My Smilin' Face
Information for potential graduate students
Detailed Research Description
Book: Simulating Ecological and Evolutionary Systems in C.
Book: Constructed Climates
Constructed Climates Related Course
Useful, free, scientific software.
Detailed Teaching Description
Open Access Publishing Information
Ecosystem Services Course Information
Links (open in new window):
Durham Open Space and Trails Information
Graduate Program in Ecology
Department of Biology

Will Wilson

"Terminal" Associate Professor

Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham NC 27708-0325
Phone: (919) 451-6688
Office: 250 Biological Sciences

General Research Overview:

    New Academic Focus:After tenure I became more interested in community involvement, and I'm now following those interests academically. My service on the Durham City/County Open Space and Trails Commission (follow the link) and the Farmland Preservation Board posed interesting questions concerning urban ecology while pushing the planning department to develop an Urban Open Space Plan for the City of Durham.

    In this direction, I recently published "Constructed Climates: A Primer on Urban Environments" with the University of Chicago Press (2011). Check It Out: The book's site,, the table of contents (pdf), and an unfinished, outdated course site here. Constructed Climates combines "urban ecosystem services" and "urban ecology," two concepts fundamentally tied to human-dominated ecological systems.

    I presently have a book on stormwater in review. Stay tuned on its progress. That's the next major environmental issue.

    These topics differ from my former primary research training (physics, math, and computation) and my theoretical evolutionary ecology research program described below. That work was quite fulfilling (check out my publications) -- fascinating questions and wonderful collaborators. However, the lack of support by my department and university, as well as the ongoing national situation for basic research and higher education, resulted in that work being unsustainable. I liken it to the family farm I grew up on, characteristic of many US family farms, which through the years moved from dairy, beef, hogs, then grain as the economics changed. Similarly, conditions changed for basic science, and, for me, primary research in theoretical evolutionary ecology in particular, and I figured it was time to move on to other interesting topics. The above urban environmental/ecological issues are of great concern, and the costs of book-writing match the available level of resources.

    On my website you'll find information, links, literature and course material from an early "ecosystem services" graduate seminar I held in 2006 as my research focus changed. At this point I consider that material, and any perspectives I present associated with that seminar, somewhat outdated.

    I also ran a blog for awhile to occasionally counter the noisy anti-science crowd:, on the many topics we hear so much noise. I rarely update that site, but there's some interesting information there.

    Former research studies: Over the last two decades I devoted my academic energy to theoretical evolutionary ecology. After my graduate training in theoretical physics, I turned my attention to population dynamics in spatial systems and trait evolution. Scaling interactions between entities at a microscopic level up to a macroscopic scale fascinates me, and both physics and ecology have challenging problems. As for techniques, I used a variety of simulation and mathematical methods to study these really hard ecological problems. After many frustrating years seeking research support and finding none, I've terminated that work (click here for a more extensive explanation).