Shannon O’Brien

Animal Care & Horticulture
Animal Welfare Science Program
Animal Welfare Scientist


Shannon is an Animal Welfare Scientist within the Animal Welfare Science Program at Lincoln Park Zoo. She has a background in mammalogy, behavioral ecology, and science communication. Shannon contributes to our zoo-wide welfare assessment program, and strives to develop novel evidence-based welfare assessments for species that have been historically understudied. She also seeks to improve our understanding of the complex relationship between zoo-housed animals and their environment, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the welfare of the animals while simultaneously providing zoo visitors with an enriching and educational zoo experience.

Prior to joining Lincoln Park Zoo, Shannon earned her Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. She conducted her graduate work on the natural history and behavioral ecology of subterranean rodents from South America.


  • O’Brien, S. L., & Cronin, K. A. (2023). The impacts of a commercial bubble curtain on zoo-housed African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) swimming behavior. Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 4(3), 567–577.
  • O’Brien, S. L., & Cronin, K. A. (2023). Doing better for understudied species: Evaluation and improvement of a species-general animal welfare assessment tool for zoos. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 264, 105965.
  • O’Brien, S.L., Irian, C.G., Bentley, G.E., & Lacey, E.A. (2022). Sex, not social behavior, predicts fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations in a facultatively social rodent, the highland tuco-tuco (Ctenomys opimus). Hormones and Behavior, 141, 105152.
  • Lacey, E.A., Amaya, J.P., Irian, C.G., Carrizo, P.G., O’Brien, S.L., & Ojeda, A.A. (2022). Variable social organization among tuco-tucos (genus Ctenomys) in the opimus clade. Journal of Mammalogy, 103(4), 979-992.
  • O’Brien, S.L., Tammone, M.N., Cuello, P.A., & Lacey, E.A. (2021). Multi-year assessment of variability in spatial and social relationships in a subterranean rodent, the highland tuco-tuco (Ctenomys opimus). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 75(93).
  • O’Brien, S.L., Tammone, M.N., Cuello, P.A., & Lacey, E.A. (2020). Facultative sociality in a subterranean rodent, the highland tuco-tuco (Ctenomys opimus). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 129(4), 918-930.Lacey, E.A., O’Brien, S.L., Sobrero, R., & Ebensperger, L.A. (2019). Spatial relationships among free-living cururos (Spalacopus cyanus) demonstrate burrow sharing and communal nesting. Journal of Mammalogy, 100(6), 1918-1927.
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