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Alison Karley

Programme: Environment Plant Interactions


DD2 5DA,
Scotland, United Kingdom.

Tel: +44(0) 1382 562731 (ext 2531)



Image of Alison KarleyRecent Publications | Posters

Current Research

  • Arable plant nutritional physiology and responses to reduced fertiliser and herbicide inputs. I am particularly interested in quantifying changes in plant nitrogen physiology and phenotypic traits that relate to nutrient acquisition. Together with Mark Young and Geoff Squire (SCRI), we are developing a model of the partitioning and fluxes of nitrogen in arable systems to understand the impact of agronomic factors on crop productivity, nitrogen offtake and nitrogen losses. Other collaborators include Tracy Valentine, Pete Iannetta, Ron Wheatley, Cathy Hawes (SCRI) and Ian Bingham (SAC).
  • Plant nutrients as mediators of plant interactions with insect herbivores. Using aphids as a model, I focus on the impact of plant nitrogen quality, particularly amino acid composition, on insect herbivore performance. In addition, I work with collaborators to examine factors that indirectly influence the plant-insect herbivore interaction, for example through changes in soil microbial community (with Alison Bennett, SCRI) or the effect of plant water stress on insect herbivore attack by natural enemies (with Scott Johnson, SCRI).
  • Trophic interactions between insect herbivores, their microbial endosymbionts and natural enemies. This research has been initiated jointly with Steve Hubbard and Mark Chaplain (Universities of St Andrews and Dundee) to characterise molecular variation in herbivorous insect populations and their microbial endosymbionts, and to use both experimental and mathematical modelling approaches to explore the impact of microbial endosymbionts on insect population dynamics.

Research History

  • My postgraduate research (D Phil project between Rothamsted and York University, followed by a BBSRC-Wain Fellowship at CSIRO in Adelaide) focussed on plant nutritional physiology, particularly mechanisms of inorganic ion transport through the plant and across cell membranes.
  • Throughout my postdoctoral research (at York University and SCRI), I have applied my interest in plant nutrient transport to investigate the impact of variability in plant nutrients, particularly amino acids and sugars, on the performance of herbivorous insects. Using aphids as a model, this research has emphasised some of the challenges presented by a plant-based diet, including the nutritional quality of plant tissues and osmoregulatory issues faced by phloem-feeders.

Research Students

Nicki Cook: ‘Populations genetics of farmland sawflies’. Funded by BBSRC, SCRI and GWCT, and co-supervised by Steve Hubbard (Universities of Dundee and St Andrews), Joanne Russell (SCRI), Dave Parish and Nick Sotherton (GWCT).

Ananthi Anandanadesan: ‘Mathematical modelling of the spatio-temporal dynamics of aphid-plant-virus interaction’. Funded by EPSRC and SCRI, and co-supervised by Mark Chaplain (University of Dundee), Steve Hubbard (Universities of Dundee and St Andrews) and Tim Daniell (SCRI).

Hannah Clarke: ‘The role of bacterial secondary symbionts of Macrosiphum euphorbiae in the dynamics of multi-trophic interactions’. Funded by SCRI and the University of Dundee, and co-supervised by Steve Hubbard (Universities of Dundee and St Andrews) and Danny Cullen (SCRI).

Recent Publications

  • Karley, A.J., Iannetta, P.P.M., Valentine, T.A., Bingham, I., Hoad, S., Young, M. and Squire, G. 2010. Impact of plant traits on nitrogen-efficiency and compartmentation in arable systems. Aspects of Applied Biology 105, 89-96.
  • Karley, A.J., Wheatley, R., White, P., Squire, G., Hawes, C. and Bingham, I. 2010. Towards a low nitrogen future. Knowledge Scotland Research Briefing 198.
  • Clark, E.L., Karley, A.J., Hubbard, S.F. 2010. Insect endosymbionts: manipulators of insect herbivore trophic interactions? Protoplasma 244, 25-51.
  • Johnson, S.N., Hawes, C. and Karley, A.J. 2009. Reappraising the role of plant nutrients as mediators of interactions between root- and foliar-feeding insects. Functional Ecology 23, 699-706.
  • Karley, A.J. and White, P.J. 2009. Moving cationic minerals to edible tissues: potassium, magnesium, calcium. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 12, 291-298.
  • Karley, A.J., Hawes, C., Iannetta, P.P.M. and Squire, G.R. 2008. Intraspecific variation in Capsella bursa-pastoris in plant quality traits for insect herbivores. Weed Research 48, 147-156.
  • Price D. R. G., Karley A. J., Ashford D. A., Isaacs H. V., Pownall M. E., Wilkinson H. S., Gatehouse J. A. and Douglas A. E. 2007. Molecular characterization of a candidate gut sucrase in the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 37, 307-317.
  • Raven, J.A. and Karley, A.J. 2006. Carbon sequestration: Photosynthesis and subsequent processes. Current Biology 16, R165-R167.
  • Karley, A.J. and Marshall, B.M. 2006. Functional-structural modelling as a tool to assess the impact of competition for light and nutrients on arable communities. Chapter 15 in Proceedings of the Frontis International Workshop on Functional-Structural Plant Modelling in Crop Production. Kluwer Academic Publishers: NL.
  • Karley, A.J., Ashford, D.A., Minto, L.M., Pritchard, J. and Douglas, A.E. 2005. The significance of gut sucrase activity for osmoregulation in the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum. Journal of Insect Physiology 51, 1313-1319.
  • Karley, A.J., Douglas, A.E., Parker, W.E. and Pitchford, J.P. 2004. The mid-summer aphid population crash: how and why does it occur? Ecological Entomology 29 (4), 383-388.
  • Karley, A.J., Pitchford, J.P., Douglas, A.E., Parker, W.E. and Howard, J.J. 2003. The causes and processes of the mid-summer crash in potato aphids Macrosiphum euphorbiae and Myzus persicae (Hemiptera: Aphididae). Bulletin of Entomological Research 93, 425-437.