Elva Joan Hilda Robinson

Contact details

Type of addressPostal address
Postal codeYO10 5DD
CountryUnited Kingdom
Address lines
  • Biology
    University of York
    Wentworth Way
    YO10 5DD

Phone: (01904) 325338

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Dr. Elva Joan Hilda Robinson

Senior Lecturer

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PhD opportunities

I am interested in discussing potential PhD student opportunities in any of my areas of research.

MSc by Research opportunities

Cooperation in multi-nest social insect colonies

Funding: Self-funded

Social insect colonies are known for showing high levels of cooperation within a colony housed together within a nest. In some species of ants, however, cooperation extends beyond the inhabitants of a single nest to other nests, all part of the same 'super' colony. Large-scale cooperation between spatially separate sub-colonies allows certain ants species to become highly ecologically dominant. One way in which subcolonies could cooperate, is by sharing resources between nests, especially when such resources are spatially or temporally heterogeneous. This kind of resource sharing is benefiicial in human socieites, but has not be demonstrated to be an adaptive benefit of multi-nest ant colonies.

1 To investigate the role that shape and development of a colony’s threshold distribution has on the collective performance
2 To predict which individuals within a colony will have the most influence on collective processes under a range of ecological scenarios

This research project will involve laboratory experiments with Temnothorax albipennis colonies, a faculatively polydomous species, i.e. one that can nest in either a single or multiple nest sites. The experiments will assess the benefits of cooperation by experimentally manipulating the resource environment and assessing the behavioural responses at the individual level and productivity at the colony level.

These experiments will provide new insights into the circumstances under which extreme cooperation, i.e. cooperation between rather than within groups, can emerge. This phenomenon has only been shown in ants and humans so far, and these data will demonstrate for the first time whether it is truly beneficial for the ant colonies.

Project Partners
This project will be a collaboration between the MSc student, Dr Elva Robinson and Dr Jessie Barker, Institute for Behavioural Insights.

More information
To discuss suitability for the project, contact Elva Robinson; details on the Biology Department’s MSc by Research programme and how to apply can be found here

Polydomy, foraging and dominance in the invasive garden ant

Funding: Self-funded

Invasive species can have dramatic effects, fundamentally altering ecosystems. Most data on mechanisms of invasion come from a few well-known damaging species; however, practical application of invasion ecology relies on detailed knowledge of a wide range of species. The proposed work will increase the data available with a new case study, the 'invasive garden ant' Lasius neglectus, a recent invader in Europe. This species can radically change the arthropod assemblage and has potential to be highly harmful. This species arrived in the UK in 2010, and I have a NERC Industrial CASE PhD student investigating the impact of this species in the field. The proposed project will complement ongoing field work, by investigating under controlled laboratory conditions the mechanisms by which Lasius neglectus achieves ecological dominance and high density foraging.

1 To identify the mechanistic processes underlying spread into new territory by Lasius neglectus.
2 To assess the role of polydomy (dispersed nesting) in ecological dominance and high density foraging in Lasius neglectus

This will be a laboratory-based empirical project. Laboratory colonies of L. neglectus and the native species Lasius niger will be used for experiments on mechanisms of spread into new territory, dominance and foraging. Laboratory techniques will include, when appropriate, video-recording of behaviour and radio-tagging technology.

We have produced a provisional national Risk Assessment for the potential ecological and economic risks posed by Lasius neglectus in the UK. The data from this project on mechanisms of invasion will feed into this Risk Assessment, and will be valuable both academically and to the applied conservation community.

Project Partners
Dr Elva Robinson and PhD student Phillip Buckham-Bonnett are working closely with pest controllers, conservation charities and the Non-native Species Secretariat to ensure work on Lasius neglectus has maximum impact.

More information
To discuss suitability for the project, contact Elva Robinson; details on the Biology Department’s MSc by Research programme and how to apply can be found here

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