ESA Eminent Ecologist Award 2015: Eric R. Pianka
The Eminent Ecologist Award is given to a senior ecologist in recognition of an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit. During his 50-year academic career, Pianka, a professor at the University of Texas since 1968, published nearly 200 scientific papers, several of which became “Citation Classics.” His paper “On Optimal Use of a Patchy Environment,” coauthored with the late Robert H. MacArthur, was seminal in founding the discipline of optimal foraging. His textbook “ Evolutionary Ecology,” first published in 1974, went through seven editions (including an eBook) and has been translated into multiple languages. An entire generation of ecologists has been trained using his classic textbook. Pianka’s key and durable contributions to empirical ecology encompass wide-ranging studies of lizard community ecology across many continents and the discovery of many new lizard species. In 2004, Pianka was chosen as the Herpetologists League’s “Distinguished Herpetologist” and in 2006 the Texas Academy of Science named him “Distinguished Scientist.” All of his conceptual contributions are grounded in a thorough understanding of natural history with a deep love of the natural world. His work has influenced many individuals, both inside the ecological profession and beyond.