University of Delaware
Jonathan Cohen

May 24: 'Seeing in the Sea'

Ocean Currents Lecture Series returns with marine science talks for the public


12:15 p.m., May 3, 2012--The popular Ocean Currents Lecture Series is returning to the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Del., for a summer of engaging topics on marine science. 

The 2012 series kicks off with UD’s Jonathan Cohen presenting “Seeing in the Sea: Eyes and Vision in Marine Animals” on Thursday, May 24, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 104 in the Cannon Laboratory. 

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Cohen, the School of Marine Science and Policy’s newest faculty member based in Lewes, will explain how animals are specially equipped to see underwater -- and what that can tell us about our own eyesight. 

“The oceans are a natural lab for the study of vision,” Cohen said.

Unique qualities of horseshoe crab eyes, for example, helped scientists understand how the human eye detects the contrast of objects against their backgrounds. Researchers have also examined how the dragonfish creates and sees red light in the deep sea while other creatures cannot, giving it a predatory edge. 

Cohen’s lecture will illustrate such lessons from nature with optical illusions for audience members to experience. In one exercise, he will demonstrate how looking at the color red for a long time can inhibit one’s ability to see the color yellow. He will also highlight the diversity of animal eyes, summarize the physics of light in the ocean and share examples from Delaware beaches and the deep sea. 

Cohen’s work encompasses how vision affects predation, mating, orientation and habitat selection. He studied biology and environmental science at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., and earned his doctorate in biology from Duke University in 2004. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and served as assistant professor of biology and marine science at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. before joining UD last fall. 

His current field research examines how blue crabs, comb jellies and other zooplankton are responding to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

The lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are required due to limited seating by contacting Michelle Scorziello at or 302-645-4346. Light refreshments will be served. 

Article by Teresa Messmore

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson


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