Professor Mairi Knight
Profiles

Professor Mairi Knight

Head of School

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

Mairi can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Evolutionary ecology
  • Molecular ecology
  • Conservation genetics
  • Genetic testing/barcoding

Head of School of Biological and Marine Sciences  
Associate Professor in Molecular Ecology

Qualifications

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

Professional membership

The Genetics Society

British Ecological Society 

Fellow of the Linnean Society

Teaching interests

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

(evolutionary genetics)

BIOL123/130/136 Field Biology

(systematics and taxonomy)

BIOL204 Principles of Conservation Biology

(conservation genetics)

ANIM5007 Small Population Biology

(conservation genetics)

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)

Research interests

Overview
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

Local adaptation and integrity of the dark honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) in the UK.
Funded by NERC, B4 and The Eva Crane Trust
Researchers: Victoria Buswell

The genomic signatures of a successful colonization.
Funded by University of Plymouth and the Seale-Hayne Trust
Researchers: Kirsty Lloyd (PhD student); Vanessa Huml (Post-Doctoral Researcher)

Neutral versus functional genetic diversity: a new conservation genetic agenda
Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, NERC 
Researchers: Jonathan Ellis (PDRA); Sarah Rustage (PhD)


Current Research Group
Dr Vanessa Huml (Post-doctoral Researcher)
Victoria Buswell (PhD student, Director of Studies)
Mary Lane (PhD student, co-supervisor)
Joe Eva (PhD student, co-supervisor)

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
Dr Lucy Turner
Dr Sarah Rustage
Ms Kirsty Lloyd
C. John Thorpe-Dixon 

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).

Dr Carly Benefer, 2011, University of Plymouth The molecular ecology and behaviour of Agriotes species, co-supervised with Prof. Rod Blackshaw and Dr Jon Ellis (UoP).

Dr Olivia Scholtz, 2010, University of Plymouth, Community ecology of rainforest termites, PI with Dr Paul Eggleton (Natural History Museum, London), Drs Sarah Donovan & Prof Rod Blackshaw (UoP).

Dr Nicola J Barson, 2004, University of Hull Sexual Selection and the genetics of reproductive isolation in Lake Malawi cichlid fishes (University of Hull, co-supervised with Prof George Turner (now at the University of Bangor). 

Grants & contracts

2016

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. 

2012
Seale-Hayne Education Trust
Benefer & Knight (University of Plymouth)
Development of a method to study the spatio-temporal distribution of wireworms in agricultural land

2010
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.

2009
  
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.

2008  
The Leverhulme Trust
Knight (PI) & Ellis, Plymouth University
Neutral versus functional genetic diversity: a new conservation genetic agenda.

2007
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.

