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Dr David Wilby

Dr David Wilby

Dr David Wilby
BSc, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Area of research

Animal Vision and Photoreceptor Optics

Office 113
Life Sciences Building,
24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 39 41350


Polarization sensitivity in fish

The mechanism of polarization sensitivity is well-known for invertebrates. However, some vertebrates have been shown to demonstrate some behaviours influenced by the polarization of light. Understanding of how this is done in the vertebrate retina is still lacking. Using a combination of photoreceptor optical simulations and a novel form of optical trapping polarization microspectrophotometry, I am working with Dr. Nicholas Roberts to test theories of polarization sensitivity in the photoreceptors of fish.

Optical structure of vertebrate photoreceptor organelles

The retinal photoreceptors are the front line in vision. Despite this, vertebrate photoreceptors are effectively arranged ‘backwards’ in the eye. Their own cell bodies occlude the light-sensitive apparatus and hence are a potential source of image degradation. Since the cell body contains essential organelles with high refractive indices such as the nucleus and mitochondria, there is an evolutionary pressure to prevent these structures from degrading image quality and compromising photoreception. Furthermore, some species have developed additional optical apparatus in their cone photoreceptors.
Using optical measurements and simulations along with a comparative evolutionary approach, I am investigating how the structure of the photoreceptor organelles quantitatively influence vision.

Relevant publication: Wilby et al 2015 J. R. Soc. Interface 20150591.


2015-18: Postdoctoral research associate, Ecology of Vision Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol. With: Dr. Nicholas Roberts.

2015: Visiting scientist, Vision group, Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden. With: Prof. Almut Kelber & Prof. Dan-Eric Nilsson.

2010-15: PhD Student, Ecology of Vision Lab & Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, University of Bristol. Thesis title: Optics and photoreception in the avian retina. Supervisors: Dr Nicholas Roberts (Biological Sciences) & Dr Ruth Oulton (Physics & Electrical Engineering)

2006-10: BSc Physics, 1st Class Hons, University of Bath.

2008-09: Placement student, Millimetre Wave Technology, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Supervisor: Dr. Byron Alderman.


  • Taught on Sensory Ecology field course 2016, University of Bristol.
  • Taught Biology MSci paper discussion session Nov 2015, University of Bristol.
  • Supervision of Biology Masters student Oct 2015 – May 2016 & summer project students Aug-Sep 2015.
  • Supervision of Biology laboratory project students, University of Bristol 2014-2015.
  • Course lecturer/tutor/initiator, Introduction to Optics, Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, 2012-2015.
  • Laboratory demonstrator, 1st year, School of Physics, University of Bristol, 2011-2012.


  • optics
  • vision
  • photonics
  • ecology
  • colour
  • polarization vision


  • FDTD Simulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Phase Microscopy
  • Spectrophotometry



School of Biological Sciences

Other sites


Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

Networks & contacts

  • Prof. Joseph Corbo & Dr. Matthew Toomey (WUSTL)
  • Prof. Almut Kelber (Lund)
  • Prof. Tom Cronin (UMBC)
  • Dr. Yakir Gagnon (QBI)

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