Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Menu Search

Trinity College Dublin By using this website you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with the Trinity cookie policy. For more information on cookies see our cookie policy.

Profile Photo

Professor James Gow Wilson

Fellow Emeritus (Zoology)


Fellow Emeritus (Trinity Centre for the Environment)

Prof. James G. Wilson is Professor in Zoology and Environmental Science. Prof. Wilson graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1976 with a PhD in Zoology (Marine Biology). The subjects of his thesis were the Tellinidae and his interest in littoral bivalves and in the sediments they inhabit is still one of his major research interests. This was also the start of his interest in SCUBA diving as a research tool, and in the value of field work and field experimentation. Starting at TCD on the Irish Estuarine Research Programme, he devised two quality indices, the BQI and the PLI, which have now been applied in Ireland, France and the US as well as Black Sea. Again this has formed a major branch of his research which is increasingly being trialed in other countries. Prof. Wilson has always been interested in the fitness (in the Darwinian sense) of organisms and this is a key concept to understanding natural systems. From this arises his work in bioenergetics and in the network analysis of ecosystems. Prof. Wilson has written or edited 6 books and over 100 scientific papers covering the whole range of his research interests. These have been supported by national and international funding and have included collaborations with colleagues throughout the EC as well as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, US and Australia. In 1979, Prof. Wilson was appointed to start the first Env. Sci. MSc course. This was very popular and was followed some 10 years later by the equally-sought after undergraduate Env. Sci. Mod. Graduates of both courses are now established all over the world. Now based back in the Zoology Department, he has expanded his teaching to take in some of the more traditional courses such as the Marine Field Trip. Outside TCD, Prof. Wilson has been active in a number of organisations, including the Royal Irish Academy (Secretary to the LSC) and the Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association, for which he was the Editor of the ECSA Bulletin and then Secretary for many years. He is a qualified cricket coach and umpire, and still plays for a local club and for the TCD Taverners side (for fixtures please contact).
  Animal Taxonomy   Aquatic Ecology   Biodiversity   Biological Modeling   Biological Oceanography   Climate Change   Coastal Zone Ecosystems and Management   Ecology   Ecosystem(s)   Energetics   Environmental biology   Environmental Zoology   Estuarine Sciences   Global Change   Harmful Algal Blooms   Ichthyology   Invertebrate Physiology   Limnology   Marine   Marine and Ocean Sciences   Marine Biology   Marine Ecosystems   Marine Environment   Marine science and Fisheries biology   Marine Zoology   Pollution   Sediment   Sedimentology   Water Pollution
 Biological Effects of Pollution
 Stable isotope analysis of the Dublin Bay ecosystem
 Interactions between hosts and parasites in Palaearctic coastal ecosystems
 Habitat Mapping in the Irish sea (HabMap)
 Biodiversity and ecological requirements of meiofauna and a typology for Irish transitional waters.

Language Skill Reading Skill Writing Skill Speaking
English Fluent Fluent Fluent
French Fluent Medium Medium
Details Date From Date To
Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland
Marine Conservation Society
Estuarine Research Federation
Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association
Marine Biological Association
Scottish Association for Marine Science
Wilson, J.G., Giltrap, M. Dunne, N. , Assessing candidate metrics for the ecological quality of TFTW (tidal freshwaters in transitional waters) in Ireland using benthic invertebrates. , Ocean & Coastal Management , 143, 2017, p115 - 121, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Giltrap, M., J. Ronan, J. P. Bignell, B. P. Lyons, E. Collins, H. Rochford, B. McHugh, E. McGovern, L. Bull and J. Wilson , Integration of biological effects, fish histopathology and contaminant measurements for the assessment of fish health: A pilot application in Irish marine waters, Marine Environmental Research , 129, 2017, p113 - 132, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Adjei-Boateng, D. & Wilson, J.G., Sexual strategy in the freshwater bivalve Galathea paradoxa (Donacidae) from the Volta River estuary, Ghana. , Molluscan Research , 36, 2016, p1 - 8, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Giltrap, M., Ronan J., Tanner C., O'Beirn F.X., Lyons B.P., Mag Aoidh R., Rochford H., McHugh B., McGovern E., Wilson J.G. , Application of a weight of evidence approach utilising biological effects, histopathology and contaminant levels to assess the health and pollution status of Irish blue mussels (Mytilus edulis)., Marine Environmental Research, (122), 2016, p33 - 45, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Wilson, J.G., Giltrap, M., Kelly, F. , Fish in tidal freshwater transitional waters (TFTWs) in Ireland: recommendations for assessment, policy and management of ecological quality under the Water Framework Directive (WFD). , Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy , 116B, 2016, p221 - 232, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Kirill V. Galaktionov, K.V., J.O. Bustnes, B-J. Bårdsen, J. G. Wilson, K. E. Nikolaev, A. A. Sukhotin, K. Skírnisson, D. H. Saville, M. V. Ivanov, K. V. Regel. ., Factors influencing the distribution of trematode larvae in blue mussels Mytilus edulis in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. , Marine Biology, 162, 2015, p193 - 206, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Wilson, J.G., Minchin, D., McHugh, B., McGovern, E., Tanner, C., Giltrap, M. , Declines in TBT contamination in Irish coastal waters 1987-2011, using the dogwhelk (Nucella lapillus) as a biological indicator. , Marine Pollution Bulletin, 100, 2015, p289 - 296, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Giltrap, M., B. McHugh, J. Ronan, E. McGovern & J.G. Wilson , Biological effects and chemical measurements of pollution in Irish marine waters, 1st, Galway, Marine Institute, 2014, 110pppp, Book, PUBLISHED
Giltrap, M., J. Ronan, S. Hardenberg, G. Parkes , B. McHugh, E. McGovern, J.G. Wilson, Assessment of biomarkers in Mytilus edulis to determine Good Environmental Status for implementation of MSFD in Ireland., Marine Pollution Bulletin, 71, 2014, p240 - 249, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Wilson, J.G. Kousogiannopolou, V. , Abundance, biomass, and productivity of invertebrate hyperbenthos in a temperate saltmarsh creek system. , Hydrobiologia, 728, 2014, p141 - 151, Journal Article, PUBLISHED

