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How Life on Planet Earth Has Adapted to Environmental Light

Hosted By: Vision Technical Group

14 December 2022, 11:00 - 12:00 - Eastern Time (US & Canada) (UTC - 05:00)

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When photosynthesizing life in the oceans started injecting its waste product oxygen into the atmosphere over two billion years ago, lifeforms had to adapt to what until then had been a toxic gas. This was probably the time that the hazy atmosphere of early Earth cleared to reveal the first blue skies. Since then, both plants and animals have adapted to the various forms of environmental sunlight which influence both biochemistry and vision.

Using recent work on the vision of reindeer during the long arctic winter, Bob Fosbury will describe how these animals turbocharge their eyesight to survive the extreme and challenging conditions resulting from the effects of the ozone layer which makes the extended twilight so blue. He will conclude by remarking on how some recently introduced forms of artificial lighting are breaking these billions of years of adaptation and are beginning to damage life of many kinds, including us.

What You Will Learn:
• About environmental light and the role ozone plays, particularly at sunrise or sunset
• Reindeer vision and seasonal changes in their tapetum lucideum

Who Should Attend:
• Graduate students and researchers in vision sciences, biology, optics, and ophthalmology
• Optical researchers and professionals who would like to gain insight into how animal vision adapted to best meet the challenges in the visual environment, which might inspire sophisticated artificial designs.

About the Presenter: Robert Fosbury from The Institute of Ophthalmology at UCL

Robert Fosbury is an astrophysicist who worked nearly 30 years for the European Space Agency on the Hubble Space Telescope project where he also participated in early work on instrumentation for the James Webb Space Telescope. Fosbury's research interests range from exoplanets and stellar atmospheres to supermassive black holes in radio galaxies and quasars and star formation in the early Universe. Fosbury is currently an emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory - in Munich and Chile. After retirement, he was invited to become an honorary professor at the Institute of Ophthalmology at UCL where he works in an interdisciplinary team to study the interactions of light with biology following a lifelong interest in mechanisms of natural coloration.