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The Indianapolis Prize

On Saturday, September 27, I had the privilege of attending the 2014 Indianapolis Prize Gala at the JW Marriott, which honored Dr. Patricia C. Wright, the 2014 Indianapolis Prize Winner.  According to the Indianapolis Prize's website, the prize is "given every other year to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to conservation efforts involving a single animal species or multiple species."  Touted as the Nobel Prize equivalent for conservationists and the "world's leading award for animal conservation", The Indianapolis Prize is truly the pinnacle of success in the career of any wildlife conservationist's career.  

For each award, 6 finalists are selected from a pool of nominees by two international committees comprised of leaders within the realm of wildlife conservation including professors, researchers, and presidents/CEO's of zoos and non-profit conservation organizations.  For 2014, the 6 finalists were Dr. Joel Berger, Dr. Gerardo Ceballos, Dr. Carl Jones, Dr. Russell Mittermeier, Dr. Carl Safina, and Dr. Patricia Wright.  

From left to right: Jane Alexander (Global Wildlife Ambassador & Actress), Dr. Carl Safina, Dr. Russell Mittermeier, Michael Crowther (President & CEO of The Indianapolis Zoo, Dr. Patricia Wright, a lemur, Frank Pope (COO of Save the Elephants), Dr. Carl Jones, Dr. Joel Berger, and Dr. Gerardo Ceballos.

It was truly astounding to see so much talent and passion for wildlife in one room.  One thing I was personally struck by was the amount of humility and gratitude expressed by each of these individuals.  Many of them came from humble beginnings and developed a love of nature through their personal encounters with it as children or young adults.  This love of nature only grew stronger over time, and it ultimately led to an unsurpassed dedication and passion for their work.  As someone who works in the environmental realm, being in the presence of this sort of energy was incredibly inspiring!  That being said, it is disappointing that such efforts seem to go unnoticed in today's world.  Outside of Carl Safina, I had not heard of the work many of them were doing.  But I think that's the beauty of individuals like this; they work for their cause, not for applause.

I would encourage everyone to take a brief look into the work of this year's Indianapolis Prize nominees.  From Madagascar, to the Arctic, to Mexico, to the depths of the oceans, these individuals have braved everything from unstable governments to harsh weather in the name of conservation.

Special thanks to IUPUI alumna, Jan Lesniak, and her husband, Rob Smith, for graciously offering an invitation to the event.  I sincerely appreciate their generosity!


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