Hollie Marshall

University of Leicester


Parentally Defined Methylation in the Social Insect; Bombus terrestris.


1st Supervisor: Dr. Eamonn Mallon, 2nd Supervisor Dr. Ezio Rosato

PhD Summary

I will be looking for imprinted genes in the bumble bee, Bombus terrestris. This is when the parental origin of the gene dictates weather or not the gene is expressed in the offspring. This work will be done by reciprocally crossing maximally heterozygous individuals and then using RNA-Seq to discover which genes are being expressed. BS-Seq (bisulfide sequencing) can then be used to look for methylation patterns and to validate any candidate imprinted genes. This has implications not only to wild bee population conservation (through better understanding of their genomic mechanisms) but also to plant/crop breeding and some human developmental disorders and cancers.

What inspires you?

As a child I would collect frogs (to the disgust of my family), around the same time I was keenly interested in dinosaurs (just because I was ‘one of those’ girls). It occurred to me one day that the frog must have had ancestors that were alive during the time of the dinosaurs and I had no idea what they looked like. It was this curiosity that has eventually lead me to a research career in animal evolution.

Previous Activity

I spent 1.5 years on my undergraduate project designing a non-invasive genetic sampling method for studying wild owl populations at the University of Worcester working with Dr. Mike Wheeler. I continued onto a Masters degree at the University of Birmingham with Dr. Luisa Orsini using palaeogenomic techniques toresurrect and study a past population of Daphnia magna (a water flea) looking for adaptation to climate change stressors. This involved experimental evolution trials, whole genome sequencing and RNA-Seq. I have also worked as a manager and bingo caller within the gambling industry during and in between my studies.

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

While working within the gambling industry I found myself constantly longing for a challenge and craving work that gave real world implications; not just a bit of extra profit for ‘the man’. My real passions lie within nature and, specifically, understanding animal evolution. A doctorate degree allows me to indulge my passions while fulfilling my need for a challenge and, importantly, opens the doors to a future career in scientific research.

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

Being funded by NERC I knew CENTA would fund projects specifically within my interest areas (evolution, climate/environmental change, paleobiology) meaning I would have the opportunity during my doctorate to meet many people/connections important for a future career in these areas. On top of this they provide a structured training programme in order to produce skilled and rounded professionals.

What are your future plans

I plan on continuing down the academic route with postdoc and fellowship positions. I am keenly interested in public engagement and I hope being at a high profile university for genetics will enable me to promote my research to a much wider audience.