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Dr William Foster

Dr William Foster

Deputy Head of Department

University Senior Lecturer

Curator of Insects, University Museum of Zoology

Editor-in-Chief, Biological Reviews

William Foster is interested in taking PhD students.

Room 306 Austin Building
Office Phone: 01223 (3)36615

Biography:

I chose a PhD based on my interest in insects, marine ecology and the general enthusiasm of my PhD supervisor (John Treherne): and I worked on the ecology of an intertidal saltmarsh aphid on the North Norfolk Coast. I then did a post-doc with Janet Harker looking at circadian rhythms in blood electrolytes in cockroaches, using ion-selective electrodes. This provided excellent training in lab techniques, but was not quite so much fun. I then successfully applied for the post of Assistant Curator of Insects in the Museum here and eventually became a Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head of Department (Teaching). My research has been focussed on the ecology and behaviour of insects, as studied in the wild.

Research Interests

I work on insect ecology and behaviour, and I am especially interested in how natural selection has moulded the behaviour of individual insects to their own specific ecology. My main current research interest is in the ecology of insects from the canopy of rainforest and of oil palm plantations in South East Asia.

In Sumatra, Indonesia my group is working on a collaborative project with the oil palm industry, the BEFTA Project, which experimentally manipulates the understory habitat complexity within plantations to test its effect on a wide range of taxa and ecosystem processes. The aim of this work is to establish management practices that can be employed to enhance both biodiversity and important ecosystem functions, such as pest control, in tropical agricultural landscapes.

In Sabah, Malaysia we have been working on the insect fauna of epiphytic ferns (Bird’s Nest Ferns – Asplenium nidus). We have established that these ferns are a vital component of the canopy ecosystem, since they provide a home for about half of the total arthropods that live in the canopy. They are also an excellent model system, a microcosm, in which to study the factors that determine species diversity within a natural ecosystem and the importance of biodiversity for ecosystem function. Our field-work is carried out at Danum Valley Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysia.

My initial research was on the biology of saltmarsh and marine insects, but in more recent years I have become fascinated by the origins of social behaviour in insects, in particular in aphids, sphecid wasps and passalid beetles.

Key Publications

  • Fayle TM, Turner EC & Foster WA (2013) Ant mosaics occur in SE Asian oil palm plantation but not rain forest and are influenced by the presence of nest-sites and non-native species. Ecography 36, 1051-1057
  • Foster, W.A., Jake L. Snaddon, Edgar C. Turner,Tom M. Fayle, Timothy D. Cockerill, M. D. Farnon Ellwood, Gavin R. Broad, Arthur Y. C. Chung, Paul Eggleton, Chey Vun Khen and Kalsum M. Yusah (2011). Establishing the evidence base for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function in the oil palm landscapes of South East Asia. Phil.Trans.R.Soc.Lond.B. 366: 3277 - 3291 PDF
  • Snaddon JL, Turner EC, Fayle TM, Chey VK, Eggleton P & Foster WA (2011) Biodiversity hanging by a thread: the importance of fungal litter-trapping systems in tropical rainforests. Biology Letters 8, 397-400.
  • Fayle T.M., Turner E.C., Snaddon J.L., Chey V.K., Chung A.Y., Eggleton P.E. & Foster W.A. (2010). Oil palm expansion into rain forest greatly reduces ant biodiversity in canopy, epiphytes and leaf litter. Basic and Applied Ecology. 11: 337-345. PDF
  • Ellwood, M.D.F., Manica, A., & Foster, W.A. (2009). Stochastic and deterministic processes jointly structure tropical arthropod communities. Ecology Letters 12: 277-284. PDF
  • Turner, E.C. & Foster, W.A. (2009). The impact of forest conversion to oil palm on arthropod abundance and biomass in Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25: 23 -30. PDF
  • Ellwood, M.D.F. and Foster, W.A. (2004) Doubling the estimate of invertebrate biomass in a rainforest canopy. Nature 429: 549-551. PDF
  • Foster, W.A. (2002) Aphid sex ratios. In: Sex Ratio Handbook: concepts and research methods (ed I. Hardy). Chapter 12. pp 254-265. Cambridge University Press.
  • Rhoden P.K. and Foster, W.A. (2002) Soldier behaviour and division of labour in the aphid genus Pemphigus (Hemiptera, Aphididae). Insectes Sociaux 49: 257-263. PDF
  • Sumner, S., Casiraghi, M., Foster W. & Field, J. (2002). High reproductive skew in tropical hover wasps. Proc.R.Soc.Lond.B. 269: 179-186 PDF

