Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding Aid to the Frank Pitelka papers MVZA.MSS.0008
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Overview
Table of contents What's This?
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.
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.
13.0 Linear feet
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.
The collection is open for research.