Professor Ken Wilson

Professor

Research Overview

Ken is fascinated by the interactions between parasites and their hosts, be they insects, birds, mammals or humans. He is particularly interested in how hosts and parasites evolve strategies to out-compete each other, and the impact of the environment on the ecology of the host-parasite interaction.

He has spent much of the last 20 years working in Africa, studying aspects of insect crop pest control and especially the use of parasites, such as baculoviruses, as biological pest control agents.

Published research

Ken has published over 100 papers and book chapters (see link above), including papers in leading journals such as Nature and Science.

His most recent work is trying to understand the role of nutrition in determining who ‘wins’ when parasites infect hosts, using insects and their bacteria or viruses as model systems. This work was highlighted as part of the BBSRC’s 20th anniversary celebrations. He is also trying to develop the theory underpinning these interactions and exploring the influence that the gut ‘microbiome’ has on them – for a recent review, click here.

Ken’s work is also seeking to apply this work to problems of applied relevance, especially the biological control of insect crop pests in Africa. In particular, he is working with collaborators in the UK and Tanzania to use a natural and safe baculovirus for the biocontrol of the African armyworm, a major caterpillar pest of staple cereal crops in Africa. Here is a link to a video blog Ken made on a recent research visit to Zambia in collaboration with the BBSRC.

Ken has received funding for his work from:

  • the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC),
  • the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • the Department for International Development (DFID)
  • the Royal Society (RS)

Current research

Ken’s current research projects include

  • A BBSRC-funded project exploring the role of nutrition in determining the outcome of bacterial infections in insects
  • A BBSRC-funded China Partnering Award exploring ‘agri-bioscience for sustainable food security’
  • An ARC Discovery Project integrating aspects of nutrition, parasitism and gut microbiome on immunity in Drosophila flies in collaboration with Prof Steve Simpson and Dr Fleur Ponton at the University of Sydney, Australia.

He is a member of the Ecology and Conservation research group. His PhD students study a diverse range of topics that broadly fall under the themes of host-pathogen interactions and/or agro-ecology. Current projects include: the interactions between parasitism and migration in insect crop pests; the importance of micronutrients to crop pest resistance to biopesticides; effects of a novel nematocide on plant growth and non-target organisms; the nutritional, floral and microbial composition of bee bread in honey bee hives; beekeepers and beekeeping; the microbial community of blue tits.

Roles

Ken is currently:

Teaching

Ken’s teaching includes:

Related content

See Ken’s video blog on chasing African armyworm in Zambia

Ken manages a website about African armyworm, its impact and biocontrol called Armyworm Network

Ken's website: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/staff/wilsonk4/

Pest control: biopesticides’ potential
Wilson, K., Benton, T., Graham, R., Grzywacz, D. 15/11/2014 In: Science. 342, 6160, 1 p.
Letter

Where have all the insects gone?
Wilson, K. 27/06/2014 In: Journal of Animal Ecology.
Editorial

The use of indigenous ecological resources for pest control in Africa
Grzywacz, D., Stevenson, P., Mushobozi, W.L., Belmain, S., Wilson, K. 02/2014 In: Food Security. 6, 1, p. 71-86. 16 p.
Journal article

Dynamics of macronutrient self-medication and illness-induced anorexia in virally infected insects
Povey, S., Cotter, S.C., Simpson, S.J., Wilson, K. 01/2014 In: Journal of Animal Ecology. 83, 1, p. 245-255. 11 p.
Journal article

The times they are a-changin’: evolution and revolution in animal ecology publishing
Wilson, K. 01/2014 In: Journal of Animal Ecology. 83, 1, 4 p.
Editorial

Can the biofuel crop, Jatropha curcas, be used as a locally-grown botanical pesticide?: a lab and field study in Zambia
Wilson, K., Maloney, K., Zulu, D., Mutamba, E., Vermeylen, S. 1/11/2013 In: Proceedings of The First International Conference on Pesticidal Plants. Nakuru, Kenya : Egerton University p. 124-127. 4 p.
Paper

Adaptations to the Arctic: low-temperature development and cold tolerance in the free-living stages of a parasitic nematode from Svalbard
Carlsson, A.M., Irvine, R.J., Wilson, K., Coulson, S.J. 07/2013 In: Polar Biology. 36, 7, p. 997-1005. 9 p.
Journal article

