Dr Mairi Knight
Head of School
School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)
Head of School of Biological and Marine Sciences
Associate Professor in Molecular Ecology
2005-2007 Post-Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Plymouth University
2002-2005 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Southampton (BBSRC)
1999-2002 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Universities of Southampton & Hull (NERC)
1996-1999 PhD Sexual selection and speciation in Lake Malawi fishes University of Southampton (The Carnegie Trust)
1995-1996 MSc Marine & Fisheries Science, University of Aberdeen (NERC)
1986-1990 BSc Biological Sciences (Hons Zoology), University of Edinburgh
The Genetics Society
British Ecological Society
Fellow of the Linnean Society
I currently teach on a number of different modules on topics ranging from evolution and genetic principles to conservation genetics and small population biology through to field biology.
MBIO161 Evolution and Behaviour
BIOL123/130/136 Field Biology
(systematics and taxonomy)
BIOL204 Principles of Conservation Biology
ANIM5007 Small Population Biology
I also regularly teach on residential field biology courses (e.g. to Andalucia, Spain; Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico).
Staff serving as external examiners
Bangor University (Zoology programmes (2017-2021)
I am interested in the evolutionary and ecological processes that give rise to and maintain extant biodiversity, employing molecular techniques alongside lab and field-based experimental approaches. My research spans a broad range of specific questions, from reproductive isolation and gene flow between populations, to ecological issues such as dispersal and foraging ranges through to species delineation and phylogeny reconstruction. I am increasingly interested in how these processes operate in populations that are declining and thus of conservation concern, and how molecular techniques can inform conservation science both in an applied and theoretical context. My recent research focuses on bee systems (both honeybees and bumblebees), although I am also involved in projects on similar themes focused on a range of other biological systems.
Current and recent projects
Researchers: Jonathan Ellis (PDRA); Sarah Rustage (PhD)
Current Research Group
Dr Vanessa Huml (Post-doctoral Researcher)
Previous research group members
Dr Jon Ellis
Dr Marcel Haesler (now at EAWAG: The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology Marcel's homepage )
Dr Carly Benefer
Dr Olivia Scholtz
Dr Tony Bicknell
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
Dr Felicity Wynne, 2019, University of Plymouth Disease ecology of two emerging amphibian pathogens in Costa Rica. Co-supervised with Dr Rob Pushendorf (Director of Studies, UoP) and Dr Stephen Price (then ZSL, London)
Dr C. John Thorpe, 2018, University of Plymouth The biogeography and conservation status of the rocky plateaus of the Northern Western Ghats, India. Director of Studies, co-supervised by Prof Dave Bilton (UoP) and Dr Aparne Watve (Pune, India).
Dr Sarah Rustage, 2014, University of Plymouth Correlates of rarity in UK bumblebee (Bombus spp.) populations, Director of Studies, co-supervised by Dr Jonathan Ellis, Dr Richard Billington (UoP) & Prof Mark Brown (Royal Holloway, University of London)Dr Tony Bicknell, 2011, University of Plymouth Population structuring and dispersal patterns of a highly pelagic seabird: implications for Leach's Storm-petrel conservation, co-supervised with Drs Steve Votier (now University of Exeter), Prof David Bilton (UoP) & Jim Reid (JNCC).
Grants & contracts
NERC Case Studentship Knight (PI), Ellis, Benefer, Brown (University of Plymouth)
Genetic signatures, local adaptation and conservation of UK dark bees.
Seale-Hayne Education Trust Knight (PI), Ellis, Benefer, Lloyd, Huml
The application of a novel population genomic approach to provide fresh insights into the causes of rarity in a major UK pollinator group.
Seale-Hayne Education Trust Lane (PI), Ellis, Hanley, Lunt, Knight
Ecological restoration of mineral extraction sites: role of mycobiont in ericaceous plant growth on restored mine spoil.
Seale-Hayne Education Trust Benefer & Knight (University of Plymouth)
Development of a method to study the spatio-temporal distribution of wireworms in agricultural land
NERC quota studentship Knight (PI), Billington, (Plymouth University), Ellis (Manchester Metropolitan University), Brown (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Monitoring and managing biodiversity: genetic diversity, fitness and viability in declining pollinator populations.
The Genetics Society (Heredity Field Work Grant) Knight & Bicknell, Plymouth University
Population structuring of the highly pelagic Leach’s storm-petrel: implications for conservation of an EU priority species.
The Leverhulme Trust Knight (PI) & Ellis, Plymouth University
Neutral versus functional genetic diversity: a new conservation genetic agenda.
NERC CASE studentship Votier (PI), Knight, Bilton (Plymouth University) & Reid (JNCC)
Population structuring and dispersal patterns of a highly pelagic seabird: implications for Leach’s Storm-petrel conservation.
German Cichlid Association Haesler & Knight, Plymouth University
Patterns of polyandry in Lake Malawi cichlids.
Esmee Fairbairn Foundation Biodiversity Programme Bilton (PI) & Knight, Plymouth University
Population genetic differentiation of grazing marsh invertebrates
The Nuffield Foundation Knight, Plymouth University
Patterns of polyandry in Lake Malawi cichlids
Seale-Hayne Educational Trust Hanley & Knight (joint PIs), Plymouth University
Do mass flowering crops have a role in maintaining arable floral diversity by attracting pollinators?
NERC CASE PhD studentship Knight (PI), Donovan, Blackshaw (Plymouth University) and Eggleton (Natural History Museum, London)
Community ecology of rain forest termites
DEFRA LINK Blackshaw (PI) & Knight (Plymouth University), Science partners: Bill Parker, Mike Lole (ADAS) Industrial partners: British Potato Council, Becker Underwood Ltd, Babraham Farms, Bayer CropScience Ltd, Farmcare Ltd, Greenvale AP, J Sainsbury plc, Solanum Ltd, Syngenta Crop Protection (UK) Ltd.
Sustainable long-term management of wireworms on potato
NERC Turner, Knight (then University of Southampton) & Hewitt (then University of East Anglia)
Sexual selection and reproductive isolation among rapidly speciating cichlid fishes from Lake Malawi.
Key publications are highlightedJournals