2006
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

2005
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

1999 
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

Key publications are highlighted

Journals
Articles
Lane M, Hanley ME, Lunt P, Knight ME, Braungardt CB & Ellis JS 2019 'Chronosequence of former kaolinite open cast mines suggests active intervention is required for the restoration of Atlantic heathland' Restoration Ecology , DOI Open access
Puschendorf R, Wallace M, Chavarría MM, Crawford A, Wynne F, Knight M, Janzen D, Hallwachs D, Palmer C & Price S 2019 'Cryptic diversity and ranavirus infection of a critically endangered Neotropical frog before and after population collapse' Animal Conservation , DOI Open access
Thorpe CJ, Lewis TR, Fisher MC, Wierzbicki CJ, Kulkarni S, Pryce D, Davies L, Watve A & Knight ME 2018 'Climate structuring of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection in the threatened amphibians of the northern Western Ghats, India' Royal Society Open Science 5, (6) 180211-180211 , DOI Open access
Ellis JS, Soland-Reckeweg G, Buswell VG, Huml JV, Brown A & Knight ME 2018 'Introgression in native populations of Apis mellifera mellifera L: implications for conservation' Journal of Insect Conservation , DOI Open access
Thorpe CJ, Lewis TR, Kulkarni, S., Watve, A., Gaitonde, N., Pryce, D., Davies L, Bilton DT, Knight & M.E. 2018 'Micro-habitat distribution drives patch quality for sub-tropical rocky plateau amphibians in the northern Western Ghats, India' PLoS ONE , DOI Open access
Hudson LN, Newbold T, Contu S, Hill SLL, Lysenko I, De Palma A, Phillips HRP, Alhusseini TI, Bedford FE & Bennett DJ 2016 'The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) project' Ecology and Evolution 7, (1) 145-188 , DOI Open access
De Palma A, Abrahamczyk S, Aizen MA, Albrecht M, Basset Y, Bates A, Blake RJ, Boutin C, Bugter R & Connop S 2016 'Predicting bee community responses to land-use changes: Effects of geographic and taxonomic biases' Scientific Reports 6, 31153-31153 , DOI Open access
Scriven JJ, Woodall LC, Tinsley MC, Knight MIE, Williams PH, Carolan JC, Brown MJF & Goulson D 2015 'Revealing the hidden niches of cryptic bumblebees in Great Britain: Implications for conservation' BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION 182, 126-133 Author Site , DOI
Bicknell AWJ, Knight ME, Bilton DT, Campbell M, Reid JB, Newton J & Votier SC 2014 'Intercolony movement of pre-breeding seabirds over oceanic scales: implications of cryptic age-classes for conservation and metapopulation dynamics' DIVERSITY AND DISTRIBUTIONS 20, (2) Author Site , DOI Open access
Stanley DA, Knight ME & Stout JC 2013 'Ecological Variation in Response to Mass-Flowering Oilseed Rape and Surrounding Landscape Composition by Members of a Cryptic Bumblebee Complex' PLOS ONE 8, (6) Author Site , DOI
Ellis JS, Turner LM & Knight ME 2013 'Lack of Variation at Phosphoglucose Isomerase (Pgi) in Bumblebees: Implications for Conservation Genetics Studies' PLOS One 8, (6) 1-11 , DOI Open access
Cooper EM, Lunt PH, Ellis JS & Knight ME 2013 'Biogeographical patterns of variation in European populations of the Great Green Bush-cricket (Tettigonia viridissima; Orthoptera Tettigoniidae)' Insect Conservation 17, (3) 431-440 , DOI
Benefer C, van Herk WG, Ellis JS, Blackshaw RP, Vernon RS & Knight ME 2013 'The molecular identification and genetic diversity of economically important wireworm species (Coleoptera: Elateridae) in Canada' Journal of Pest Science 86, (1) 19-27 , DOI
Ellis JS, Turner LM & Knight ME 2012 'Patterns of selection and polymorphism of innate immunity genes in bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apidae)' GENETICA 140, (4-6) 205-217 Author Site , DOI
Bicknell AWJ, Knight ME, Bilton D, Reid JB, Burke T & Votier SC 2012 'Population genetic structure and long-distance dispersal among seabird populations: implications for colony persistence' Mol Ecol 21, (12) 2863-2876 Author Site , DOI
Benefer CM, Knight ME, Ellis JS, Hicks H & Blackshaw RP 2012 'Understanding the relationship between adult and larval Agriotes distributions: The effect of sampling method, species identification and abiotic variables' Applied Soil Ecology 53, 39-48 , DOI
Stauss C, Bearhop S, Bodey TW, Garthe S, Gunn C, Grecian WJ, Inger R, Knight ME, Newton J & Patrick SC 2012 'Sex-specific foraging behaviour in northern gannets Morus bassanus: incidence and implications' MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES 457, 151-162 Author Site , DOI
Hanley ME, Franco M, Dean CE, Franklin EL, Harris HR, Hayes AG, Rapson SR, Rowse G, Thomas KC & Waterhouse BR 2011 'Increased bumblebee abundance along the margins of a mass flowering crop: evidence for pollination spillover' Oikos 120, (11) 1618-1624 , DOI