A comparison of the TC10™ automated cell counter and the hemocytometer for quantifying insect hemocytes.
Randall, J., Tummala, Y., Wilson, K. 05/2013
Other contribution

Integrating nutrition and immunology: a new frontier
Ponton, F., Wilson, K., Holmes, A.J., Cotter, S.C., Raubenheimer, D., Simpson, S.J. 02/2013
Scientific review

Male-killing Wolbachia and mitochondrial selective sweep in a migratory African insect (vol 12, pg 204, 2012)
Graham, R.I., Wilson, K. 10/01/2013 In: BMC Evolutionary Biology. 13, 2 p.
Journal article

Publishing the best original research in animal ecology: looking forward from 2013
Coulson, T., Hays, G., Boots, M., Wilson, K., Baker, L., Livermore, P. 01/2013 In: Journal of Animal Ecology. 82, 1, 2 p.
Editorial

Host-parasite interactions and the evolution of immune defense
Wilson, K., Cotter, S.C. 2013 In: Advances in the study of behavior. Amsterdam : ELSEVIER ACADEMIC PRESS INC p. 81-174. 94 p. ISBN: 978-0-12-407186-5.
Chapter

Wolbachia in a major African crop pest increases susceptibility to viral disease rather than protects
Graham, R.I., Grzywacz, D., Mushobozi, W.L., Wilson, K. 09/2012 In: Ecology Letters. 15, 9, 8 p.
Letter

Development and application of a delayed-release anthelmintic intra-ruminal bolus system for experimental manipulation of nematode worm burdens
Carlsson, A.M., Wilson, K., Irvine, R.J. 07/2012 In: Parasitology. 139, 8, p. 1086-1092. 7 p.
Journal article

Disease transmission in an extreme environment: Nematode parasites infect reindeer during the Arctic winter
Carlsson, A.M., Irvine, K.J., Wilson, K., Piertney, S.B., Halvorsen, O., Coulson, S.J., Stien, A., Albon, S.D. 07/2012 In: International Journal of Parasitology. 42, 8, p. 789-795. 7 p.
Journal article

Testes size, testosterone production and reproductive behaviour in a natural mammalian mating system
Preston, B.T., Stevenson, I.R., Lincoln, G.A., Monfort, S.L., Pilkington, J.G., Wilson, K. 01/2012 In: Journal of Animal Ecology. 81, 1, p. 296-305. 10 p.
Journal article

Male-killing Wolbachia and mitochondrial selective sweep in a migratory African insect
Graham, R.I., Wilson, K. 2012 In: BMC Evolutionary Biology. 12, 11 p.
Journal article

Nutritional Immunology: A Multi-Dimensional Approach
Ponton, F., Wilson, K., Cotter, S.C., Raubenheimer, D., Simpson, S.J. 12/2011 In: PLoS pathogens. 7, 12, 4 p.
Editorial

Characterisation of a nucleopolyhedrovirus and Spiroplasma sp. bacterium associated with outbreaking populations of the Antler moth Cerapteryx graminis
Graham, R.I., Hartley, L., Wilson, K. 05/2011 In: Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. 107, 1, p. 90-93. 4 p.
Journal article

Macronutrient balance mediates trade-offs between immune function and life history traits
Cotter, S., Simpson, S.J., Raubenheimer, D., Wilson, K. 02/2011 In: Functional Ecology. 25, 1, p. 186-198. 13 p.
Journal article

Hosts use altered macronutrient intake to circumvent parasite-induced reduction in fecundity
Ponton, F., Lalubin, F., Fromont, C., Wilson, K., Behm, C., Simpson, S.J. 01/2011 In: International Journal of Parasitology. 41, 1, p. 43-50. 8 p.
Journal article

Diversity and temporal stability of bacterial communities in a model passerine bird, the zebra finch.
Benskin, C., Rhodes, G., Pickup, R.W., Wilson, K., Hartley, I.R. 12/2010 In: Molecular Ecology. 19, 24, p. 5531-5544. 14 p.
Journal article

High levels of genetic diversity in Spodoptera exempta NPV from Tanzania
Redman, E.M., Wilson, K., Grzywacz, D., Cory, J.S. 10/2010 In: Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. 105, 2, p. 190-193. 4 p.
Journal article

