Chris Orphanides

Research Zoologist
Resource Evaluation & Assessment/Protected Species
Phone: (401) 782-3283 or (508) 495-2193

Chris Orphanides

Research Zoologist


  • URI Graduate School of Oceanography, PhD, 2019
  • Duke University, MEM Coastal Environmental Management, 2001
  • Colby College, BS Environmental Studies & History, 1995


As a member of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Protected Species Branch since 2004, Chris Orphanides has conducted research on cetacean, pinniped, sea turtle, and seabird bycatch, habitat, and distribution to inform fisheries management. Since 2006 he has been particularly involved in harbor porpoise bycatch issues, calculating annual gillnet bycatch estimates, investigating alternate bycatch estimation methods, publishing a comprehensive review on the effectiveness of harbor porpoise management measures, and serving as the lead science advisor to the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Team.

Chris has also contributed to several PSB research projects by linking protected species analysis with oceanographic data from satellites and ocean models. He has often served as an advisor to analyses associated with satellite data and geographic information systems and has created programs that process and link various oceanographic variables to protected species bycatch, habitat, and abundance models.

Current Research

While continuing to serve as a bycatch analyst, these past few years Chris has expanded his research into marine mammal foraging ecology as it relates to oceanography, bycatch, and marine mammal distribution. In 2014 he was accepted into NOAA's Advanced Study Program and recently completed his PhD in Oceanography at URI. His dissertation explored relating marine mammal distribution to prey abundance and included chapters on harbor porpoise diet south of New England, potential right whale prey sources in southern New England, and relating marine mammal distribution to prey fields derived from echosounding. As an offshoot from his dissertation research, Chris has led multiple research cruises exploring southern New England right whale habitat use, employing a novel combination of oceanography and prey sampling tools in the region of right whales. He and collaborators have received funding to further explore these issues with multiple short cruises during the winter and spring of 2020.

Chris is also part of national and regional report efforts on bycatch, climate, and ecosystem based management, including serving as one of a team of experts assessing marine mammal vulnerability to climate change. Chris aims to continue conducting research that is directly applicable to management by linking protected species to ecology and oceanography. He is looking forward to serving as the NEFSC protected species wind lead where he aims to support the wind team by providing expertise on protected species, lead a team developing a protected species wind science framework that addresses potential cumulative and regional impacts, and conduct marine mammal habitat and foraging ecology research relevant to offshore wind development in southern New England.