Middlebury professor emeritus wins academic leadership award

November 1, 2019

Dr. Steve Trombulak, professor emeritus of biology and environmental studies at Middlebury College, was recently honored with the Benton H. Box Award by the Clemson University Institute for Parks in recognition of his academic and instructional leadership in the environmental field.

Dr. Trombulak (second from left) with members of the Box family and Dr. Rob Baldwin (right).

Dr. Trombulak (second from left) with members of the Box family and Dr. Rob Baldwin (right).

The institute presents the annual awards program, which is named for George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service, to showcase leading figures in the field of conservation. Specific awards were named after visionary leaders that Hartzog respected and admired. Award recipients are following in Hartzog’s footsteps by making significant contributions to the management of parks and preservation of our natural, historical, and cultural heritage.

The Benton H. Box Award recognizes academic professionals that exemplify Dr. Box’s distinguished career as an educator and administrator. Dr. Trombulak shared this year’s award with Ryan L. Sharp, associate professor in the park management and conservation program at Kansas State University, for leadership in preserving our natural environment and inspiring in students the quest for knowledge and the development of an environmental ethic.

Robert Baldwin, endowed chair and professor of conservation biology at Clemson University, presented the award to Dr. Trombulak at a ceremony on October 22. According to Dr. Baldwin, Dr. Trombulak is a force for science-based landscape level management in the northeast United States and Canada.

“He has published over 90 scientific articles, many with Middlebury students, and his review of the ecological effects of roads has been cited 3,000 times,” he says. “For a single paper, that’s like winning the Heisman Trophy.”

Dr. Trombulak is a conservation biologist and landscape ecologist. He earned his BA in biology at UCLA and his PhD in zoology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He began his research career focusing on population and community ecology, including studies on elevational distributions of pinyon pines in the Mohave desert, territorial behavior of hummingbirds in the tropical dry forests of Costa Rica, thermoregulation of desert-dwelling beetles in the Great Basin Desert, competition between montane chipmunks in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and phenotypic plasticity in life-history strategies of montane ground squirrels in both the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Dr. Trombulak with fellow Hartzog award winners (l to r) Dr. Jennifer Thomsen, David Vela, Dr. Carolyn Ward and Chris Lehnertz.

Dr. Trombulak with fellow Hartzog award winners (l to r) Dr. Jennifer Thomsen, David Vela, Dr. Carolyn Ward and Chris Lehnertz.

At Middlebury College, he developed a diverse and highly successful teaching program in conservation biology, vertebrate natural history, and environmental science.  His research program also expanded beyond ecology to embrace both conservation biology – with an emphasis on protected areas, conservation planning, and wildlands – as well as science pedagogy. He retired in June after 34 years in the field.

“I am so pleased that Steve has been recognized this award,” continues Baldwin. “Steve, like Dean Box, has set an example as a teacher and scholar, he has fostered learning environments as an administrator and also an environmental ethic, both in his community and abroad.”


The Clemson University Institute for Parks (CUIP) provides research, education, training, and outreach that enhances the management of the world’s parks and protected areas. It accomplishes this by providing park and protected area managers with innovative research to support science-based decision-making; and by developing current and future leaders in the park movement by providing interdisciplinary and transformative education and training programs. The Institute currently consists of 35 Fellows and 8 Scholars, including Dr. Trombulak, working on park-related research.

Visit the CUIP website for more information about the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Environmental Awards program and its recipients.