Pathogen persistence in migratory insects : high levels of vertically-transmitted virus infection in field populations of the African armyworm.
Vilaplana, L., Wilson, K., Redman, E.M., Cory, J.S. 01/2010 In: Evolutionary Ecology. 24, 1, p. 147-160. 14 p.
Journal article

Bacterial pathogens in wild birds: a review of the frequency and effects of infection.
Benskin, C., Wilson, K., Jones, K.J., Hartley, I.R. 08/2009 In: Biological Reviews. 84, 3, p. 349-373. 25 p.
Journal article

Can the protein costs of bacterial resistance be offset by altered feeding behaviour?
Povey, S., Cotter, S.C., Simpson, S.J., Lee, K.P., Wilson, K. 03/2009 In: Journal of Animal Ecology. 78, 2, p. 437-446. 10 p.
Journal article

Evolutionary ecology : percolation of old ideas to new areas of ecology.
Wilson, K. 13/01/2009 In: Current Biology. 19, 1, p. R21-R23.
Journal article

Armyworm NPV for Africa : illustrating problems of promoting biopesticides in Africa.
Grzywacz, D., Mushobozi, W.L., Wilson, K. 2009 In: Biocontrol News and Information. 30, 2, p. 30N-32N.
Journal article

Biological control of armyworm in Africa : pitfalls and solutions.
Wilson, K., Grzywacz, D., Mushobozi, W.L. 2009 In: Pesticides News. 84, p. 18-19. 2 p.
Journal article

Climate change and the spread of infectious ideas.
Wilson, K. 2009 In: Ecology. 90, 4, p. 901-902. 2 p.
Journal article

Density-dependent prophylaxis in insects.
Wilson, K., Cotter, S.C. 2009 In: Phenotypic plasticity of insects : mechanisms and consequences. Enfield : Science Publsihers Inc. p. 381-420. 40 p. ISBN: 9781578084234.
Chapter

Dietary protein-quality influences melanization and immune function in an insect.
Lee, K.P., Simpson, S.J., Wilson, K. 12/2008 In: Functional Ecology. 22, 6, p. 1051-1061. 11 p.
Journal article

Selection for cuticular melanism reveals immune function and life-history trade-offs in Spodoptera littoralis.
Cotter, S.C., Myatt, J.P., Benskin, C., Wilson, K. 11/2008 In: Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 21, 6, p. 1744-1754. 11 p.
Journal article

Density related variation in vertical transmission of a virus in the African armyworm.
Vilaplana, L., Redman, E.M., Wilson, K., Corey, J.S. 03/2008 In: Oecologia. 155, 2, p. 237-246. 10 p.
Journal article

Evaluation of Spodoptera exempta nucleopolyhedrovirus (SpexNPV) for the field control of African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) in Tanzania.
Grzywacz, D., Mushobozi, W.L., Parnell, M., Jolliffe, F., Wilson, K. 01/2008 In: Crop Protection. 27, 1, p. 17-24. 8 p.
Journal article

The population dynamical implications of male-biased parasitism in different mating systems.
Miller, M.R., White, A., Wilson, K., Boots, M. 18/07/2007 In: PLoS ONE. e624
Journal article

Flexible diet choice offsets protein costs of pathogen resistance in a caterpillar.
Lee, K.P., Cory, J.S., Wilson, K., Raubenheimer, D., Simpson, S.J. 7/04/2006 In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B. 273, 1588, p. 823-829. 7 p.
Journal article

Melanism in a larval Lepidopteran : repeatability and heritability of a dynamic trait.
Lee, K.P., Wilson, K. 04/2006 In: Ecological Entomology. 31, 2, p. 196-205. 10 p.
Journal article

Novel technologies for control of African armyworm on smallholder cereals in East Africa.
Grzywacz, D., Mushobozi, W., Moscardi, F., Cory, J.S., Ray, R., Wilson, K. 2006 In: Perspectives on pests II.. Alyesford : Natural Resources International p. 93-95. 3 p.
Chapter

Male mate choices influences female promiscuity in Soay sheep.
Preston, B.T., Stevenson, I.R., Pemberton, J.M., Coltman, D.W., Wilson, K. 22/02/2005 In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B. 272, 1561, p. 365-373. 9 p.
Journal article

Evolutionary ecology of insect host-parasite interactions : an ecological immunology perspective.
Wilson, K. 2005 In: Insect evolutionary ecology. Wallingford : CABI Publications p. 289-341. 53 p.
Chapter

