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ZLI's PHOTO-SCIENCES Department serves as the knowledge foundation for The Zoological Lighting Institute. Without scientific attention to light, wildlife conservation is impossible and animal care is lacking.

The Importance of Light for Life

Light is vital to all life, and every animal on the planet. Without accounting for light, it is impossible to care for living things and the environments that they create properly.

Data-driven measurements are crucial to understand and assess light, and neither wildlife conservation nor animal welfare initiatives are complete without measuring light appropriately. To achieve appropriate metrics across a full range of relevant subjects, ZLI offers a ‘Framework’ to organize photobiology.

Proper metrics for light and life are not an easy factor to determine. Light has shape, qualities and intensities that matter to living things in different ways. A good rule of thumb is to think of light in terms of photons counts over time, and to allow an indigenous natural luminous habitat to guide decisions as to what light might be appropriate for an organism at a given time.

Our ‘Framework’ splits research into dedicated categories. Each category has a few general sub-divisions. Each of these fields has many advocates, participants and protocols. To make things easier, we refer researchers interested in applying for a scholarship or seeking information to begin with the following truncated references. We divide and fund the Sciences of Light and Life through:

The Zoological Lighting Institute Framework™


©The Zoological Lighting Institute


Light creates organic changes in the physiology and functioning of an animal’s body, including the human.

This field examines living things from the standpoint of physics, focusing on electromagnetic fields and photon interactions within a body.

ValueExplores Internal Relationships of Light Related to Development & Health

Introductory Bibliography:

Popp, Fritz-Albert.
Electromagnetic Bio-information.

Popp, Fritz-Albert and Lev Beloussov (eds).
Integrative Biophysics: Bio-photonics.

Van Wijk, Roland.
Light in Shaping Life. 

Van Wijk, Roland and Eduard Van Wijk.
Biophoton Technology in Energy and Vitality Diagnosis.

This field looks to the role of light in affecting physical processes in a living body through the lenses of the substances impacted by it.

Value:  Identifies Key Internal Biological Functions and in particular, endocrinology.

Introductory Bibliography:

Björn, Lars Olof (ed).
Photobiology: The Science of Life and Light.

Johnson, Sonke.
The Optics of Life.

Keiser, Gerd.
Biophotonics: Concepts to Applications.

Whikehart, David R..
Biochemistry of the Eye.


Animals use light to locate objects, navigate, map territories and interact with each other.

This field examines animal ‘perception’ through a study of their eyes and similar photoreceptors.

Value: Highlights How Different Animals Actively Engage Their Environments.

Introductory Bibliography:

Batschauer, Alfred (ed).
Photoreceptors and Light Signalling.

Land, Michael and Nilsson, Dan-Eric.
Animal Eyes.

Parker, Steve.
Color and Vision: The Evolution of Eyes and Perception.

Schwab, Ivan R.
Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved.

Studies that relate the production, sequestering or structural arrangement of pigment, and the roles of ‘color’ in animal welfare/conservation.

Value: Explores Natural Selection and Fitness Factors in Sensory Ecology, and Optical Phenomena Associated with Organic Functioning.

Introductory Bibliography:

Beddard, Frank E..
Animal Coloration: An Account of the Principal Facts and Theories Relating to the Colours and Markings of Animals (Classic Reprint).

Lee, David.
Nature’s Palette: The Science of Plant Color.

Stevens, Martin.
Animal Camouflage.

Weaver, R.J., Santos, E.S.A., Tucker, A.M. et al.
Carotenoid metabolism strengthens the link between feather coloration and individual quality. Nat Commun 9, 73 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02649-z

This field examines holistic relationships of spatial mapping and indicative behaviors related to and broadening out from visual ecology.


Natural light helps to distribute animals in time and space, creating more robust and resilient environments. This field is important for epidemiology, community resourcing (food chains), and phenological questions of fitness.

This field examines the chrono-ecology of animal life, and its relationships to natural light cycles.

SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION (Community Resources):
This sub-division relates to the relative spatial attraction or repulsion of a species or animal to a natural or unusual light source and, its effects upon overall ecological fitness.

This sub-division relates to the effects of light (natural or artificial) on animals related to disease propagation and transmission.

Apply for a Scholarship, Donate to Fund Research, Or Purchase the Necessary Tools to Measure Light Here

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