Our research group studies the ecology and behaviour of insects in their natural habitats. Currently, we are mainly focussed on understanding the causes and consequences of the high levels of biodiversity of insects in the tropical rainforests of South East Asia. The broad kinds of questions we are interested in include the following.
- What processes determine species richness at local and regional scales within tropical forests?
- How does species diversity affect ecosystem services, for example litter decomposition and biological control, in these areas?
- How are these patterns and processes affected when natural forest is converted to oil palm plantation?
We have developed the use of the canopy epiphyte Asplenium nidus, the Bird’s Nest Fern, as a model microcosm in which to study these questions. We are also working extensively in oil palm plantations in Sabah, Malaysia. William Foster, the group leader, has long-standing and continuing interests in behavioural ecology: especially in the evolution of social behaviour in aphids and wasps, group-living, and intertidal insects.
Congratulations to Tom Fayle on winning the 2009 Thomas Henry Huxley and Marsh prize by the Zoological Society of London and the Alfred Russel Wallace Prize from the Royal Entomological Society for originial work in Zoology based on a PhD Thesis. Further details can be found on the Departmental news page.
Insect Collections of the University Museum of Zoology
The group is based in the Insect Room, which houses the insect collections of the University Museum of Zoology. Scientists are very welcome to carry out research on these collections and should contact either the Curator of Insects, Dr William Foster, or the Insect Room Assistant, Russell Stebbings.