Year of Honorary Fellowship, 2014
Dr Robert Pyle is a lepidopterist, writer, teacher, and founder of the Xerces Society. He has a Ph.D. in ecology and environmental studies from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; his dissertation focused on butterfly eco-geography. He worked as ranger-naturalist in Sequoia National Park, butterfly conservation consultant for the government of Papua New Guinea, Northwest Land Steward for The Nature Conservancy, and co-manager of the Species Conservation Monitoring Center in Cambridge, U.K.
Dr Pyle’s book Wintergreen describes the devastation caused by unrestrained logging as well as the remaining beauties of his adopted home. His book Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide grew out of a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Thunder Tree: Lessons from An Urban Wildland chronicles the intersection of his Aurora, Colorado, boyhood nature explorations and Colorado’s long tradition of water rights battles. Both Wintergreen and The Thunder Tree exemplify Pyle’s love of damaged lands.
His travel narrative Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage traces his discovery of previously unnoticed monarch migration patterns. Pyle co-edited and annotated Nabokov’s Butterflies, which collects the novelist’s butterfly writings from throughout his literary and scientific opus. Walking the High Ridge: Life as Field Trip reflects on Pyle’s development as a writer and on his sources, influences, and beliefs. Sky Time in Gray’s River follows the lives of the creatures populating his adopted village month by month through the seasons. Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year chronicles Pyle’s coast-to-coast adventures and misadventures while documenting as many butterflies as possible (similar to a birder’s big year). A chapbook of poems and stories, Letting the Flies Out, preceded Pyle’s first full-length book of poems, Evolution of the Genus Iris. Other books include The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, The Butterfly Watcher’s Handbook, and The Butterflies of Cascadia.
Dr Pyle has taught writing and natural history seminars for many colleges and institutes around the world, and presented hundreds of invited lectures and keynote addresses. He has served as Visiting Professor of Environmental Writing at Utah State University; as Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana; and as place-based writing instructor for the Aga Khan Humanities Project in Tajikistan and the Writers’ Centre of Tasmania.