New approaches to improve the livelihoods of poor farmers and pastoralists in Tanzania through monitoring and control of African armyworm, Spodoptera exempta.
Mushobozi, W.L., Grzywacz, D., Musebe, R., Kimani, M., Wilson, K. 2005 In: Aspects of Applied Biology. 75, p. 37-45. 9 p.
Journal article

Costs of resistance : genetic correlations and potential trade-offs in an insect immune system.
Cotter, S.L., Kruuk, L.E.B., Wilson, K. 03/2004 In: Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 17, 2, p. 421-429. 9 p.
Journal article

Density-dependent prophylaxis and condition-dependent immune function in Lepidopteron larvae : a multibariate approach.
Cotter, S.L., Hails, R.S., Cory, J.S., WIlson, K. 03/2004 In: Journal of Animal Ecology. 73, 2, p. 283-293. 11 p.
Journal article

Adaptive reproductive strategies.
Stevenson, I.R., Marrow, P., Preston, B.T., Pemberton, J.M., Wilson, K. 2004 In: Soay Sheep : Dynamics and Selection in an Island Population. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press p. 243-275. 33 p. ISBN: 978-0521529907.
Chapter

Parasites and their impact.
Wilson, K., Grenfell, B.T., Pilkington, J.G., Boyd, H.E., Gulland, F.M.D. 2004 In: Soay Sheep : Dynamics and Selection in an Island Population. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press p. 113-165. 53 p. ISBN: 978-0521529907.
Chapter

Population dynamics.
Clutton-Brock, T.H., Grenfell, B.T., Coulson, T.N., Wilson, K., Crawley, M., Albon, S.D. 2004 In: Soay Sheep : Dynamics and Selection in an Island Population. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press p. 52-88. 37 p. ISBN: 978-0521529907.
Chapter

Soay rams target reproductive activity towards promisculous females' optimal insemination period.
Preston, B.T., Stevenson, I.R., Wilson, K. 7/10/2003 In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B : Biological Sciences. 270, 1528, p. 2073-2078. 6 p.
Journal article

Response to comment on "parasites as a viability cost of sexual selection in natural populations of mammals".
Wilson, K., Moore, S.L., Owens, I.P.F. 4/04/2003 In: Science. 300, 5616, p. 55.
Journal article

Overt and covert competition in a promiscuous mammal : the importance of weaponry and testes size to male reproductive success.
Preston, B.T., Stevenson, I.R., Pemberton, J.M., Coltman, D.W., Wilson, K. 22/03/2003 In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B : Biological Sciences. 270, 1515, p. 633-640. 8 p.
Journal article

Group living and investment in immune defence : an inter-specific analysis.
Wilson, K., Knell, R., Boots, M., Koch-Osborne, J. 01/2003 In: Journal of Animal Ecology. 72, 1, p. 133-143. 11 p.
Journal article

Parasites as a Viability Cost of Sexual Selection in Natural Populations of Mammals.
Moore, S.L., Wilson, K. 20/09/2002 In: Science. 297, 5589, p. 2015-2018. 4 p.
Journal article

Coping with crowds : density-dependent disease resistance in desert locusts.
Wilson, K., Thomas, M.B., Blanford, S., Dogett, M., Simpson, S.J., Moore, S.L. 16/04/2002 In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 99, 8, p. 5471-5475. 5 p.
Journal article

Heritability of immune function in the caterpillar Spodoptera littoralis.
Cotter, S.C., Wilson, K. 04/2002 In: Heredity. 88, 4, p. 229-234. 6 p.
Journal article

Heterogeneities in macroparasite infections : patterns and processes.
Wilson, K., Bjornstad, O.N., Dobson, A.P., Merler, S., Poglayen, G., Randolph, S.E., Read, A.F., Skorping, A. 2002 In: The ecology of wildlife diseases. Oxford : Oxford University Press p. 6-44. 39 p.
Chapter

Microparasite transmission and persistence
Swinton, J., Woolhouse, M.E.J., Begon, M.E., Dobson, A.P., Ferroglio, E., Grenfell, B.T., Guburti, V., Hails, R.S., Heesterbeek, J.A.P., Lavazza, A., Roberts, M.G., White, P.J., Wilson, K. 2002 In: The ecology of wildlife diseases. Oxford : Oxford University Press p. 83-101. 19 p.
Chapter

