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Indianapolis Prize's Six Finalists Announced
Indiana Ag Connection - 02/07/2018

Officials from the Indianapolis Prize named six finalists for the world's leading award for animal conservation. The Finalists, who have achieved major victories in saving species such as Magellanic penguins and snow leopards, will vie for the prestigious title of 2018 Indianapolis Prize Winner and an unrestricted, $250,000 award.

The 2018 Indianapolis Prize Finalists were announced in tandem with the release of new survey data* that finds that 91 percent of Americans believe the survival of endangered animals is important to society at large. What's more, when given the definition of an animal conservationist, 83 percent said animal conservationists qualify as heroes.

"The Indianapolis Prize Finalists are consistent winners in the ongoing battles to save threatened species," said Michael I. Crowther, chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc., which administers the Indianapolis Prize as one of its signature global conservation initiatives. "By telling the stories of their heroism and victories, the Indianapolis Prize aims to inspire more people to work for a planet that future generations will be happy to inherit, rather than be forced to endure."

The Indianapolis Prize was created in 2006 to recognize best-in-class conservation solutions, bring innovative ideas to scale and reward the conservation heroes who have made significant gains in advancing the sustainability of threatened or endangered species. The Finalists for the 2018 Indianapolis Prize are:

Joel Berger, Ph.D. (Colorado State University; Wildlife Conservation Society) -- Distinguished scientist leading projects examining the effects of climate change on musk ox in the Alaskan Arctic, the impacts of energy development on wildlife in Greater Yellowstone, the threat of large carnivores on the conservation of endangered species such as Andean deer (huemul), the development of pronghorn antelope migration corridors, and saiga antelope conservation in Mongolia. Finalist for the 2014 and 2016 Indianapolis Prize.

P. Dee Boersma, Ph.D. (University of Washington; Center for Ecosystem Sentinels) -- Conservationist dedicated to the study of global warming's impact on penguins; successful in stopping both harvesting and the development of oil tanker lanes through penguin colonies.

Sylvia Earle, Ph.D. (Deep Ocean Exploration and Research; Mission Blue; SEAlliance) -- Oceanographer, author and founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., Mission Blue and SEAlliance. Focused on researching ocean ecosystems, developing new exploration technologies and creating a global network of marine protected areas. Led more than 100 expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater.

Rodney Jackson, Ph.D. (Snow Leopard Conservancy) -- Conducted first radio-tracking study of snow leopards in the 1980s; leader in engaging communities as co-equals in successful conservation strategies; collaborator in a range-wide genetic study that revealed the likelihood of three subspecies of snow leopards, contributed to their reclassification from endangered to vulnerable, and continues to create innovative conservation solutions across large portions of the species' vast geographic range. Finalist for the 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2016 Indianapolis Prize.

Russell Mittermeier, Ph.D. (Global Wildlife Conservation) -- Visionary leader able to motivate every level of conservation to support the greater good of many species, including saki and muriqui monkeys and other neotropical primates; one of the first academic primatologists to become concerned with the welfare and conservation of primates. Finalist for the 2012 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Carl Safina, Ph.D. (The Safina Center) -- Brought ocean conservation into the environmental mainstream by using science, art and literature to inspire a "sea ethic." Established a sustainable seafood program, connecting science-based criteria with consumers; led efforts to ban high-seas drift nets and reform federal fisheries laws. Finalist for the 2010, 2014 and 2016 Indianapolis Prize.

"[The Indianapolis Prize] brings the most incredible people together to talk about their work and give us a message about where to go from here," said Sigourney Weaver, actor and 2016 Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador, a title administered by the Indianapolis Prize to honor public figures who have been effective voices for wildlife conservation.

The 2018 Indianapolis Prize Jury, comprised of distinguished scientists and conservation leaders, will determine the Winner of the 2018 Indianapolis Prize, its $250,000 cash award and the Lilly Medal, an original work of art that signifies the Winner's contributions to saving some of the world's most threatened animals. Each of the five Finalists will receive $10,000. The 2018 Indianapolis Prize Winner will be announced in late spring and formally honored at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. on Sept. 29, 2018 in Indianapolis.

"Winning the Indianapolis Prize gave my organizations a much bigger platform from which we could reach people with our conservation message," said 2016 Indianapolis Prize Winner Dr. Carl Jones, chief scientist of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and scientific director the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. "The field of animal conservation is fortunate to have an award that recognizes and celebrates individuals who have dedicated their life's work to understanding biodiversity and protecting the species on which entire ecosystems depend."

The Indianapolis Prize was first awarded in 2006 to Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The 2008 Winner was George Schaller, Ph.D., known as one of the founding fathers of wildlife conservation, and both a senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society and vice president for Panthera. In 2010, Iain Douglas Hamilton, Ph.D., founder of Save the Elephants, received the Prize for his pioneering research in elephant social behavior and for leading the way in the fight against the poaching of African elephants. Steven Amstrup, Ph.D., chief scientist for Polar Bears International, received the 2012 Prize for his work on the world's largest land carnivore. In 2014, Dr. Patricia C. Wright, founder of Centre ValBio, became the first woman awarded the Indianapolis Prize for her dedication to saving Madagascar's famed lemurs from extinction. Last year, Dr. Carl Jones received the 2016 Indianapolis Prize for his species recovery success on the island of Mauritius, including the echo parakeet, pink pigeon and Mauritius kestrel.

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