Bicknell AWJ, Dawson DA, Horsburgh GJ, Knight ME, Bilton DT & Votier SC 2011 'Characterisation and predicted genome locations of Leach's storm-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) microsatellite loci (Procellariidae, Aves)' CONSERVATION GENETICS RESOURCES 3, (4) 711-716 Author Site , DOI
Bicknell AWJ, Campbell M, Knight ME, Bilton DT, Newton J & Votier SC 2011 'Effects of formalin preservation on stable carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures in Calanoid copepods: implications for the use of Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey samples in stable isotope analyses' Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 25, (13) 1794-1800 Author Site , DOI
Benefer C, Andrew P, Blackshaw R, Ellis J & Knight M 2010 'The spatial distribution of phytophagous insect larvae in grassland soils' APPLIED SOIL ECOLOGY 45, (3) 269-274 Author Site , DOI
Genner MJ, Knight ME, Haesler MP & Turner GF 2010 'Establishment and expansion of Lake Malawi rock fish populations after a dramatic Late Pleistocene lake level rise' MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 19, (1) 170-182 Author Site , DOI
Knight ME, Osborne JL, Sanderson RA, Hale RJ, Martin AP & Goulson D 2009 'Bumblebee nest density and the scale of available forage in arable landscapes' INSECT CONSERVATION AND DIVERSITY 2, (2) 116-124 Author Site , DOI
Ellis JS, Blackshaw R, Parker W, Hicks H & Knight ME 2009 'Genetic identification of morphologically cryptic agricultural pests' AGRICULTURAL AND FOREST ENTOMOLOGY 11, (1) 115-121 Author Site , DOI
Osborne JL, Martin AP, Shortall CR, Todd AD, Goulson D, Knight ME, Hale RJ & Sanderson RA 2008 'Quantifying and comparing bumblebee nest densities in gardens and countryside habitats' JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY 45, (3) 784-792 Author Site , DOI
Osborne JL, Martin AP, Carreck NL, Swain JL, Knight ME, Goulson D, Hale RJ & Sanderson RA 2008 'Bumblebee flight distances in relation to the forage landscape' JOURNAL OF ANIMAL ECOLOGY 77, (2) 406-415 Author Site , DOI
Pierotti MER, Knight ME, Immler S, Barson NJ, Turner GF & Seehausen O 2008 'Individual variation in male mating preferences for female coloration in a polymorphic cichlid fish' BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY 19, (3) 483-488 Author Site , DOI
Knight 2007 'The genetic architecture of male colour differences between a sympatric Lake Malawi cichlid species pair' Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20 (1), 45-53 , DOI
Martin AP, Carreck NL, Swain JL, Goulson D, Knight ME, Hale RJ, Sanderson RA & Osborne JL 2006 'A modular system for trapping and mass-marking bumblebees: applications for studying food choice and foraging range' Apidologie 37, (3) 341-350
Ellis JS, Knight ME, Carvell C & Goulson D 2006 'Cryptic species identification: a simple diagnostic tool for discriminating between two problematic bumblebee species' Molecular Ecology Notes 6, (2) 540-542
Ellis JS, Knight ME, Darvill B & Goulson D 2006 'Extremely low effective population sizes, genetic structuring and reduced genetic diversity in a threatened bumblebee species, Bombus sylvarum (Hymenoptera : Apidae)' Molecular Ecology 15, (14) 4375-4386
Ellis JS, Knight ME & Goulson D 2005 'Delineating species for conservation using mitochondrial sequence data: the taxonomic status of two problematic Bombus species (Hymenoptera: Apidae)' Journal of Insect Conservation 9, (2) 75-83 , DOI
Knight ME, Martin AP, Bishop S, Osborne JL, Hale RJ, Sanderson A & Goulson D 2005 'An interspecific comparison of foraging range and nest density of four bumblebee (Bombus) species' Molecular Ecology 14, (6) 1811-1820
Goulson D, Hanley ME, Darvill B, Ellis JS & Knight ME 2005 'Causes of rarity in bumblebees' Biological Conservation 122, (1) 1-8
Ellis JS, Knight ME & Goulson D 2005 'Delimiting species for conservation using molecular markers: the taxonomic status of Bombus ruderatus (Fabricus) and Bombus hortorum (Linnaeus) (Hymenoptera: Apidae)' Journal of Insect Conservation 9, 75-83
Genner MJ, Taylor MI, Cleary DFR, Hawkins SJ, Knight ME & Turner GF 2004 'Beta diversity of rock-restricted cichlid fishes in Lake Malawi: importance of environmental and spatial factors' ECOGRAPHY 27, (5) 601-610 Author Site , DOI
Knight 2004 'Laboratory mating trials indicate incipient speciation by sexual selection among populations of the cichlid fish <em>Pseudotropheus zebra</em> from Lake Malawi' Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences 271 (1540), 675-680 , DOI
Genner MJ, Taylor MI, Cleary DFR, Hawkins SJ, Knight ME & Turner GF 2004 'Beta diversity of rock-restricted cichlid fishes in Lake Malawi: importance of environmental and spatial factors' Ecography 27, (5) 601-610
