Ms Ilona Flis

Ms Ilona Flis

Research Assistant - Evolutionary Ecology

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)



I am a biologist with extensive experience in scientific research, encompassing a variety of research questions. Throughout my career I have learnt a variety of different experimental approaches, techniques and strategies (e.g. embryo microinjections, CRISPR-Cas9 technology). My previous research experience involved work on model (Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans) and non-model organisms (e.g. Southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus).

In my position at the University of Plymouth I am involved in research on the cological role and evolutionary origin of psychedelic compounds in nature on the Leverulme Trust funded project 'Wherefore the magic?' within Jon Ellis’s research group. By applying eco-evo concepts combined with molecular ecology and gene editing methods (e.g. barcoding, CRISPR-Cas9 system), fieldwork studies and behavioural trials we will investigate evolutionary hypotheses for psilocybin biosynthesis in fungi. In our studies, we will focus predominantly on the role of psilocybin in fungus-invertebrate interactions. This will help us to elucidate the reason for the maintenance of psilocybin biosynthesis in fungi.


  • MSc by Research – Zoology, University of Oxford (2015-2017)
  • MSc – Biology, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland (2005-2010)



Research interests

My research interests are embedded in a range of biological fields, such as molecular ecology, genetics, synthetic biology, animal behaviour and evolution.

Previously, I have undertaken research into understanding the population ecology of the Carpathian newt (Lissotriton montandoni); Drosophila melanogaster behaviour and genetics; anthelmintic resistance in nematode parasite Haemonchus contortus supported by research on the nematode C. elegans; as well as research based on mosquito genome modifications for the purpose of population control.

Research groups




Navarro-Payá, D., Flis, I., Anderson, M., Hawes, P., Li, M., Akbari, O. S., Basu, S., & Alphey, L. (2020). Targeting female flight for genetic control of mosquitoes. PLoS neglected tropical diseases, 14(12): e0008876.

Anderson, M.E., Mavica, J., Shackleford, L., Flis, I., Fochler, S., et al. (2019) CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in the West Nile Virus vector, Culex quinquefasciatus Say. PLOS ONE 14(11): e0224857. 8

Ruzicka, F., Hill, M.S., Pennell, T.M., Flis, I., Ingleby, F.C., et al. (2019) Genome-wide sexually antagonistic variants reveal long-standing constraints on sexual dimorphism in fruit flies. PLOS Biology 17(4): e3000244.

Gilks, W.P., Pennell, T.M., Flis, I., Webster, M.T. and Morrow, E.H. (2016). Whole genome resequencing of a laboratory-adapted Drosophila melanogaster population sample. F1000Research, 5. a2644.

Innocenti, P., Flis, I. and Morrow, E.H. (2014). Female responses to experimental removal of sexual selection components in Drosophila melanogaster. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 14(1): 239.

Lehtovaara, A., Schielzeth, H., Flis, I. and Friberg, U. (2013). Heritability of lifespan is largely sex-limited in fruit flies. American Naturalist, 182(5): 653-665.

Maklakov, A.A, Immler, S., Loveli, H., Flis, I. and Friberg, U. (2013). The effect of sexual harassment on lethal mutation rate in female Drosophila melanogaster. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 280: 20121874.

 Nadachowska, K., Flis, I., Babik, W. (2010). Characterization of microsatellite loci in the Carpathian newt (Lissotriton montandoni). The Herpetological Journal, 20: 107-110.


Ingleby, F.C., Flis, I. and Morrow, E.H. (2014). Sex-biased gene expression and sexual conflict throughout development. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, 7 (1). a017632.