Katie Robinson

I am a PhD student working under the supervision of Dr Nathan Lo and Prof. Steve Simpson.

The genetics of mass destruction

I am studying possible genetic mechanisms governing the control of behaviour in plague locusts. Contrary to popular perception, locusts often display solitarious behaviour, where individuals actively avoid each other. Under particular environmental conditions however, locusts undergo a transition to a gregarious phenotype where conspecifics are attracted to one another and crowd together. This pronounced example of phenotypic plasticity is correlated with the formation of locust swarms, which represent a serious economic problem. Previous research by others has identified genes that may be involved in this shift in behaviour.

My project focuses on DNA methylation and its possible role in controlling the expression of these genes in response to environmental stimuli.


Robinson K, Estafani D, Lo N, Simpson SJ, & Sword GA (2011) Evidence for widespread genomic methylation in the migratory locust Locusta migratoria (Orthoptera: Acrididae). PLoS ONE, 6: e28167.

Hassan KA, Robinson K, Smith AN, Gibson JH, Skurray RA, & Brown MH (2006) Glycine-rich transmembrane helix 10 in the staphylococcal tetracycline transporter TetA(K) lines a solvent-accessible channel. Biochemistry, 45: 15661-15669.