Indianapolis Prize Announces Ten Finalists for New Award Recognizing Emerging Conservationists

Indianapolis Prize Announces Ten Finalists for New Award Recognizing Emerging Conservationists

Inaugural Award from the Indianapolis Prize honors conservationists early in their careers

INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Officials from the Indianapolis Prize, the world's leading award for animal conservation, today named ten Finalists for the newly created Emerging Conservationist Award. The Winner will be awarded $50,000 to advance their work to protect species.

The Emerging Conservationist Award recognizes professional wildlife conservationists, biologists and scientists under 40 years of age working to make strides in saving animal species from extinction. The inaugural Emerging Conservationist Award Winner will be announced in April 2023 and will be recognized at the 2023 Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. in downtown Indianapolis on Sept. 30, 2023.

"The Emerging Conservationist Award supports the next generation of conservationists who are actively making a positive difference for the future of biodiversity," said Dr. Rob Shumaker, President & CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. "These Finalists, along with all of the Prize honorees, share a deep commitment to protecting nature and inspiring people to care for our world."

The Indianapolis Prize recognizes the world's leading conservationists whose work provides future generations with replicable and actionable conservation practices. The Finalists of the Emerging Conservationists represent the people we can rely on to save species around the world.

The Finalists of the 2023 Emerging Conservationist Award include:

Alejandro Arteaga (Tropical Herping, Ecuador) – Alejandro Arteaga is a biologist, conservationist and wildlife photographer. Arteaga co-founded Tropical Herping, a tour agency that offers nature photography trips and tours throughout the tropics. His research is focused on tropical amphibians and reptiles. He has discovered and described 20 new species to science and raised funds to save 106 hectares of Chocó rainforest in Ecuador.

Sergio A. Balaguera-Reina, Ph.D. (University of Florida – Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, USA) – Dr. Sergio Balaguera-Reina is a conservation biologist focused on understanding the roles that crocodile species play in aquatic and coastal systems. Dr. Balaguera-Reina also develops conservation plans that provide support for other species as well as the habitats and landscapes that they inhabit.

Fanny M. Cornejo (Rainforest Partnership, USA; Yunkawasi, Peru) – Fanny Cornejo is a primatologist, anthropologist and the director of Yunkawasi, an organization that works with Amazonian and Andean communities for the conservation of threatened species through sustainable economic development and protected area management approach. Fanny is also executive director of the Rainforest Partnership in Peru, Yunkawasi's strategic partner for conservation and sustainable development activities in Peru.

Akbar John, Ph.D. (Institute of Oceanography and Maritime Studies, INOCEM; International Islamic University Malaysia, IIUM, Malaysia) – Dr. Akbar John is an Associate Professor and conservation scientist focused on advancing the science and conservation of horseshoe crabs in Southeast Asia. Dr. John is responsible for establishing a facility to track global horseshoe crab biology, which serves as a referral source for future research on horseshoe crabs.

Corinne J. Kendall, Ph.D. (North Carolina Zoo, USA) – Dr. Corinne Kendall launched the first effort to protect vultures in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Dr. Kendall is the founder of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' African Vulture Saving Animals from Extinction program, which has developed a tool for discovering poaching and poisoning activities in real-time, based on the movements of vultures fitted with satellite tracking tags.

Arthur Bienvenu Muneza, Ph.D. (Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Africa) – Dr. Arthur Muneza is a wildlife ecologist investigating a variety of factors affecting the survival and reproduction of giraffe populations across East Africa by calculating population, mapping disease ecology, assessing sources of mortality and evaluating predatory interactions with lions.

Megan Murgatroyd, Ph.D. (HawkWatch International, USA) – Dr. Megan Murgatroyd is a conservation biologist focused on understanding and conserving the world's most understudied and threatened raptors globally. Dr. Murgatroyd investigates the impacts of land-use change on Verreaux's Eagles and implements GPS tracking to understand and predict wind turbine collision risk for Verreaux's Eagles.

Nguyen Van Thai (Save Vietnam's Wildlife, Vietnam) – Nguyen Thai is the founder of Save Vietnam's Wildlife, which works to halt the extinction and champion the recovery of threatened species in Vietnam such as the critically endangered pangolin. He established Vietnam's first anti-poaching units, which have destroyed 9,701 animal traps, dismantled 775 illegal camps, confiscated 78 guns, and arrested 558 people for poaching, leading to a significant decline in illegal activities in PúMát National Park.

Olivier Nsengimana (Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, Rwanda) – Olivier Nsengimana is responsible for designing and implementing a conservation project to save the endangered grey-crowned crane. He established a database of illegally kept cranes in Rwanda, which led to 233 cranes being freed and 160 of those individuals being reintroduced to the wild. A licensed veterinarian, Nsengimana is the founder and director of the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, an organization working to expand research and conservation connected to endangered or threatened species in Rwanda.

Stephanie Vaz Nogueira Campos (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – Stephanie Vaz is an entomologist dedicated to firefly conservation. She is responsible for describing dozens of firefly species and providing tools and resources to facilitate firefly identification in the Neotropics. She discovered past conservation components were not protecting firefly populations from light pollution. 

The Emerging Conservationist Award – made possible through a grant from the Kobé Foundation – was created to identify and support conservationists under 40 years of age with the talent to make a significant impact on saving an animal species or group of species. The Emerging Conservationist Finalists are selected through a two-stage selection process, where a Review Committee evaluates and then narrows the application pool to 10 Finalists who are then sent to the Selection Committee to choose a Winner. The Inaugural Emerging Conservationist Award Winner will be announced in April 2023 and will then be recognized at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. in downtown Indianapolis on Sept. 30, 2023.

For additional media assets related to the 2023 Emerging Conservationist Finalists, click here.
To learn more about the Emerging Conservationist Award, visit

The Indianapolis Prize Emerging Conservationist Award – made possible through a grant from the Kobé Foundation – is a biennial award that supports conservationists under 40 years of age with the talent and drive to make a significant impact on saving an animal species or group of species.

The Indianapolis Prize is a signature conservation initiative of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. The Indianapolis Prize recognizes and rewards conservationists who have achieved major victories in advancing the sustainability of an animal species or group of species. Winners receive an unrestricted $250,000 award. Remaining Finalists each receive $50,000. Since 2006, the Indianapolis Prize has administered more than $5 million in cash awards. 

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