Dr Mairi Knight
Head of School
School of Biological & Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science & 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
European Society for Evolution Biology
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.
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
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 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, 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 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 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 Sarah Rustage, 2014, University of Plymouth Correlates of rarity in UK bumblebee (Bombus spp.) populations, PI with Dr Jonathan Ellis, Dr Richard Billington (UoP) & Prof Mark Brown (Royal Holloway
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