Evolution and Diversity
Deputy Head of Department, University Senior Lecturer and Curator of Insects, University Museum of Zoology
Tel.: +44 (0) 1223 336615
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 in South East Asia. My research group is focussed 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. We are also studying the importance of the arthropods in forest fragments to the functioning of Oil Palm plantations. 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, wasps and passalid beetles.
- 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
- 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