Scope and Contents note
Title: Frank Pitelka Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MVZA.MSS.0008
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology Archives
Language of Material:
13.0 Linear feet
The Pitelka collection contains biographical material, correspondence, manuscripts, research materials, photographs and professional
papers spanning from 1942-1980. The bulk of the research material involves his study of lemmings in Barrows, Alaska. During
the majority of his time in Alaska, Pitelka was a professor of Zoology at Berkeley and a curator at the MVZ.
Pitelka, Frank A. (Frank Alois), 1916-2003
Conditions Governing Access note
The collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Frank Pitelka Papers, MVZA.MSS.0008, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology Archives, University of California,
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright restrictions may apply. All requests to publish, quote, or reproduce must be submitted to the Museum of Vertebrate
Zoology Archives in writing for approval. Please contact the Museum Archivist for further information.
Frank Alois Pitelka was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1916. His initial interest towards an ornithological career began as
a teenager by joining the Chicago Ornithological Society during which he took many field trips that instigated his first ornithological
observations. He received his Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois in 1939 where he published eight notes in
The Auk regarding the breeding biology of the black-throated green warbler. Pitelka later moved to UC Berkeley for his graduate
work under the guidance of Joseph Grinnell in the MVZ. Grinnell passed away before his arrival and Pitelka became a student
of Alden Miller while earning his doctoral degree. Pitelka spent his entire career at UC Berkeley teaching and doing research
while overseeing thirty-seven Ph.D. dissertations. Pitelka was a prolific ecologist interested mostly in population and behavioral
approaches involving birds and mammals. Pitelka investigated the Aphelocoma jays during field trips through Northern America
and Mexico. His second major research focus included population regulation concluded while completing his Ph.D. in 1946. He
then began his career as an instructor and assistant curator of birds at the MVZ. He later worked at the Arctic Research Laboratory
that became the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory in Barrow, Alaska. Pitelka and his students concentrated their studies on
the population cycles of lemmings and their predators. His studies of the brown lemming populations continued for 19 years
spanning 1955 through 1973. Pitelka was a naturalist of great regard by his students, and enthusiastically collected specimens,
distributional data, life histories and behavioral observations. He served as president of the Cooper Ornithological Society
from 1948-1950 and received the Guggenheim fellow in 1949-1950. In 1955, he published the “Ecological Relations of Jaegers
and Owls as Lemming Predators Near Barrow, Alaska,” in Ecological Monographs. He served as professor of Zoology at UC Berkeley
from 1958-1985. His curatorial duties at the MVZ continued until 1962 whereupon he became the chair of the Department of Zoology,
which he held from 1963-1966 and then from 1968-1971. He was active in many professional societies, including the Cooper Ornithological
Society, the American Ornithologists’ Union, and the Ecological Society of America. He was a member of a number of federal
committees and panels and also served as editor with Ecology, The Condor and Studies in Avian Biology. He had many subsequent
publishing’s including, “Shorebirds in Marine Environments” in 1979. In 1980 he received the American Ornithologists’ Union’s
Brewster award, and in 1985 he was made professor emeritus at UC Berkeley. In 1992, he received the Eminent Ecologist award
from the Ecological Society of America and an honorary Ph.D. from Masaryk University, former Czechoslovakia. Pitelka died
on October 10th, 2003 in Altadena, California.
Sanders, Robert. “Frank Pitelka, professor emeritus of zoology who studied bird behavior, dies at age 87.” UC Berkeley Press
Release. Retrieved March 31rst from http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/10/23_pitelka.shtml.
Koenig, Walter D. & Lidiker, William Z. Jr. “In Memoriam, Frank Alois Pitelka.” Retrieved April 16th from http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/inmemoriam/frankaloispitelka.html
Scope and Contents note
The Pitelka collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, research materials, photographs and other assorted professional
papers. The collection spans from 1942-1980, with an extensive amount being from his nineteen year research of Lemmings in
Barrow, Alaska. This research contains many volumes of field notes taken by Pitelka as well as by other researchers who explored
the Artic tundra. Along with the field notes from Barrow, Alaska there many photographs from his research as well as of the
surrounding area. There is extensive trap line, plot line and specimen specific research dedicated to the collection from
Barrow. The correspondence in this collection deals with administrative and research details that went into the many artic
explorations as well as conferences and papers submitted in conjunction with that research. The collection is thirteen linear
feet and was processed by Devon Abejo and Heather Caldwell.
Files are arranged in sections as follows Biographical Materials, Correspondence, Research, Manuscripts and Professional papers.
The subseries of named correspondence is in alphabetical order. The research is broken into subseries and arranged chronologically.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Arctic Institute of North America
Biological specimens--Collection and preservation.
Scientific expeditions--New Mexico
University of California (1868-1952). Museum of Vertebrate Zoology