Dr Mairi Knight
Profiles

Dr Mairi Knight

Head of School

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

Role

Head of School of Biological 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 

European Society for Evolution Biology

Teaching interests

I currently teach on a number of undergraduate modules but most of my formal teaching is within the broad theme of molecular ecology, from basic genetics in first year through to conservation genetics in the final year. 

I am interested in developing teaching in the general area of conservation and/or genetics and have won internal funding (Plymouth University CETL – Experiential Learning in Environment and Natural Sciences) to this end:
2008: Knight (PI) to develop new practical sessions and learning materials for molecular ecology practicals, with the help of a teaching assistant,
2009: Knight (PI) & Collins, to attend a course at the University of Queensland on the use of MARXAN software for conservation planning and reserve design.

I also teach on two undergraduate field courses, one to Andalucia in southern Spain and the other to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. 

Until 2011 I was the programme leader for BSc Conservation Biology.

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.

Current and recent projects


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

The role of mass flowering crops in maintaining arable floral diversity

Funded by the Seale-Hayne Educational Trust, with Mick Hanley.
Reserachers: This is an ongoing project where data are, and have been, collected by a number of Masters and Undergraduate students.

Community Ecology of Rain Forest
Termites 
Funded by NERC, with Paul Eggleton (Natural History Museum), Sarah Donovan and Rod Blackshaw. Researchers: Olivia Scholtz (PhD)

Sustainable long-term management of wireworms on potato  
Funded by DEFRA Link, with Rod Blackshaw (PI)
Researchers: Carly Benefer (PhD); Jonathan Ellis (PDRA)

Population genetics differentiation of grazing marsh invertebrates
Funded by The Esme Fairburn Foundation, with David Bilton (PI)
Researchers: Michelle Kiernan (RA); Carrie Gunn (RA); Adele Grindon (RA)

Population structuring and dispersal patterns of a highly pelagic seabird: implications for Leach’s Storm-petrel conservation  
NERC, with Steve Votier [PI], Dave Bilton and Jim Reid [JNCC]).
Researchers: Tony Bicknell (PhD)

Patterns of polyandry in Lake Malawi cichlids
 
The Nuffield Foundation; The Swiss National Science Foundation; The German Cichlid Association).
Researchers:  Marcel Haesler (PDRA)

Current Research Group
Mr C. John Thorpe-Dixon (PhD student, Director of Studies)
Ms Kirsty Lloyd (PhD student, Director of Studies)
Ms Felicity Wynne (PhD student, co-supervisor)
Ms Mary Lane (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

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

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).
Dr Olivia Scholtz, 2010, Plymouth University Community ecology of rainforest termites, PI with Dr Paul Eggleton (Natural History Museum, London), Drs Sarah Donovan and Prof Rod Blackshaw (PU).
Dr Carly Benefer, 2011, Plymouth University The molecular ecology and behaviour of Agriotes species, co-supervised with Prof. Rod Blackshaw (PU) and Dr Jon Ellis (now at Manchester Metropolitan University).
Dr Tony Bicknell, 2011, Plymouth University  Population structuring and dispersal patterns of a highly pelagic seabird: implications for Leach’s Storm-petrel conservation, co-supervised with Drs Steve Votier & Dr David Bilton (PU) & Jim Reid (JNCC).

Grants & contracts

2012
Seale-Hayne Education Trust
Benefer & Knight (Plymouth University)
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 PhD 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 are highlighted

Journals
Articles
Hudson LN, Newbold T, Contu S, Hill SLL, Lysenko I, De Palma A, Phillips HRP, Alhusseini TI, Bedford FE & Bennett DJ 2017 'The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) project' Ecology and Evolution 7, (1) 145-188 , DOI PEARL
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 PEARL
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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
Darvill B, Knight ME & Goulson D 2004 'Use of genetic markers to quantify bumblebee foraging range and nest density' Oikos 107, (3) 471-478
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
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
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, 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 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, 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' 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 19/06/2011 23/06/2011 Darmstadt, 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' 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 19/06/2011 23/06/2011 Darmstadt, 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 RP, Knight ME & Ellis JS 2009 'The relationship between Agriotes click beetle (Coleoptera: Elateridae) wireworms and environmental factors' Ehlers RU; Crickmore N; Enkerli J; Glazer I; Lopez-Ferber M; Tkaczuk C Insect Pathogens and Insect Parasitic Nematodes Pamplona, Spain 22/06/2009 25/06/2009 International Organisation for Biological and Integrated Control of Noxious Animals and Plants, West Palearctic Regional Section (IOBC/WPRS) Publisher Site
Benefer C, Blackshaw R, Knight M & Ellis J 2009 'THE DISTRIBUTION OF SOIL INSECTS OVER DIFFERENT SPATIAL SCALES IN GRASSLAND' 309-309