Houston Wilson

Post-doctoral Researcher



Ph.D. Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley (2014)

B.A. Development Studies, UC Berkeley (2005)

Research Interests

Agroecology, biological control, trophic ecology, integrated pest management, landscape ecology, political economy of agricultural development

Research Description

As an agroecologist, I'm broadly interested in the relationship between biodiversity and provision of ecosystem services to agriculture, with a focus on biological control of insect pests. My research focuses on insect ecology and biological control of wine grape pests in the vineyards of northern California.

Since 2008 I have been working in collaboration with numerous commercial growers to develop and evaluate ecologically-based pest management solutions that can serve as economically feasible alternatives to chemical control of crop pests. I also conduct more fundamental work on systematics of Anagrus spp. parasitoids, the ecology of Grapevine Red Blotch-associated Virus (GRBaV) and evaluating the efficacy of OMRI-approved chemical controls used by organic growers.


Improving Biological Control of the Virginia Creeper Leafhopper in North Coast Vineyards (2013-present)

Organic growers in Mendocino and Lake County have recently been experiencing serious outbreaks of the Virginia Creeper leafhopper (Ciccadellidae: Erythroneura ziczac), an invasive pest that established in this region around 2011/2012. Outbreaks are primarily due to (1) lack of biological control and (2) need to adjust the timing of chemical controls.

Surveyed vineyards across northern California to identify potential Anagrus spp. parasitoids of E. ziczac. A candidate parasitoid (Anagrus daanei) has been identified in the Sacramento Valley. Initial efforts to collect, augment and release A. daanei from the Sacramento Valley into Mendocino County vineyards have been successful and led to increased parasitism of E. ziczac. We are now in the process of carrying out a program to mass release A. daanei in vineyards throughout Mendocino and Lake County.

Efforts to identify and import parasitoids from other regions of California have been complemented by (1) grower outreach and education and (2) research to improve the efficacy and timing of OMRI-approved chemical control products.


Insect Vectors of Grapevine Red Blotch-associated Virus (2015-present)

There are many unknowns surrounding the newly identified Grapevine Red Blotch-associated Virus (GRBaV), which can lead to reduced fruit yield and quality due to delayed ripening and other changes in the vine that effect productivity. While many claim to have observed movement of this virus throughout the vineyard, no vectors have been identified to date.

We are currently conducting virus transmission experiments with a number of insects commonly found in vineyards. We are also conducting broader vineyard insect surveys to identify novel and untested vectors.


Influence of Landscape Diversity on Biological Control of Vineyard Leafhoppers (2010-2013)

On-farm habitat diversification can lead to reduced pest populations/impact and enhanced natural enemy populations/impact. At the same time, the area and composition of natural habitat surrounding an agroecosystem can also influence biological control of crop pests.

Biological control of the Western grape leafhopper (E. elegantula) was evaluated in vineyard monocultures that were situated across a gradient of landscape diversity in Napa and Sonoma County. Increased parasitoid abundance at high diversity sites led to increased biological control of E. elegantula. At the same time, E. elegantula populations were also reduced at sites with lower crop vigor, indicating that a combination of top-down and bottom-up factors work in conjunction to influence pest populations.


Flowering Cover Crops to Enhance Biological Control in Vineyards (2008-2014)

Worked in collaboration with numerous wine grape growers in Napa and Sonoma County to develop and evaluate the use of summer flowering cover crops to enhance biological control of vineyard leafhoppers. Focal pest was the Western grape leafhopper (Ciccadellidae: Erythroneura elegantula) and its key parasitoids Anagrus erythroneurae and Anagrus daanei.

Flowering cover crop program included the use of Phacelia tanacetifolia, Ammi majus and Daucus carota. Flowers are sown in the fall and sequentially bloom over the grape growing season (approx. April - October).

Selected Publications


  • Wilson, H., A. F. Miles, K. M. Daane, M. A. Altieri. 2015. “Landscape diversity and crop vigor influence biological control of the western grape leafhopper (Erythroneura elegantula Osborn) in vineyards” PLOS ONE (forthcoming)
  • Wilson, H., A. F. Miles, K. M. Daane, M. A. Altieri. 2015. “Vineyard proximity to riparian habitat influences Western grape leafhopper (Erythroneura elegantula Osborn) populations” Agriculture, Ecosystem and Environment 211: 43-50.


  • Miles, A.F., Wilson, H., Nicholls, C.I., Altieri, M.A. 2011. “Diversification Strategies to Enhance Arthropod Biological Control in California Vineyards.” in Arthropod Management in Vineyards. N.J. Bostanian, R. Isaacs and C. Vincent (eds.). Springer.


  • Wilson, H., Miles, A.F., Daane, K.M., Altieri, M.A. 2015. "Overwintering habitat of Anagrus spp. (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae) and Erythroneura elegantula Osborn (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) in northern California." Environmental Entomology (submitted)
  • Kelly, R., A. Merenlender, Wilson, H. and J. Kitzes. 2015. “Remnant habitat promotes bat activity in a vineyard landscape” Agriculture, Ecosystem and Environment (submitted)

Honors and Awards


CA Department Pesticide Regulation - Pest Management Alliance Grant (2015)

American Vineyard Foundation (2014, 2015)

Robert Van den Bosch Scholarship (2011, 2012, 2013)

Diversified Farming Systems Small Grant (2012)

Milton D. and Mary M. Miller Plant Science Award (2013)

Fischer Vegetation Management Scholarship (2010)

Tanada Fellowship (2011, 2012)



Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (2014)

Environmental Science Undergraduate Mentoring Award (2014)

Entomology Society of America - Ten-minute Paper Competition - Student Prize (2011, 2013)

Recent Teaching

Graduate Student Instructor:

ESPM 118 "Agroecology" -- Fall 2009/2010/2011/2012/2013

ESPM 165 "International Rural Development Policy" -- Spring 2012/2013



ESPM 118 "Agroecology" -- Fall 2014

ESPM 165 "International Rural Development Policy" -- Spring 2015

Contact Information

Email: houston@berkeley.edu

Office: Rm 9 Natural Resources Laboratory

Office Hours

By appointment.

Research Group(s)

Mailing Address

Dept of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
UC Berkeley
130 Mulford Hall #3114
Berkeley, CA 94720