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Lauren Sumner-Rooney

Lauren Sumner-Rooney - PhD student

BA (Hons) Biological Sciences (1st Class) – University of Oxford, 2012


Research Interests

My research focusses on sensory systems in deep-sea invertebrates. Currently, I am studying a novel sensory organ in chitons, the Schwabe organ (see Sigwart et al. 2014). By using a combination of microscopic techniques, electrophysiology, behavioural experiments and molecular biology, one of my main aims is to discover the role of the Schwabe organ, and ultimately to learn more about its evolution and development. I am also investigating the evolution of eye loss in a family of deep-sea gastropods in partnership with Dr Suzanne Williams at the Natural History Museum, London. During the remainder of my PhD I will also be studying other sensory systems in both molluscs and echinoderms, with an emphasis on photoreception and vision. I have recently contributed to a book on invertebrate nervous systems (see below) and in spring 2015 I will be taking up a short-term fellowship at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama to study photoreception in brittle stars. Sensory systems have profound implications for many other aspects of the biology of these animals, influencing their evolution, ecology, and potential reactions to anthropogenic stresses, and yet they remain largely under-studied in non-arthropod invertebrate taxa. 



Sumner-Rooney LH, Murray JA, Cain SD, Sigwart JD. 2014. Do chitons have a compass? Evidence for magnetic sensitivity in Polyplacophora. Journal of Natural History. (In Press)

Sigwart JD, Sumner-Rooney LH. Minor Molluscan Classes. In: Structure and Evolution of Invertebrate Nervous Systems. Forthcoming. Oxford University Press.

Sigwart JD, Sumner-Rooney LH, Schwabe E, Heß M, Brennan GP, Schrödl M. 2014. A new sensory organ in "primitive" molluscs (Polyplacophora: Lepidopleurida) and its context in the nervous system of chitons. Frontiers in Zoology. 11:7.

Sumner-Rooney LH, Cain SD, Brennan GP, Sigwart JD. 2014. A test for mucus removal in the chiton Lepidochitona cinerea (Linnaeus, 1767) (Polyplacophora: Chitonida: Ischnochitonidae). The Veliger. 51:4.


Selected Research Grants and Scholarships

2014 – Ernst Mayr Fellowship ($5,000 USD, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute)

2014 – Travel Award (£175, Royal Microscopical Society)

2013 – Research Award (£1,500, Malacological Society of London)

2013 – William and Betty MacQuitty Scholarship (£1,000, MacQuitty Fund)

2013 – Travel Award (£500, Malacological Society of London)

2012 – PhD Funding Award (Dept. of Education and Learning, Northern Ireland)

2011 – Laboratory Studentship (£375, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford)

2011 – Travel Grant (£500, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford)


2014 – Winner, Best Oral Presentation at the 11th Annual MBA Postgraduate Conference, University of Hull.

2013 – Runner-up for Best Oral Presentation at the 10th Annual MBA Postgraduate Conference, Aberystwyth University.

2012 – Gibbs Prize in Biological Sciences, University of Oxford.


Professional experience

Chair, 12th Annual Marine Biological Association Postgraduate Conference, Queen’s University Belfast (to take place in May 2015).

Visiting researcher, Natural History Museum, London. Studying eye reduction and loss in deep-sea solariellids. Guest of Dr Suzanne Williams (Feb 2014).

Visiting researcher, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, British Columbia, Canada. Examining scaphopod nervous systems and behaviour. Guest of Dr Nicholas Carey (Sept 2013).

Visiting researcher, Zoologische Staatssammlung München, Germany. Studying the ultrastructure of the Schwabe organ. Guest of Professor Michael Schrödl (Feb-Mar 2013).

Student member of the Professor Adrian Thomas research group, University of Oxford. The effects of vitamin B12 deficiency on senescence in the fish Nothobranchius furzeri (Undergraduate thesis, May 2011-Feb 2012).

Student member of the Professor Alex Rogers research group, University of Oxford. The feeding habits of the teleost fish Beryx decadactylis (July 2011).


Contact Information

Tel:  +44 (0)28 427 28230 (Ext.240)

Mobile: +44 (0)7762 286 236


Room: Queen's University Marine Laboratory, Portaferry - 02004

Contact Information

Queen's University Marine Laboratory (QML)
12-13 The Strand, Portaferry
Co. Down, Northern Ireland, BT22 1PF
Phone: +44 (0)28 427 28230

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