Amorim MCP, Knight ME, Stratoudakis Y & Turner GF 2004 'Differences in sounds made by courting males of three closely related Lake Malawi cichlid species' Journal of Fish Biology 65, (5) 1358-1371
Genner MJ, Seehausen O, Cleary DFR, Knight ME, Michel E & Turner GF 2004 'How does the taxonomic status of allopatric populations influence species richness within African cichlid fish assemblages?' Journal of Biogeography 31, (1) 93-102
Goulson D, Darvill B, Ellis J, Knight ME & Hanley ME 2004 'Interspecific differences in response to novel landmarks in bumblebees (Bombus sp.)' APIDOLOGIE 35, (6) 619-622 Author Site , DOI
Goulson D, Darvill B, Ellis J, Knight ME & Hanley ME 2004 'Interspecific differences in response to novel landmarks in bumblebees (Bombus sp.)' Apidologie 35, (6) 619-622
Darvill B, Knight ME & Goulson D 2004 'Use of genetic markers to quantify bumblebee foraging range and nest density' Oikos 107, (3) 471-478
Seehausen O, Koetsier E, Schneider MV, Chapman LJ, Chapman CA, Knight ME, Turner GF, van Alphen JJM & Bills R 2003 'Correction for Seehausen et al. , Nuclear markers reveal unexpected genetic variation and a Congolese–Nilotic origin of the Lake Victoria cichlid species flock' Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 270, (1533) 2637-2638 , DOI
Seehausen O, Koetsier E, Schneider MV, Chapman LJ, Chapman CA, Knight ME, Turner GF, van Alphen JJM & Bills R 2003 'Nuclear markers reveal unexpected genetic variation and a Congolese-Nilotic origin of the Lake Victoria cichlid species flock' Proc Biol Sci 270, (1511) 129-137 Author Site , DOI
Allender CJ, Seehausen O, Knight ME, Turner GF & Maclean N 2003 'Divergent selection during speciation of Lake Malawi cichlid fishes inferred from parallel radiations in nuptial coloration' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100, (24) 14074-14079
Rico C, Bouteillon P, Van Oppen MJH, Knight ME, Hewitt GM & Turner GF 2003 'No evidence for parallel sympatric speciation in cichlid species of the genus Pseudotropheus from north-western Lake Malawi' JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY 16, (1) 37-46 Author Site , DOI
Turner GF, Seehausen O, Knight ME, Allender CJ & Robinson RL 2001 'How many species of cichlid fishes are there in African lakes?' Molecular Ecology 10, (3) 793-806
Knight ME & Turner GF 1999 'Reproductive isolation among closely related Lake Malawi cichlids: can males recognize conspecific females by visual cues?' Anim Behav 58, (4) 761-768 Author Site , DOI
Knight ME, Van Oppen MJH, Smith HL, Rico C, Hewitt GM & Turner GF 1999 'Evidence for male-biased dispersal in Lake Malawi cichlids from microsatellites' MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 8, (9) 1521-1527 Author Site , DOI
Knight ME, Turner GF, Rico C, van Oppen MJH & Hewitt GM 1998 'Microsatellite paternity analysis on captive Lake Malawi cichlids supports reproductive isolation by direct mate choice' MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 7, (11) 1605-1610 Author Site , DOI
Conference Papers
Benefer C, Blackshaw R, Knight M & Ellis J 2011 'Development of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers for assessing Agriotes click beetle dispersal in agricultural land' in Ehlers R; Crickmore N; Enkerli J; Glazer I; Kirchmair M; Lopez-Ferber M; Neuhauser S; Strasser H; Tkaczuk C; Traugott M Insect Pathogens and Entomopathogenic Nematodes Biological Control in IPM Systems Innsbruck, Austria 6-/-0/20116-/-0/2011Darmstadt, Germany International Organization for Biological and Integrated Control of Noxious Animals and Plants, West Palearctic Regional Section (IOBC/WPRS) 541-541 Publisher Site
Benefer C, Blackshaw RP, Knight ME & Ellis JS 2011 'Male Agriotes click beetle walking behaviour and response to sex pheromones' in Ehlers RU; Crickmore N; Enkerli J; Glazer I; Kirchmair M; Lopez-Ferber M; Neuhauser S; Strasser H; Tkaczuk C; Traugott M Insect Pathogens and Entomopathogenic Nematodes Biological Control in IPM Systems Innsbruck, Austria 6-/-0/20116-/-0/2011Darmstadt, Germany International Organisation for Biological and INtegrated Control of Noxious Animals and Plants, West Palearctic Regional Section (IOBC/WPRS) 504-504 Publisher Site
Benefer C, Blackshaw R, Knight M & Ellis J 2009 'THE DISTRIBUTION OF SOIL INSECTS OVER DIFFERENT SPATIAL SCALES IN GRASSLAND' 309-309
Benefer C, Blackshaw RP, Knight ME & Ellis JS 2009 'The relationship between Agriotes click beetle (Coleoptera: Elateridae) wireworms and environmental factors' in Ehlers RU; Crickmore N; Enkerli J; Glazer I; Lopez-Ferber M; Tkaczuk C Insect Pathogens and Insect Parasitic Nematodes Pamplona, Spain 6-/-0/20096-/-0/2009International Organisation for Biological and Integrated Control of Noxious Animals and Plants, West Palearctic Regional Section (IOBC/WPRS) Publisher Site