Mary Lyon Medal 2020 – Prof Alastair Wilson

Alastair Wilson is a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Exeter University.  His research focuses on trying to understand how genetic and ecological processes interact to determine the evolutionary dynamics of traits under selection.

Alastair completed an undergraduate degree at Cambridge and an MSc at King’s College London before moving to Canada to study for a PhD in zoology at the University of Guelph.  In Guelph, his PhD work on the population genetic structure of wild salmonids led to an interest in using molecular markers to infer family structures as a stepping stone to applying quantitative genetic analyses.  This interest in the genetics of complex traits was cemented by a postdoc at the University of Edinburgh, after which he was awarded a NERC Independent fellowship and, then a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship.  He moved to the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Cornwall campus in 2012.

Current projects in the group continue the theme,  trying to understand how phenotypes evolve under selection and – in particular- to investigate why they sometimes do not.  He uses a range of laboratory models, livestock systems, and wild vertebrate populations.  With a particular emphasis on the role of social behaviours in mediating multivariate evolution, his present research might best be summarised as using quantitative genetics to answer questions in behavioural ecology.