Arthropods inhabit a wide range of biological niches and the success of this colonization depended, in part, on the adaptation of their visual system. This led to the evolution of a wide diversity of eye designs, reflecting their adaptation to different environments (bright vs dark, water vs air, etc…). This huge diversity makes the arthropods a unique group for studying eye evolution.
The diversity seen in visual systems design is achieved by modifications on their optical properties and neuroanatomy. Although in few arthropods (such as honeybees and fruitflies) this is very well studied, the visual systems of other arthropods are not so well characterized, especially at the cellular and functional levels. This is due, in part, on the difficulty of applying modern molecular, genetic and imaging tools to non-model organisms.
My project aims to contribute to the understanding of the diversity and evolution of the arthropod visual system. For this, I work with the amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis. Parhyale is emerging as a model organism due to applicability of modern experimental manipulation techniques and to the ease with which it can be reared and manipulated in the lab.
During my project I will investigate the neural architecture of Parhyale visual system. For this I will use a combination of traditional techniques, such as electron microscopy and optical measurements, and modern tools like CRISPR and Brainbow. I am also interested in studying how the visual system functions and to know what Parhyale can see, by means of behavioral tests and functional analysis. Another question that I would like to answer is how the eyes are formed during development. Therefore I will observe the developing visual system using transgenic lines and newly developed microscopy techniques.
I’m mainly interested in research in the areas of Development, Evolution and Neurobiology. I love to work with microscopes and see individual cells arranging to become an embryo. I’m also quite interested in the development of new tools for molecular biology and imaging.