Dr. Ray S. Williams


  • Ph.D. Biology, University of South Carolina, 1995
  • M.S. Biology, Appalachian State University, 1982
  • B.A. Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1978

Professional Experience:

  • 2009 - Present; Professor of Biology; Department of Biology; Appalachian State University
  • 2018- Present: Graduate Program Director: Department of Biology; Appalachian State University
  • 2006 - 2009; Assistant Chair; Department of Biology; Appalachian State University
  • 2003 - 2009; Associate Professor of Biology; Department of Biology; Appalachian State University
  • 1995 - 2003; Assistant Professor; Appalachian State University
  • 1995 - 1997; Research Assistant Professor; Department of Biological Sciences; University of South Carolina
  • 1995 - 1997; Visiting Scientist; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Oak Ridge, TN
  • 1991 - 1995; Department of Energy EPSCoR Program Fellow; University of South Carolina


At the outset of my career at ASU my research addressed questions of how increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration and temperature may alter important tree-insect interactions. This was a rewarding area of research, allowing me to work closely with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After a time I "branched out" more, broadening my interest to correspond with those of my students. This lead me to investigations of microarthropods on cliff faces, population genetics of a butterfly in a fragmented landscape, effects of fire on ground-dwelling beetles, use of an introduced weevil in the biological control of an invasive species and community-level examinations of climate change effects on plant-insect associations. This latest focus kindled my interest in old-field insect community dynamics, including factors that shape the diversity and spatial arrangement of insects in old-field ecosystems. My primary interest at present is examining the effects of intraspecific genetic variation in an old-field dominant plant species (Solidago altissima) on a dominant aphid herbivore, as well as the associated insect community. My research combines field and laboratory techniques, especially gas chromatography to measure defensive terpenes, to explore chemical connections between plants and insects.

Teaching Specialties:

  • Insect biology
  • Insect-plant associations
  • Introductory Biology
  • Graduate writing/presentation skills

Areas of Expertise:

  • Insect biology and ecology
  • Plant-Insect Interactions
  • Scientific writing and presentations

Current Courses:

  • BIO 4552 - Entomology
  • BIO 4571 - Plant-Insect Interactions
  • BIO 1801- Biological Concepts I
  • BIO 1103 - Global Climate Change and Earth's Life
  • BIO 5000 - Bibliography and Research

Honors / Awards:

  • Nominated to the Arts and Sciences Academy of Outstanding Teachers (1999, 2018)
  • Appalachian State University Board of Governors Teaching Award (2013)
  • Wayne Duncan Faculty Enrichment and Teaching Fellowship Award (2011)
  • Nominated for the William C. Strickland Outstanding Young Faculty Award (2000)

Professional Affiliations:

  • Ecological Society of America
  • Entomological Society of America
  • The Association of Southeastern Biologists
  • Sigma Xi

Professional / Community Activities:

  • Senior Research Awards Committee; Association of Southeastern Biologists (Chair)
  • ASB Posters Award Committee (Chair)
  • ASB Oral Presentation Session Proctor
  • Insect Shows to First and Second Grade classes; Green Valley Elementary
  • Global Change presentation to ASU Senior Scholars Program
  • Insect show for Boone Garden Club
  • Insect show for Garden Club at Hardin Park Elementary School
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Butterfly Bonanza
  • Insect show for 7th - 8th grade science club; Johnson County Middle School, TN
  • "Bugs of the Blue Ridge"; Appalachian Cultural Museum and Watauga County Library
  • Insect show for 1st grade students; Cove Creek Elementary School
  • Insect show for 4th - 5th grades at Parkway Elementary School, NC
  • "Bugs of the Blue Ridge"; Appalachian Cultural Museum
  • Insects in the garden; Mountaineer Garden Club

Selected Publications:

  • A. M. Thomas, R. S. Williams and R. F. Swarthout. 2019. Distribution of the specialist aphid Uroleucon nigrotuberculatum (Homoptera: Aphididae) in response to host plant semiochemical induction by the gall fly Eurosta solidaginis (Diptera: Tephritidae). Environmental Entomology, doi 10.1093/ee/nvz078
  • R. S. Williams and J. M. Howells. 2017. Effects of intraspecific genetic variation and prior herbivory in an old-field plant on the abundance of the specialist aphid Uroleucon nigrotuberculatum (Hemiptera:Aphididae). Environmental Entomology, in press
  • R.S. Williams and M.A. Avakian. 2015. Colonization of Solidago altissima by the Specialist Aphid Uroleucon nigrotuberculatum: Effects of Genetic Identity and Leaf Chemistry. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 41: 129-138 doi: 10.1007/s10886-015-0546-1
  • R.S. Williams, B.S. Marbert, M.C. Fisk and P.J. Hanson. 2014. Ground-dwelling beetle responses to long-term precipitation alterations in a hardwood forest. Southeastern Naturalist, 13: 138-155.
  • C.N. Wells, R.S. Williams, G.L. Walker and N.M. Haddad. 2009. Effects of corridors on genetics of a butterfly in a landscape experiment. Southeastern Naturalist, 8(4): 709-722.
  • S.N. Villalpando, R.S. Williams and R.J. Norby. 2009. Elevated air temperature alters an old-field insect community in a multi-factor climate change experiment. Global Change Biology, 15: 930-942.
  • R.S. Williams, D.E. Lincoln and R.J. Norby. 2003. Development of gypsy moth larvae feeding on red maple saplings at elevated CO2 and temperature. Oecologia, 137: 114-122.
  • R.A. Hansen, R.S. Williams and D.E. Lincoln. 2001. Non-litter effects of elevated CO2 on forest floor microarthropod abundances. Plant and Soil 236: 139-144.
  • R.S. Williams, R.J. Norby and D.E. Lincoln. 2000. Effects of elevated CO2 and temperature-grown red and sugar maple on gypsy moth performance. Global Change Biology, 6: 685-696.
  • R.S. Williams, D.E. Lincoln and R.J. Norby. 1998. Leaf age effects of elevated CO2-grown white oak leaves on spring-feeding lepidopterans. Global Change Biology 4: 235-246.


  • USDA Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team- Funded
    Biocontrol of Persicaria perfoliata in Alleghany County North Carolina, $62,000 for 2011-2014

  • Environmental Protection Agency (Terrestrial Ecology and Global Change)- Funded
    Diversity and abundance of forest soil arthropods under elevated carbon dioxide.
    $332,902 for 1997-2001, Co-PI with Dr. David Lincoln (PI), USC, Columbia, SC
Title: Professor Emeritus, Insect Ecology and Plant-Insect Interactions
Department: Department of Biology

Email address: Email me

Office address