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Dr Shelby Temple

Dr Shelby Temple

Dr Shelby Temple
BSc(UVic), MSc(Newfndlnd), PhD(UVic)

Research Associate

Area of research

Visual ecology

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

+44 (0) 117 39 41707


My interests are generally in behaviour and sensory systems in the context of ecology and evolution, but specifically: visual ecology, comparative sensory physiology, neuroethology, visual psychophysics, and aquaculture.


Recent highlights

Approaches and Methods

Psychophysical tests

  • innate responses (startle responses, movement tracking, optomotor/optokinetic)

  • Landolt-C

  • Learned behaviours

  • operant conditioning

Direct observation of behaviours


Retinal topography

Electron microscopy

Model systems

Fishes: archerfish (Toxotes chatareus, T. jaculatrix); salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch); zebrafish (Danio rerio), snook (Centropomus parallelus); barramundi (Lates calcarifer);

Cephalopods: octopus (Octopus cyanea, Hapalochlaena fasciata, Abdopus aculeatus); cuttlefish (Sepia plangon, Sepia officinalis, Sepioloidea lineolata ); squid (Sepiotheuthis lessoniana)

Crustaceans: Stomatopods (Haptosquilla trispinosa); fiddler crab (Uca perplexa)

Primates: Human (Homo sapiens)


I spent my childhood in Ontario, Canada, mostly on a small farm in Hopetown. I moved to Ottawa as a teenager, and went to Lisgar Collegiate Institute. After high school I travelled to Togo, West Africa on an exchange, before attending the University of Victoria for my undergraduate degree. I spent one year at Carleton University in Ottawa taking courses not offered at UVic, as well as a summer at Bamfield Marine Station doing biology field courses. During my undergrad I was part of the Co-operative program that placed me in several work posts including: Saltspring Aquafarms (bivalve & salmon aquaculture), British Columbia Ministry of Environment (monitoring industrial pollution), Institute of Applied Sciences, University of South Pacific, Fiji (testing mangroves for tertiary sewage treatment), and on a Goshawk crew in British Columbia (species and population inventory of temperate rainforests).

My masters incorporated aquaculture studies and research at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as field research at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil.

For my PhD, I returned to the University of Victoria and worked on a multidisciplenary research project, joint funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, under the supervision of Prof. Craig Hawryshyn (investigating the functional significance of visual pigment chromophore shifting).

I received a NSERC postdoctoral fellowship, as well as postdoctoral fellowship from The University of Queensland, to support my continued visual ecology research in the Sensory Neurobiology Group, with Prof. Shaun Collin and Prof. Justin Marshall at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Activities / Findings

Recently, we demonstrated that cephalopods, but not fish, are able to use e-vector (polarized light) contrast to detect potential predators (Phil. Trans.). While it has been known for some time that cephalopods can see polarized light, we have little understanding of the functional significance of polarization vision. Some fish have been demonstrated to have polarization sensitivity, but again it is unclear what it is used for. This research suggests that fish may not use polarized light information in the same way as cephalopods. I suspect fish may use polarized light information for navigation and orientation behaviours if at all, or that it may be an entopic effect, like Haidinger's brush in humans and may be of little adaptive value. While for cephalopods it seems clear that they can use polarized light information for object discrimination, and it may provide them with another dimension of spatial information that is just as fined resolution as colour for other animals, since cephalopods do not possess colour vision.


My philosophy on teaching is that university degrees are the highest level of education available and that the calibre of teaching and quality of information presented should reflect this, but also that students should be expected to put in the effort required to fully understand the information not just memorize it. I do not agree with the contemporary business-plan approach to teaching, in which students are consumers and we are selling an education. I think we are sharing and imparting knowledge, and that instructors have an obligation to package that information in a way that is captivating in order to help maintain student interest.

 I like to challenge students to help them learn how to critically analyze all that they read, see, hear and learn. And I prefer to teach to the upper 25 % not the mean. Universities are full of resources and there is no excuse to not finding the information needed. On that note I, make it clear to my students that I am open to and available for further discussions. 

2010                     Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience (The University of Queensland)

 One of several lecturers, led critical thinking tutorials,responsible for part of the exam.

2007-2008             Neuroethology (University of Victoria)

 Taught half of the course twice, developed course material from scratch, led critical thinking tutorials, responsible for half of the exam and marking

2007-2008             Animal Behaviour (University of Victoria)

Laboratory Instructor, wrote quizzes, marked major assignment and invigilated exam

2006                     Advanced Marine Biology (University of Victoria)

Invited Lecturer, wrote exam questions related to lectures

2005-2008             General Biology I (University of Victoria)

                                    Laboratory Instructor, wrote quizzes, marked major assignment 

2005-2008             General Biology II (University of Victoria)

 Laboratory Instructor, wrote quizzes, marked major assignment


2005                     Neuroethology (University of Victoria)

                                    Guests lectures on vision in aquatic animals

2004 & 2002          Sensory Biology (University of Victoria)

Led critical thinking tutorials, guests lectures on vision in aquatic animals, lateral line

2002                     Upper level Course (Education Department, University of Victoria)

Invited Lecturer

2001                     Animal Behaviour (University of Victoria)

Laboratory Instructor, wrote quizzes, and marked major assignment

1999                     General Biology (Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador

 Laboratory demonstrator, assisted with marking



  • retina
  • eye
  • visual pigments
  • ethology
  • neuroethology
  • polarization vision
  • e-vector
  • fish
  • cephalopod
  • chromophore
  • animal behaviour
  • microspectrophotometer
  • intraretinal variation in spectral sensitivity



School of Biological Sciences


Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

Networks & contacts

  • Prof. Shaun Collin (University of Western Australia Australia) Dr. Simon Kamir Das (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Malaysia) Assoc
  • Prof. Nathan Hart (University of Western Australia Australia) Prof. Justin Marshall (The University of Queensland Australia) Dr. Jan Hemmi (The Australian National University) Dr. Ulrike Siebeck (The University of Queensland Australia) Dr. Jeremy Ullmann (The University of Queensland Australia)

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