Helen is a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science and her primary research interests are in the genetics of squirrel species. Helen’s work has attracted much national attention; she has appeared in the media on numerous occasions, most notably on the BBC’s The One Show, Countryfile and Inside Science talking about melanism in squirrels.
Helen has tracked the spread of the black squirrel across the UK via the Black Squirrel Project website.
Helen has a background in Education, beginning her professional career in primary school teaching, teaching for 7 years in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Helen retrained to become a scientist as a mature student and completed her undergraduate degree in Cell and Molecular Biology and Genetics at ARU in 2008, achieving a first class Honours degree. She went on to complete a PhD at ARU looking at the genetic basis of melanism in the grey squirrel. Helen joined the teaching staff of ARU in 2010 where she has continued to study the genetics of squirrels and has collaborated with researchers at the University of Cambridge, West Virginia, USA and UHI.
Helen moved into research assessing genetic diversity in red squirrels in the context of conservation biology. Her current interests are in assessing genetic diversity to inform conservation efforts, specifically for reintroduction of red squirrels to enhance genetic diversity and also to inform forestry practice.
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
£3,000 from St Edward Murray College, University of Cambridge and the Natural History Museum of West Virginia for work on evolutionary genetics of the MC1R in the grey squirrel.
£3,100 from UHI to investigate genetic diversity in the red squirrels in Carrbridge, Scotland.
£9, 845 from QR funds at ARU
McRobie, H., Moncrief, N., Mundy, N., 2019. Multiple origins of melanism in two species of North American tree squirrel (Sciurus). BMC Evol. Biol. 19: 140
McRobie, H., King L., Symmons M., Fanutti C., and Coussons, P., 2014. Agouti Signalling Protein is an Inverse Agonist to the Wildtype and Agonist to the Melanic Variant of the Melanocortin- 1 Receptor in the Grey Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis). FEBS Letters, 588, pp.2335-2343. Doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2014.05.032.
McRobie, H., King, L., Fanutti, C., Coussons, P., Moncrief, N., and Thomas, A., 2014. Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) Gene Sequence Variation and Melanism in the Grey (Sciurus Carolinensis), Fox (Sciurus Niger) and Red (Sciurus Vulgaris) Squirrel. Journal of Heredity, 105, pp.423-8. Doi: 10.1093/jhered/esu006.
McRobie, H., 2012. Black Squirrels: Genetics and Distribution. Quarterly Journal of Forestry, 106(2), pp.137-141.
McRobie, H., Thomas, A., Kelly, J., 2009. The Genetic Basis of Melanism in the Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Journal of Heredity, 100(6), pp.709-714.
McRobie, H. Multiple alleles of the Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) across Populations of Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) in North America and the British Isles. 2018. 8th International Squirrel Colloquium, Galway, Ireland.
McRobie, H., King, L., Symmons, M., Fanutti, C., and Coussons, P., 2013. An Eight Amino Acid Deletion in the Melanocortin-1 Receptor Leads to a Constitutively Active Receptor in the Grey Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis). Biochemical Society, York, UK.
McRobie, H., Fanutti, C., Symmons, M., and Coussons, P., 2012. A Model of the Deletion Mutant of Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1RD24) Derived from a Melanic Form of the Grey Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis). Biochemical Society<, Prato, Italy.