Parasites and host population dynamics.
Tompkins, D.M., Arneberg, P., Begon, M.E., Cattadori, I.M., Greenman, J.V., Heesterbeek, J.A.P., Hudson, P.J., Newborn, D., Pugliese, A., Rizzoli, A.P., Rosa, R., Wilson, K. 2002 In: The ecology of wildlife diseases. Oxford : Oxford University Press p. 45-62. 18 p.
Chapter

Statistical analysis of sex ratios : an introduction.
Wilson, K., Hardy, I.C.W. 2002 In: Sex ratios : concepts and research methods. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press p. 48-92. 45 p.
Chapter

Melanism and disease resistance in insects.
Wilson, K., Cotter, S.C., Reeson, A.F., Pell, J.K. 11/2001 In: Ecology Letters. 4, 6, p. 637-649. 13 p.
Journal article

Costs of reproduction : egg production takes its toll.
Stevenson, I.R., Wilson, K. 10/2001 In: Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 16, 10, p. 539.
Journal article

Positive genetic correlation between parasite resistance and body size in a free-living ungulate population.
Coltman, D., Pilkington, J.G., Kruuk, L.E.B., Wilson, K., Pemberton, J.M. 10/2001 In: Evolution. 55, 10, p. 2116-2125. 10 p.
Journal article

A microsatellite polymorphism in the gamma interferon gene is associated with resistance to gastrointestinal nematodes in a naturally-parasitised population of Soay sheep.
Coltman, D., Wilson, K., Pilkington, J.G., Stear, M.J., Pemberton, J.M. 05/2001 In: Parasitology. 122, 5, p. 571-582. 12 p.
Journal article

Sperm depletion constrains male reproductive success in a promisculous mammal.
Preston, B.T., Stevenson, I.R., Pemberton, J.M., Wilson, K. 8/02/2001 In: Nature. 409, 6821, p. 681-682. 2 p.
Journal article

The costs of resistance in Drosophila : blood cells count.
Wilson, K. 02/2001 In: Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 16, 2, p. 72-73. 2 p.
Journal article

Global warming and the spread of disease : the debate heats up.
Wilson, K. 12/2000 In: Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 15, 12, p. 488.
Journal article

Parasite manipulation : how extensive is the extended phenotype?
Wilson, K. 10/2000 In: Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 15, 10, p. 395.
Journal article

Ecology : nonlinearity and the Moran effect.
Grenfell, B.T., Finkenstadt, B.F., Wilson, K., Coulson, T.N., Crawley, M.J. 24/08/2000 In: Nature. 406, 6798, p. 847.
Journal article

Effects of phenotypic plasticity on pathogen transmission to the field in a Lepidoptera-NPV system.
Reeson, A.F., Wilson, K., Cory, J.S., Hankard, P., Weeks, J.M., Goulson, D., Hails, R.S. 08/2000 In: Oecologia. 124, 3, p. 373-380. 8 p.
Journal article

How the locust got its stripes : the evolution of density-dependent aposematism.
Wilson, K., Missing, M. 03/2000 In: Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 15, 3, p. 88-90. 3 p.
Journal article

Heritable variation to gastrointestinal nematodes in an unmanaged mammal population.
Smith, J.A., Wilson, K., Pilkington, J.G., Pemberton, J.M. 22/06/1999 In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B : Biological Sciences. 266, 1425, p. 1283-1290. 8 p.
Journal article

Immunocompetence : a neglected life history trait or conspicuous red herring?
Owens, I.P.F., Wilson, K. 05/1999 In: Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 14, 5, p. 170-172. 3 p.
Journal article

Horny Soays - the mystery of the scurs.
Wilson, K., Stevenson, I., Pemberton, J. 1999 In: The ARK. 27, p. 1000-101. 900 p.
Journal article

Modelling density-dependent resistance in insect-pathogen interactions.
White, K.A.J., Wilson, K. 1999 In: Theoretical Population Biology. 56, 2, p. 163-181. 19 p.
Journal article

Nestling sex ratios in the polygynously breeding corn bunting, Miliaria calandra.
Hartley, I.R., Griffith, S., Wilson, K., Shepherd, M., Burke, T. 1999 In: Journal of Avian Biology. 30, 1, p. 7-14. 8 p.
Journal article

Wildlife disease ecology: from theory to policy
Tompkins, D.M., Wilson, K. 1/12/1998 In: Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 13, 12, p. 476-478. 3 p.
Journal article