Soay sheep on St. Kilda

Soay sheep on St. Kilda

Freshwater fish

Freshwater fish

Professor Alastair Wilson
Professor of Evolutionary Biology


Research projects

My research program studies this process of phenotypic evolution using approaches from evolutionary quantitative genetics, behavioural ecology, and life history theory.

Natural selection is expected to lead to evolution of fitness-related traits within populations provided that variation is due – at least in part – to genetic differences between individuals. However, while classical models of phenotypic evolution assume a clean separation of genetic and environmental effects (or “nature versus nurture”) the real world is often rather messier. I am particularly interested in understanding when and how ecological processes influence trait evolution. Current topics of research include:

  • Maternal effects  
  • Phenotypic plasticity and genotype-by-environment interactions
  • The genetics of growth and senescence
  • The evolution of aggression and social dominance
  • Indirect genetic effects
  • Quantitative genetic methods for use in wild populations

My empirical work uses data from animal populations collected both in the field and in the lab. Systems include the long-term studies of wild Soay sheep on St. Kilda and red deer on Rum, as well as experimental populations of freshwater fishes kept in our aquatic facility at CEC.

Research grants

2015 BBSRC US partnering award  - Combining mechanistic and evolutionary approaches to studying socially-induced stress in vertebrates.

2014 BBSRC responsive grant -Chronic stress response in vertebrates: The genetics of constraint and conflict.

2014 NERC Standard Grant -Evolution of phenotypic plasticity in an emerging pathogen

2009 BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship -The genetics of competition: does resource limitation constrain evolution?

2009 NERC Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship - Interacting genotypes and the evolution of social environments.

2009 NERC project grant (as co-I) - The ecology of evolution: The role of environmental heterogeneity in evolutionary dynamics.

2006 NERC Postdoctoral Fellowship - Ontogeny, plasticity and phenotypic evolution in the wild.

Research networks

  • Josephine Pemberton, Edinburgh
  • Loeske Kruuk, Edinburgh
  • Michael Morrissey, St Andrews
  • Gil Rosenthal, TAMU
  • Ryan Earley, Alabama
  • Tim Clutton-Brock, Cambridge
  • Ken Wilson, Lancaster
  • Derek Roff, UC Riverside
  • Andrew McAdam, Guelph

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