Erin E Wilson


Erin Wilson (PhD 2009) combined behavioral, ecological, physiological and genetic approaches to investigate the effects of the western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica) invasions in Hawaiian ecosystems (Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks). These aggressive predators have become abundant in Hawaii (a region without any native eusocial insects) and pose a serious threat to endemic arthropods. The effects of this invasion are compounded by the tendency of introduced yellowjacket populations to form large, perennial colonies; native populations typically form small annual colonies. Yellowjackets both compete with and prey upon Hawaiian arthropods. Erin used DNA sequence data from diet items retrieved from incoming yellowjacket foragers to document that Vespula consumes an astonishingly wide diversity of endemic arthropods. Because molecular identification diet items does not allow one to discriminate between prey and resources that are scavenged, Erin developed a completely novel approach for distinguishing prey from carrion; this technique uses physiological attributes of muscle tissue to estimate the time and putative cause of death in invertebrates.

Erinís dissertation was supported by a STAR fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency, a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation, and an ARCS fellowship. Erin is currently an assisant professor in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside and can be reached through her website.

Selected Publications

Wilson, EE & EM Wolkovich. 2011. Scavenging: How carnivores and carrion structure communities. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 26: 129-135.

Wilson, EE and DA Holway. 2010. Multiple mechanisms underlie displacement of solitary Hawaiian Hymenoptera by an invasive social wasp. Ecology, 91: 3294-3302.

Wilson, EE, C Sidhu, KE LeVan and D.A. Holway. 2010. Pollen foraging behavior of solitary Hawaiian bees revealed through DNA barcoding. Molecular Ecology. 19(21): 4823-4829.

Wilson, EE, CV Young and DA Holway. 2010. Predation or scavenging? Thoracic muscle pH and rates of water loss reveal cause of death in arthropods. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213:2640-2646.

Wilson, EE, LM Mullen and DA Holway. 2009. Life history plasticity magnifies the ecological effects of a social wasp invasion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106:12809-12813.

Eckles, MA, EE Wilson, DA Holway & JC Nieh. 2008. Protein quality elevates thoracic temperatures of foraging western yellowjackets, Vespula pensylvanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Naturwissenschaften. 95: 787-792.

Wilson, EE, DA Holway & JC Nieh. 2006. Cold anesthesia decreases foraging recruitment in the New World bumblebee, Bombus occidentalis. Journal of Apicultural Research. 45: 169-172.

Weiss, MR, EE Wilson, & I Castellanos. 2004. Predatory wasps learn to overcome the defenses of their larval prey. Animal Behaviour. 68: 45-54.