Tom Iwanicki

Dr. Iwanicki is a postdoctoral fellow and sensory ecologist studying the neustonic zone, the crucial and often overlooked layer of the ocean’s surface.

Photo of Tom Iwanicki

His research not only unravels the mysteries of this unique habitat, but also sheds light on the impact of human activities, such as plastic and light pollution, to marine ecosystems. Using underwater photography and spectral measurements, Dr. Iwanicki characterizes light conditions and catalogs the diversity of animal coloration within this habitat. He models how and what animals see, particularly key and threatened species like sea turtles and seabirds, to better understand marine ecology and human impacts. By understanding the light environment and visual ecology at the ocean’s surface, Dr. Iwanicki seeks to emphasize the neustonic region as a unique habitat that requires distinct conservation policies. His work will support the development of effective regulations to mitigate the impacts of plastic pollution and light pollution, safeguarding the delicate balance of our oceans and biodiversity.

Recent Publications (*denotes undergraduate co-author)

Iwanicki, T., Chen, J.*, Hirai, J. DeTurk, H.*, Steck, M., Goetze, E., Porter, M.L. (2023) Shining new light on naupliar eyes: a novel molecular phylogeny for Pleuromamma (Family: Metridinidae) and the characterization of luciferase and opsin expression. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, (submitted MPE-D-23-00380,

Palecanda, S., Iwanicki, T., Steck, M., Porter, M.L. (2022) Crustacean conundrums: a review of opsin diversity and evolution. Invited manuscript in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Special issue: Understanding arthropod color vision: molecular, physiological, neuronal and behavioral studies. (377:20210289.

Duguid, W.D.P., Iwanicki, T., Qualley, J., Juanes, F. (2021) Fine scale spatiotemporal variation in juvenile Chinook Salmon distribution, diet and growth in an oceanographically heterogeneous region. Progress in Oceanography, 102512.

Iwanicki, T., Frank, T., Porter, M.L. (2021) Bioluminescence: Cell Physiology, Diversity, and New Evolutionary Insights. Chapter 31 in: Cell Physiology Source Book Fifth Edition. Elsevier Publishing Company. (In press, 28 pages).

Iwanicki, T., *Liu, A., Haman, C., Taylor, J.S. (2020) Light induced changes in starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus) opsin expression and its influence on visual ability estimated using a camouflage-based behavioural assay. bioRxiv

Bracken-Grissom, H.D., DeLeo, D.M., Porter, M.L., Iwanicki, T., Sickles, Jamie, Frank, T.M. (2020) Sight beyond the eyes in the deep sea. Scientific Reports (2020) 10:4485.

Recent Presentations

Talks denoted with † posters denoted with ‡ Undergraduate co-authors denoted with*

Iwanicki‡, T., Steck, M., Bracken-Grissom, H., Porter, M.L. (2023) Localization of multiple opsins in ocular and non-ocular tissues of bioluminescent decapod shrimp in Superfamily: Oplophoroidea and the first evidence of opsin co-localization in a rhabdomeric R8 cell. International Conference on Invertebrate Vision, Backaskog, Sweden.

Hanscom‡, S., Steck, M., Iwanicki, T., Porter, M.L. (2023) Secondary not subordinate: salticid color vision may be enhanced by the secondary eyes. International Conference on Invertebrate Vision, Backaskog, Sweden.

Wirth-Yap‡*, A., Iwanicki, T., Steck, M., Porter, M.L. (2023) Seeing Cucumbers: Transcriptomic analysis of the sea cucumber Opheodesoma spectabilis. Annual Albert L. Tester Symposium, Honolulu, HI

Iwanicki, T., Chen*, J. DeTurk*, H., Steck, M., Goetze, E., Porter, M.L. (2022) Opsin and luciferase diversity in Pleuromamma, a genus of bioluminescent copepods. Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology, Phoenix, AZ.