Penn State mourns loss of ecologist and alumnus Edward Bellis

May 10, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State and Eberly College of Science faculty, staff and students are mourning the loss of alumnus and longtime supporter Edward “Ed” D. Bellis, who died on April 5, in State College, Pennsylvania. 

Bellis was born on June 28, 1927, in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. From 1945 to 1947, he served in the U.S. Army as part of the 88th Infantry Division in the Julian Alps of Italy, in an area now part of Slovenia. Bellis went on to earn his bachelor of science degree in zoology and entomology from Penn State in 1951. After receiving his master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and his doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota, Bellis eventually joined Penn State's zoology and entomology department in 1957. He later served in the biology department in the College of Science.

During this time at Penn State, Bellis led Penn State’s undergraduate course in basic ecology. His research focused on ecology and behavior of mammals and amphibians in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Notably, when Interstate 80 was completed, he led studies of behavior and ecology of white-tailed deer. Bellis also conducted research on barnacles at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory of Maine in 1966, and in 1967, he made a two-month trek on Mount Everest to collect plant specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. Bellis served as a research adviser to many graduate students in zoology, biology and ecology. 

Bellis helped create Penn State's Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology in 1971 and served as its director from 1980 to 1989. The University annually confers the Edward D. Bellis Award on a faculty member who has played an important role in the program's success. 

In retirement, Bellis began working with various environmental groups that focused on improving stream habitats and preserving clean waters. He served as president of the 13,000-member Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited; was an original member of the Dirt and Gravel Roads Task Force; and successfully lobbied for legislation that amended the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code to provide funding for maintaining and improving rural roads to reduce erosion into streams. Bellis is credited with having helped create the ongoing Keystone Coldwater Conferences at Penn State and is also a founding member of the Penns Valley Conservation Association. In 1994, he discovered an endangered species of sedge, a grasslike plant, along Elk Creek which led to the protection of the watershed from local pollution threats. In recognition of Bellis’ work, he was the recipient of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission's 2002 Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award; served on the Pennsylvania Governor's 21st Century Environmental Commission; and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Ed is survived by one daughter, Gayle Smith; two stepchildren, Gary Winklestin and Linda Stover; one sister, Margaret Bellis; two granddaughters, Heather and Megan Kuhlman; and three step-grandchildren, Jonathan and Christopher Winklestin and Samuel K. Owens II. Contributions in Bellis’ memory can be made to the Penns Valley Conservation Association or to PA Trout Unlimited.


Last Updated May 24, 2021