshwater conservation including aquatic biology and ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem processes,
  • Ecosystem services,
  • Fisheries, ichthyology and fish migration, and
  • Aquatic ecotoxicology, environmental flows, geomorphology and hydraulics.

Books and Book Chapters


Journal Articles

  • O’Brien GC, Jacobs FJ, Nel L, Wepener W and Smit NJ. 2013. Habitat use, home ranges, migrations and general behaviour of yellowfishes in the Vaal River, with management considerations for the river. South African Journal of Science. 109:7/8. 1-8.
  • O'Brien, G. C., Dickens, C., Hines, E., Wepener, V., Stassen, R., Quayle, L., Fouchy, K., MacKenzie, J., Graham, P. M., and Landis, W. G.: A regional-scale ecological risk framework for environmental flow evaluations, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 957-975, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-957-2018, 2018.
  • O’Brien, G. C., Ross, M., Hanzen, C., Dlamini, V., Petersen, R., Diedericks, G. J. and Burnett M. J. 2019. "River connectivity and fish migration considerations in the management of multiple stressors in South Africa." Marine and Freshwater Research. https://doi.org/10.1071/MF19183
  • O’Brien G.C., Wepener, W. Smit N.J. (2021) Regional scale risk to the ecological sustainability and ecosystem services of an African Floodplain system. Risk Analysis. RA-00221-2019.R1.
  • O’Brien, G.C. Dickens, C., Baker, C., Stassen, R. and van Weert, F. 2020. Sustainable Floodplains: Linking E-Flows to Floodplain Management, Ecosystems, and Livelihoods in the Sahel of North Africa. Sustainability 2020, 12, 10578; doi:10.3390/su122410578

Professional Associations and Academic Accolades

  • South African Council for Natural Scientific Practitioners: Pr. Sci. Nat. (AQUATIC HEALTH).
  • European Commission expert candidature.
  • NAEHMP - SASS5 Practitioner (River Health Programme) Department of Water and Sanitation.
  • Member of the International Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
  • Executive Committee Member of the South African Society of Aquatic Scientists.
  • Africa Representative of Swimway Africa for World Fish Migration Foundation.
  • Member of Water Institute of Southern Africa.
  • Programme Leader: Rivers of Life Aquatic Health Services.
  • Honorary Research of the School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Engagement Projects

  • African representative of the World Fish Migration Foundation, implementing the African Swimway Programme. Bringing fish, rivers and Africans together for a sustainable future.
  • UMP representative of the Mpumalanga Aquaculture Forum for the Mpumalanga Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs.
  • UMP representative of the MOU with the IUCMA to develop research capacity and support the implementation of South African Legislation to manage water resources.
  • Representative of the MOU with SANPARKS to support aquatic conservation programmes with the Kruger National Park.
  • Representative of MOU with the Stilbay Tourism Bureu and the Eel Hold education and conservation project in the Western Cape South Africa.
  • Representative of MOU with Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism and supporting their efforts to conserve aquatic ecosystems in Mpumalanga.
  • WIOMSA-ROL-UMP project: Slippery resource in peril: ecology of Western Indian Ocean Anguillid eels and their contribution to sustainable fisheries and livelihood along the east coast of Africa.
  • BRICS-NRF-UMP Multilateral study: Global and local water quality monitoring by multimodal sensor systems.
  • NBI-ROL project: Nile Basin wetlands of transboundary significance: Inventory, Baseline Study and Framework Management Plan with a nested case study on the Sudd.
  • IWMI-ROL-UMP project: E-flows for the Limpopo River Basin.
  • WRC-UMP Project: Risk framework for multiple stressors and integrated sustainability management of the trans-boundary water resources of the inkomati basin, southern Africa.