Other Publications

  • Fayle TM, Turner EC & Foster WA (2013) Ant mosaics occur in SE Asian oil palm plantation but not rain forest and are influenced by the presence of nest-sites and non-native species. Ecography 36, 1051-1057
  • Ashford O.S., Foster WA, Turner BL, Sayer EJ, Sutcliffe L & Tanner EVJ (2013) Litter manipulation and soil arthropod communities in a lowland tropical forest. Soil biology and biochemistry 62: 5 - 12
  • Fayle TM, Edwards DP, Turner EC, Dumbrell AJ, Eggleton P & Foster WA (2012) Public goods, public services, and by-product mutualism in an ant-fern symbiosis. Oikos 121, 1279-1286.
  • Yusah K.M., Fayle T.M., Harris G. & Foster W.A. (2012). Optimising diversity assessment protocols for high canopy ants in tropical rain forest. Biotropica  44, 73 - 81
  • Foster, W.A., Jake L. Snaddon, Edgar C. Turner,Tom M. Fayle, Timothy D. Cockerill, M. D. Farnon Ellwood, Gavin R. Broad, Arthur Y. C. Chung, Paul Eggleton, Chey Vun Khen and Kalsum M. Yusah (2011). Establishing the evidence base for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function in the oil palm landscapes of South East Asia. Phil.Trans.R.Soc.Lond.B. 366: 3277 - 3291 PDF
  • Fayle T.M., Dumbrell A.J., Turner E.C & Foster W.A. (2011). Distributional patterns of epiphytic ferns are explained by the presence of cryptic species. Biotropica 43: 6-7.
  • Snaddon JL, Turner EC, Fayle TM, Chey VK, Eggleton P & Foster WA (2011) Biodiversity hanging by a thread: the importance of fungal litter-trapping systems in tropical rainforests. Biology Letters 8, 397-400.
  • Turner E.C., Snaddon J.L., Ewers R.M., Fayle T.M. and Foster W.A. (2011). The Impact of Oil Palm Expansion on Environmental Change: Putting Conservation Research in Context. In Bernardes M.A.S. (Ed.) Environmental Impact of Biofuels. InTech Press.
  • Fayle T.M., Turner E.C., Snaddon J.L., Chey V.K., Chung A.Y., Eggleton P.E. & Foster W.A. (2010). Oil palm expansion into rain forest greatly reduces ant biodiversity in canopy, epiphytes and leaf litter. Basic and Applied Ecology. 11: 337-345. PDF
  • Foster W.A. (2010) The Menopausal Aphid Glue-Bomb. Current Biology 20(13): 559-560
  • Jackson, L., van Noordwijk, M., Bengtsson, J., Foster, W.A., Lipper, L., Said, M., Snaddon, J.L. & Vodouhe, R. (2010). Biodiversity and agricultural sustainagility: from assessment to adaptive management. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. 2: 80 - 87.PDF
  • Fayle, T.M., Chung, A.Y.C., Dumbrell, A.J., Eggleton, P & Foster, W.A. (2009). The effect of rain forest canopy architecture on the distribution of epiphytic ferns (Asplenium spp.) in Sabah, Malaysia. Biotropica(In press). PDF Suppl
  • Ellwood, M.D.F., Manica, A., & Foster, W.A. (2009). Stochastic and deterministic processes jointly structure tropical arthropod communities. Ecology Letters 12: 277-284. PDF
  • Turner, E.C. & Foster, W.A. (2009). The impact of forest conversion to oil palm on arthropod abundance and biomass in Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25: 23 -30. PDF
