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Dr Shelby Temple

Dr Shelby Temple

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

Honorary Research Fellow

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 evolution, but specifically: visual ecology, neuroethology, visual psychophysics, and aquaculture.


Fish spitting

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

A new medical diagnostic test for assessing eye health and potential risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) the leading cause of incurable blindness in the Western world.

Translating science into commercial technology...

I have invented a device that can rapidly assess a person's macular pigment density, which is a primary risk factor for AMD.

By adapting the technology we developed for testing polarization vision in cuttlefish and octopus, we have recently been testing how well humans can see the polarization of light. In so doing, we discoved a large amount of variability in the ability for humans to see a visual phenomenon called Haidinger's brushes (the human perception of the orientation of polarized light).

The variability in human polarization sensitivity may be linked to eye health, as the Haidinger's brushes phenomenon is due to the orientation and density of macular pigments (carotenoids: lutien, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin). These macular pigments are concentrated around your central retina and play an important role in protecting the eye from damaging short wave-length radiation and oxidative stress in an area of the eye with little to no blood flow.

Low macular pigment density has been correlated with increased likelihood of developing AMD, and because you can only acquire macular pigments through your diet it is important to assess you macular pigment density as an indicator of eye health. increasing one's acular pigments through diet has also been shown to help glare reduction and increase contrast sensitivity, to important factors in overall visual performance.

I plan to develop a market ready device that can pe incorporated into regular eye health checks to help people determine if their macular pigments are low so that they can correct the situation early in life to imporve their vision and reduce their chances of being at risk for central vision loss through age-related macular degeneration.




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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