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Staff - Biology & Conservation Ecology

Dr Robyn Grant


I am currently working as a lecturer in Comparative Physiology and Behaviour at Manchester Metropolitan University.

My research interests are in the fields of Behavioural and Sensory Neuroscience and Ecology, focussing on the behaviour and physiology of vibrissal touch sensing and locomotion. In particular my research focuses on answering questions in the following areas:

  • characterisation of sensing behaviours and locomotion
  • development of locomotion and sensing
  • evolution of touch sensing
  • measuring the effects of neurodegeneration on sensing and locomotion

Management Responsibilities

  • Placement Coordinator for the Division of Biology and Conservation Ecology
  • Postgraduate Research Student Supervision

Recent External Roles

  • Associate Journal Editor for a Special Topic in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience and Frontiers in Neurorobotics
  • Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) Fellow 2014
  • Member of the Grants Committee for the British Ecological Society (BES)
  • Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield
  • Grants Reviewer for BES, BBSRC and European Human Brain Project
  • Article Reviewer for PLOS One, PLOS Biology, Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience

Web sites

Robyn  Grant



+44 (0)161 2476210


Teaching Specialisms

  • Environmental Physiology teaching on the units: Foundation Biology (FB), Genetics, Adaptation and Diversity (GAD), Comparative and Environmental Physiology (CEP)

  • Comparative Animal Behaviour teaching on the units: Animal Behaviour (AB), Tutorials and Fieldwork (T&F), Evolution and Behaviour (E&B)

  • Behavioural Neuroscience teaching on the unit: Brain and Cognition (B&C)

  • Zoo Conservation Biology Unit leader for Zoo Conservation Biology (ZCB)

  • Statistics teaching on the unit: Research Design and Analysis (RDA)

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Robyn  Grant



+44 (0)161 2476210


Research Interests

  • My research has mainly focussed on characterising the behaviour and physiology of whisker touch systems in mammals. Specific projects I am involved in are:

  • Comparative physiology of whisker touch including whisker muscle studies in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute, Israel.
  • Comparative active touch behaviours focusing on rats, mice, dormice, opossums, harbour seals, sealions and humans; in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, UK, Wildwood Trust, UK, Blackpool Zoo, UK and the Marine Science Center, Germany.
  • Evolution of sensing strategies with a focus on rodents, in collaboration with Wildwood Trust, Kent, UK and Dr Matthew Sullivan, MMU
  • Behavioural measures of disease with a focus on motor neuron disease and aging in collaboration with the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield, UK
  • Species sensory capabilities and conservation
  • Bio-inspired robotics
  • Video analysis tools for measuring behaviour
  • Development of sensing strategies


    • - Daad Academic Postdoctoral Research Stay (German Academic Exchange Scheme)
    • - Research Accelerator Grant (MMU New Researcher Grant)
    • - British Ecological Society (Project Grant)
    • - Software Sustainability Institute Fellow

    Research Students

    • - Kendra Arkley (PhD) 2010-2013, Strategy change in vibrissal active sensing during locomotion in rat.
    • - Brett Hewitt (PhD student) 2014-present, Image analysis toolbox for whisker tracking
    • - Alyx Milne (PhD student) 2015-present, Active touch sensing and cognition in pinnipeds.
    • - Mariane Delaunay (PhD student) 2016-present, evolution of rictal bristles in birds, specifically nightjars
    • - Rana Osama S Khayat (PhD student) 2016-present, The cause and effect of wing tears on bats

    Selected Publications

    Grant, R. A., & Arkley, K. P. (2016). Matched Filtering in Active Whisker Touch. In The Ecology of Animal Senses (pp. 59-82). Springer International Publishing.

    Milne, A.O. & Grant, R.A. (2014). Characterisation of whisker control in the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) during a complex, dynamic sensorimotor task. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 200(10):871-879.

    Arkley, K.P., Grant, R.A., Mitchinson, B. & Prescott, T.J. (2014). Strategy Change in Vibrissal Active Sensing during Rat Locomotion. Current Biology, 24(13):1507-12,

    Grant, R.A., Itskov, P.M., Towal, B. & Prescott, T.J. (2014). Active touch sensing: finger tips, whiskers and antennae. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8:50

    Grant, R.A., Sharp, P.S., Kennerley, A.J., Berwick, J., Grierson, A., Ramesh, T. & Prescott, T.J. (2013). Abnormalities in whisking behaviour are associated with lesions in brain stem nuclei in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Behavioural Brain Research, 259:274-283

    Grant, R.A., Haidarliu, S., Kennerley, N.J. & Prescott, T.J. (2013). The evolution of active vibrissal sensing in mammals: evidence from vibrissal musculature and function in the marsupial opossum Monodelphis domestica. Journal of Experimental Biology. 216(18):3483-94

    Grant, R.A., Weiskotten, S., Wengst, N., Prescott, T.J., Dehnhardt, G. (2013). Vibrissal touch sensing in the harbour seal (Phoca vitulina): how do seals judge size? Journal of Comparative Physiology A,199(6):521-533. In Special Issue on the Sensory Biology of Aquatic Mammals

    Grant, R.A., Sperber, A.L. & Prescott, T.J. (2012). The role of orienting in vibrissal touch sensing . Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience , 6:39 doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00039. In Special Issue on Active Touch Sensing.

    Grant, R.A., Mitchinson, B., & Prescott, T.J. (2012). The development of whisker control in rats in relation to locomotion. Developmental Psychobiology, 54(2):151-168

    Prescott, T. J., Mitchinson, B., & Grant, R.A. (2011). Vibrissal behavior and function. Scholarpedia 6(10):6642

    Mitchinson, B., Grant, R.A., Arkley, K.P., Perkon, I., & Prescott, T.J. (2011). Active vibrissal sensing in rodents and marsupials. Philosophical Transactions B. 366(1581): 3037-3048

    Gyory, G., Rankov, V., Gordon, G., Perkon, I., Mitchinson, B., Grant, R., & Prescott, T. (2010). An algorithm for automatic tracking of rat whiskers. Proc. Int. Workshop on Visual observation and Analysis of Animal and Insect Behavior (VAIB), Istanbul, in conjunction with ICPR 2010.

    Grant, R., Mitchinson, B., Fox, C., & Prescott, T.J. (2009). Active touch sensing in the rat: Anticipatory and regulatory control of whisker movements during surface exploration. Journal of Neurophysiology, 101: 862-874

    Mitchinson, B., Martin, C. J., Grant, R. A., & Prescott, T. J. (2007). Feedback Control in Active Sensing: Rat Exploratory Whisking is Modulated by Environmental Contact. Royal Society Proc (B) Biol. Sci., 274(1613), 1035-1041.

Robyn  Grant



+44 (0)161 2476210