  • Snaddon, J.L., Turner, E.C . & Foster, W.A. (2008). Children’s perceptions of rainforest biodiversity: which animals have the lion’s share of environmental awareness. PLoS ONE 3(2) e2579. PDF
  • Pike, N.P. & Foster, W.A. (2008). The ecology of altruism in a clonal insect. In: Ecology of Social Evolution (eds. J. Korb & J. Heinze) pp 37 - 56. Springer: Berlin. PDF
  • Turner, E.C., Snaddon, J.L., Fayle, T.M. & Foster, W.A. (2008) Oil palm research in context: identifying the need for biodiversity assessment. PLoS ONE 3(2) e1572. PDF
  • Morris, G. & Foster, W.A. (2008). Duelling aphids: electrical penetration graphs reveal the value of fighting for a feeding site. Journal of Experimental Biology 211: 1490 - 1494. PDF
  • Fayle TM, Ellwood MDF, Turner EC, Snaddon JL, M. Yusah K & Foster WA (2008) Bird’s Nest Ferns: islands of biodiversity in the rainforest canopy. Antenna 32, 34-37.
  • Pike, N.P., Whitfield, J.A. & Foster, W.A. (2007). Ecological correlates of sociality in Pemphigus aphids, with a partial phylogeny of the genus. BMC Evolutionary Biology 7: 185. PDF
  • Turner, E.C., Snaddon, J.L., Johnson, H.R. & Foster, W.A. (2007) The impact of bird’s nest ferns on stemflow nutrient concentration in a primary rain forest, Sabah, Malaysia. J. Trop.Ecol. 23: 1 - 4. PDF
  • Field, J.P., Turner, E.C., Fayle, T. & Foster, W.A. (2007). Costs of egg-laying and offspring provisioning in multifaceted parental investment in a digger wasp. Proceeding of the Royal Society of London B 274: 445-451. PDF
  • Dial, R.J., Ellwood, M.D.F., Turner, E.C. & Foster, W.A. (2006). Arthropod abundance, canopy structure, and microclimate in a Bornean Lowland Tropical Rain Forest. Biotropica 38: 643-652. PDF
  • Turner, E.C. & Foster, W. (2006). Assessing the influence of bird’s nest ferns (Asplenium spp.) on the local microclimate across a range of habitat disturbances in Sabah, Malaysia. Selbyana 27: 195-200.
  • Ellwood, M.D.F. and Foster, W.A. (2004) Doubling the estimate of invertebrate biomass in a rainforest canopy. Nature 429: 549-551. PDF
  • Ellwood, M.D.F., Jones, D.T. and Foster, W.A. (2002) Canopy ferns in lowland dipterocarp forest support a prolific abundance of ants, termites and other invertebrates. Biotropica 34: 575-583. PDF
  • Johnson, P.C.D., Whitfield, J.A., Foster, W.A. and Amos, W. (2002) Clonal mixing in the soldier-producing aphid Pemphigus spyrothecae (Hemiptera: Aphididae). Molecular Ecology11: 1525-1531. PDF
  • Pike, N., Richard, D., Foster, W., and Mahadevan, L. (2002) How aphids lose their marbles. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 269: 1211-1215. PDF
  • Foster, W.A. (2002) Aphid sex ratios. In: Sex Ratio Handbook: concepts and research methods (ed I. Hardy). Chapter 12. pp 254-265. Cambridge University Press.
  • Rhoden P.K. and Foster, W.A. (2002) Soldier behaviour and division of labour in the aphid genus Pemphigus (Hemiptera, Aphididae). Insectes Sociaux 49: 257-263. PDF
  • Foster, W.A. (2002) Soldier aphids go cuckoo. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17: 199-200. PDF
  • Sumner, S., Casiraghi, M., Foster W. & Field, J. (2002). High reproductive skew in tropical hover wasps. Proc.R.Soc.Lond.B. 269: 179-186 PDF