Dr. Amanda Vincent named finalist for Indianapolis Prize for Animal Conservation

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Prize officials announced today the six Finalists for the world’s leading award for animal conservation. In recognition of her successes in the conservation of at-risk species, Dr. Amanda Vincent joins fellow Finalists Dr. Joel Berger, Dr. Dee Boersma, Dr. Rodney Jackson, Dr. Carl Jones and Dr. Carl Safina.

“Amanda and the Finalists for the Indianapolis Prize are heroes in many senses of the word,” said Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, which administers the Indianapolis Prize as part of its core mission. “They’ve sacrificed their own self-interests to help others, and they’ve overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Our world is unquestionably better off because of Dr. Amanda Vincent, and we hope others will not only take notice of, but also join in her noble work to save wild things and wild places.”

Amanda Vincent

Dr. Amanda Vincent largely put seahorse conservation on the map. Not only did she take her studies under the water and into their world, she identified a conservation concern for these  tiny fish and mounted a campaign to secure their future.

In 1996, she co-founded the first seahorse conservation program, Project Seahorse, which she still directs. She has since led work ranging from behavioral research to global policy. Her team has established 35 no-take marine protected areas in the Philippines and guided  groups that use seahorses for traditional medicines or aquarium display to obtain seahorses carefully.

In 2002, Dr. Vincent had one of her most notable gains, persuading the then 169, and now 181, member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to control seahorse exports to ensure sustainability. This was the first global trade regulation for any marine fishes and set precedent for many other species.

Thanks to Vincent’s blend of research and action, seahorses are now widely considered a flagship species – meaning their conservation ensures the survival and protection of other marine life. For her tireless work to advance seahorse conservation, Vincent has advanced as a Finalist for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize.

“Amanda connects research and action effectively, and acts on the best available knowledge for the maximum conservation impact,” said Dr. Heather Koldewey, head of global conservation programmes for the Zoological Society of London. “Above all, she seeks solutions, using drive and creativity to find novel approaches to conservation – many of which have far-reaching impact beyond seahorses.”

Dr. Vincent is a Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (formerly the Fisheries Centre). She holds a doctorate from the University of Cambridge, UK, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Vincent joins a highly-accomplished roster of 2016 Indianapolis Prize Finalists, which includes:

Joel Berger, Ph.D.: (Wildlife Conservation Society, Colorado State University)

While the Arctic may be known for its polar bears, Dr. Berger strives to save another flagship species at home on the tundra – the muskox. Beyond studying migration paths for large mammals, Dr. Berger’s actionable conservation models help researchers understand populations as modern metaphors for climate change. Dr. Berger was also a Finalist for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Dee Boersma, Ph.D.: (University of Washington Department of Biology)

Penguins, as sentinels of our oceans, have no greater champion than Dr. Boersma. For more than three decades, she has followed the lives of Argentina’s Magellanic penguins to help strengthen protections and conservation efforts for colonies, while studying the seabirds as indicators of environmental change.

Rodney Jackson, Ph.D.: (Snow Leopard Conservancy)

One of the world’s foremost experts on the elusive, endangered snow leopard, Dr. Jackson endures harsh winters and dangerous terrain to track these “ghosts of the mountain” and teach locals how to coexist peacefully with them. Dr. Jackson was also a Finalist for the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Indianapolis Prize.

Carl Jones, Ph.D.: (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation)

Understanding the importance of every small part of an ecosystem, Dr. Jones has brought a dozen species back from the brink of extinction, including the Mauritius kestrel and echo parakeet. His revolutionary techniques have helped shape conservation work being done on the remote island of Mauritius, including the establishment of its first national park. Dr. Jones was also a Finalist for the 2012 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Carl Safina, Ph.D.: (The Safina Center at Stony Brook University)

A crusader for the ocean and its creatures, Dr. Safina works to effectively connect humans with marine species. He has pioneered innovative approaches to studying species ranging from reef coral to whales, and established a sustainable seafood program, bringing science-based criteria to consumers. Dr. Safina was also a Finalist for the 2010 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Renowned professional conservationists and designated representatives make up the Indianapolis Prize Jury, tasked with naming the 2016 Winner, who will be announced in late spring and honored at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc., to be held Oct. 15, 2016.

The Winner of the Prize will receive an unrestricted $250,000 cash award while the five Finalists will each receive $10,000. In addition to the monetary award, the Winner will receive the prestigious Lilly Medal, a cast bronze medal showcasing the relationship between humans and the natural world.

“Winning the Indianapolis Prize stands out as one of the highlights of my career,” said Dr. Patricia Wright, who in 2014 became the first woman to receive the Indianapolis Prize for her commitment to protecting Madagascar’s lemurs. “It is truly the ‘Nobel Prize’ of animal conservation and the 2016 Finalists represent some of the best and brightest minds in conservation.”

 A History of Indianapolis Prize Winners

The Indianapolis Prize was first awarded in 2006 to George Archibald, Ph.D., the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The 2008 Winner was George Schaller, Ph.D., known as one of the founding fathers of modern 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 promoting the cause of the world’s largest land carnivore. In 2014, Patricia C. Wright, Ph.D., founder of Centre ValBio, became the first woman awarded the Indianapolis Prize for her dedication to protecting Madagascar’s flemurs.

# # #


The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. This biennial award brings the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species. The Indianapolis Prize has received support from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation since its inception in 2004.

[Editor note: in 2020/2021, Amanda Vincent won the Indianapolis Prize]