Meet the Editor: Ken Wilson

Next up in our new Meet the Editor series is Liverpool FC fan and Executive Editor Ken Wilson. Find out who Ken would like to join his lab and where you can catchup with him at this year’s British Ecological Society Annual Meeting.

What can you tell us about the first paper you published?

It was published in Animal Behaviour and it came from my undergraduate project with Chris Barnard (BSc supervisor) and his PhD student (Jenny Edwards) at the University of Nottingham. It has the great distinction of having the longest title relative to article word count of any paper I have ever written (or probably anybody else!). It was a short communication entitled: The effects of parasitic infection on the behaviour of an intermediate host: the American cockroach Periplaneta americana infected with the acanthocephalan Moniliformis moniliformis.

What’s your favourite species and why?


KW_IMG_0048c (1)
African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) caterpillar

African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) because it is such a boring looking small moth (2cm long and dull brown) yet it can migrate hundreds of kilometres in its short adult life and then its offspring, as caterpillars, are capable of stripping corn field completely bare overnight as they reach densities of up to 1000 caterpillars per square metre! What’s not to like?


Who inspired you most as a student?

The late Chris Barnard when I was an undergraduate at Nottingham University, due to his sheer passion for teaching the subject, as well as Richard Dawkins, whose book “The Extended Phenotype” completely changed my view of animal behaviour and ecology; both of whom led to me writing my first ever publication (see above). Other inspirations were David Attenborough (of course, as is even now), Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey – their books about African animals inspired me to want to follow in their footsteps.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?

To have the molecular biological skills and knowhow that my post-docs and students have. Oh, and to be a decent mathematical modeller.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?

I cook dinner 3 or 4 times a week and I most enjoy cooking when I can improvise with the ingredients at hand (probably the artist in me). I am not very good at following recipes, so do not really have a signature dish, but probably something involving pasta.

Please share a [funny] story about a paper you had rejected.

It’s never funny when you get rejected, and I try to remember this when rejecting so many of our author’s papers. I always also remember that many of my most cited papers were rejected at least once before they were published – whilst rejection may be the norm, it is usually not terminal.

Ken photo
Ken in his silk tie and luck scarf

What’s your favourite sports team and why?

Liverpool Football Club, of course. As a scouser born and bred, I have been following LFC for longer than I can remember and have been a season ticket holder for more than 20 years. One of the most gut-wrenching days of my entire life, to this day, was when Bill Shankly announced his retirement as manager of LFC back in 1974!

The photo is of me at a Liverpool game wearing a silk tie with the LFC crest made by my former PhD student Emily Adams (note that I don’t usually wear a tie to games, but always do wear my LFC lucky scarf 😊).

If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?

Anywhere without internet!

What was the first album you owned?

Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?

Inspector Morse – so he could find out where all my consumable items keep disappearing and who keep breaking the lab autoclave 😊

How many British Ecological Society annual meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?

I have no idea how many, but probably at least twenty. It is difficult to say which one was best because if each one is so very different, but it would have to be one of the meetings pre-Christmas when I was a young post-doc and finally feeling like I belonged and had a wide circle of friends attending. It is also fun being so intimately involved with the Society through its journals. When I refereed my first paper for Journal of Animal Ecology back in 1989 when Roy Taylor was the Editor, I never dreamed that one day I would be doing the same job – it is such an honour! But I would also like to think that the best one is going to be the next.#

Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?

Just come grab me at a coffee break – I don’t bite!

Liverpool FC crest on the wall of Anfield. Photo by silver-novice.


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