Page 1 of 15
Introduction to Food Webs in Coastal and Estuarine Ecosystems. in, Luczkovich, J.. Wilson, J.G. , Trophic Relationships of Coastal and Estuarine Ecosystems, J. Wilson and J. Luczkovich (Eds) Treatise on estuarine and coastal science, Vol.6, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 2012, pp1 - 6, [Wilson, J.G. & Luczkovich, J.. ], Book Chapter, PUBLISHED
Dublin Bay, Encyclopedia of Ireland, Dublin, Gill & McMillan, 2004, pp320 - 320, [Wilson, J.G.], Item in dictionary or encyclopaedia, etc, PUBLISHED


Award Date
FTCD 1993
Prof. Wilson's research interests are directed to the interactions between organisms and their environment and the implications for the short-term and long-term fitness of individuals, of populations and of ecosystems. The determination of fitness proceeds in three steps: 1. Investigations toward an understanding of the particular habitat and of the critical environmental stresses; 2. Quantification through bioenergetics and cost/benefit analysis of life strategies; 3. Construction and verification of process models and system models. The focus of these researches has been, on the system side, estuarine and coastal marine systems, and on the organism side, bivalves and particularly the Tellinidae. In estuarine and coastal systems, the major stresses are imposed by environmental factors such as temperature and salinity, and by anthropogenic factors such as the different kinds of pollution. Quality indices and bioindicators provide an integrated synopsis of the degree of perturbation, providing both scientific information as to the fitness of the target organism(s) and also the performance of management and economic strategies on the systems. As well as many articles in this area, Prof. Wilson has written a book chapter on indices; he has edited a symposium volume on Estuarine Management and Quality Assessment; he was one of the authors of the inter-governmental Irish Sea Study Group Report and he has written a book on the Biology of Estuarine Management. The most recent volume on this topic is The Intertidal Ecosystem (RIA, 2006), and he is currently writing a major review on the topic. Bioenergetics is the study of what Darwin saw as the driving force of evolution, the struggle for food. Energy acquisition and partitioning is central to the survival of individuals, of populations and ultimately of the species themselves. Bioenergetics can also quantify the short-term costs and benefits of an organism's life strategy as well as the impact of environmental and anthropogenic stresses. Prof. Wilson has published widely on various aspects of bioenergetics, which have been used to quantify the fitness of individuals, of populations, and of systems. The models include conceptual models which are implicit in many of the ideas in the preceding two sections, but the primary focus is mathematical models which can then be developed for predictive capability. These models can be formulated, and integrated, at process level, for example oxygen consumption and metabolism, at individual and population level with energy partitioning, and at system level with energy and nutrient budgets. As well as individual articles, this philosophy forms the basis of the symposium volume edited for the Royal Irish Academy Eutrophication in Irish Waters. It also forms the basis for other mathematical treatments such as multivariate analysis or systems analysis. The systems analysis approach is also at the core of his work in Dublin Bay and on the biodiversity of the Irish Sea. The latter work is just coming to fruition with the publication in 2001 of the first of 3 volumes, with further investigation planned extending the scope south into the Celtic Sea and offshore.