You are here: HomeStaffList of PersonnelKirwan John D.

John KirwanPostdoctoral fellow
Biology and Evolution of Marine Organisms Department

Email: john.kirwan(at)szn.it
Personal webpage: https://jkirwan.org

Curriculum Vitae



Research Interests

I am interested in the simplest visual systems among animals: How well they see and what they are used for. I am particularly interested in invertebrate animals with unconventional visual systems, such as sea urchins, which can see although they lack discrete eyes. Some form of light detection is very widespread among the animals, but we know surprisingly little about their visual systems; in some cases, we are not sure if they can truly see. In my PhD work and since then I have tested the visual abilities of a variety of animal eyes, using behavioural experiments. I am very interested in applied Bayesian statistics and the statistical tools we can use to interpret our experimental data. I have also explored the morphology of visual systems using microscopy and tomography to interrelate their visual performance to the optical properties of the visual system. Eyes are costly and have been evolved because they perform important tasks for the animal in its habitat. I am also interested in the visual ecology of animals – which tasks they use light for and when – and what kind of information they can glean from the environment. Studying these simple eyes and light detectors also tells us something about what ancient eyes might have been like and how they might have evolved.

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