The Pitelka Award 

In 1996 the students of Frank Pitelka established the Frank A. Pitelka Award for Excellence in Research, administered through the ISBE.  This award and its associated cash prize is given out at biennial meetings of the ISBE to the senior or sole author of a significant paper published in Behavioral Ecology during the previous two years.

Eligibility of sole or first authors is limited to predoctoral candidates or personas that have received their doctorate within five years of the date of the publication of their paper.  In the case of multi-authored papers, the award will go to all authors, but the cash prize will go to the senior author only.  All authors that meet the eligibility criteria, and whose papers present the results of original empirical or theoretical research, will be considered for this award.  Review papers will not be eligible.

The ISBE executive committee will serve as the committee to select awardees, with the past-president acting as chair of the committee.  For the 1996 award, papers published in Behavioral Ecology in 1994 and 1995 were considered.  It is not necessary to apply for this award, as all papers whose first authors qualify will be considered.  One award of US $150 will be made at the Canberra meeting.  In future years, as the endowment grows, the size and number of awards made will increase.


(reprinted from the ISBE Newsletter, 1996, volume 8(1): 6-7)

Frank was born in 1916 and grew up in Chicago area.  An early interest in birds and avian ecology led him to attend the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana, where he came under the influence of Charles Kendeigh.  After graduating in 1939 he went on to the University of California at Berkeley as a student of Alden Miller's in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.  His PhD Thesis, published as a University of California Publication in Zoology, was a study of the systematics of Aphelocoma jays.  However, questions about the behavior and ecology of members of this genus, which include the Western and Florida Scrub Jays and the Mexican Jay, were raised during the course of this work.  Some of these, especially the evolution of social behavior and cooperative breeding, have shaped the direction of his career ever since. 

Frank received his PhD in 1946 and then remained at Berkeley as a faculty member in the Department of Zoology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.  During Frank's 40 years as a faculty member at Berkeley, he twice chaired the Department of Zoology and received several University honors, includingundergraduate teaching awards.

In 1951, Frank initiated what would become a 30-year research program in the Arctic at Barrow, Alaska.  He and his students conducted basic research on the ecology of lemmings and on the ecology and behavior in Calidridine sandpipers.  This research led to his classic paper (with Richard Holmes and Steve MacLean) on "The ecology and evolution of social organization in arctic sandpipers" published in the American Zoologist (14: 185-204 [1974]).  Frank continues to show partiality to the arctic and to the problems associated with the evolution of mating systems.

Frank has served the professional community in a variety of ways, from editing or serving on the editorial boards of several journals (Ecology; Systematic Zoology; the Condor; Current Ornithology) to serving on the NSF panel for Polar Programs and the Board of Directors of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. He has also garnered numerous professional honors, including the Mercer Award and Eminent Ecologist Award of the Ecological Society of America and Brewster Medal from the American Ornithologists' Union.  However, his career is perhaps most noteworthy for the remarkable array of students in ecology and behavioral ecology that he has mentored and frequently collaborated with over the years, including 26 PhD and numerous postdoctoral students.  Of these, those that have actively contributed to the fields of ecology and behavior include George Batzli, Donald Beaver, Jerram Brown, Guy Cameron, Howard Cogswell, Peters Conners, Tom Custer, Janis L. Dickinson, Arnthor Gardarsson, Russell Greenberg, Susan Hannon, Scott Hatch, Richard Homes, Richard Johnston, Walt Koenig, Charles Krebs, Steve McLean, William Maher, Ron Mumme, Pete Myers, Gordon Orians, Fernando Ortiz-Crespo, Steve Pruett-Jones, J. Van Remsen, Richard Root, Greg Ruiz, Robert Selander, Paul Sherman, Kim Smith, Tom Smith, William Thompson, Nico Verbeek, Jeff Walters, Steve West, Pam Williams, David Winkler, and Jerry Wolff.

Frank retired in 1986 but continues to be professionally active by reviewing papers, attending meetings and collaborating with a variety of colleagues. 

In memoriam

Frank Alois Pitelka passed away in 2003. This memoriam appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of the ISBE Newsletter.

For the full memoriam, click here

For the full memoriam, click here


Past winners

2016 Alejandro Rico-Guevara
2014 Ned Dochtermann
2012 Fabian Rudin
2010 Christina Halpin
2008 Nathan Morehouse
2006 Angelika Denk
2004 Sarah Pryke
2002 Tod Blackledge
2000 Maydianne Andrade
1998 Jan Komdeur and Bart Kampenaers
1996 David W. Pfennig