Shrewsbury School

Darwin Society Lecture: ‘Do Animals Use Quantum Biology to Navigate?’

Friday 1 December 2017

On Friday 24th November, the Darwin Society welcomed Dr Alex Jones from the National Physical Laboratory to give the second in this year’s series of science enrichment lectures to an audience of over 100 pupils.

Dr Jones is the lead scientist working on the development of time-resolved spectroscopy, non-linear microscopy and optogenetics.  His current research focuses on developing innovative approaches for the optical and magnetic control of biomolecular systems for applications ranging from antimicrobial discovery to future cell and gene therapies.

He started by asking two questions:

  • When a bird migrates at night, how does it know in which direction to fly?
  • And what biological mechanism allows Monarch Butterflies to navigate nearly 2,000 miles from Southern Canada to their winter roosts in a small area of central Mexico?

Dr Jones explained that these animals and other species can perceive the Earth’s magnetic field. The exact mechanism still eludes scientists, although our understanding of animal magnetoreception and animal cryptochromes has dramatically improved. This is also linked to further understanding the mechanism epilepsy and how the wavelength of light could affect the response seen.

He also demonstrated that physical laws of physics and chemistry can help the modern research scientist uncover even the most complex secrets of biology and animal behaviour.

He described how his research has involved both liaison and co-operation across many multi-disciplinary science research groups.
This was a fascinating, inspiring and interesting talk. It gave our pupils a great insight on the excitement of researching into a cutting-edge field.

Dr Andrew Briggs
Head of Science

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