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The 2012 Indianapolis Prize Winner

Steven Amstrup, Ph.D., Polar Bears International​

Dr. Steve Amstrup, chief scientist of Polar Bears International, was awarded the 2012 Indianapolis Prize. Amstrup received
$100,000 and the Lilly Medal at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. on September 29, 2012, at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. Steve Amstrup is senior scientist at Polar Bears International.  [more ...]​

A world-renowned polar bear biologist, he led the international team of researchers that prepared the nine reports that became the basis for listing polar bears as a threatened species. Steve was previously a wildlife biologist with the United States Geological Survey. Over the course of more than three decades, Steve has carried out his work in harsh Arctic conditions. He is universally regarded as the most important and influential scientist working on polar bear conservation.

Steve Amstrup solved the decades old mystery of where Alaskan polar bears go to give birth to their young. He found that they go to drifting pack ice, and unfortunately, those floes are highly susceptible to rising temperatures. In 2007 Steve Amstrup led an international team of scientists in a project to assess the likely future impacts of global warming on polar bears.  Those efforts culminated in the famous projection that two-thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear by mid-century, and all could be lost by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue on the present course. 

In response to that discovery, Dr. Amstrup assembled a research team to examine whether greenhouse gas mitigation could improve the future outlook for polar bears. That work, published as the cover story in the journal Nature in December 2010, confirmed that polar bears could indeed benefit from gre​enhouse gas mitigation, and that paper serves as an international call to action that we all hope may save the species. 

Since winning the Indianapolis Prize, Dr. Amstrup has written an Op-ed for USA Today online and was featured on NBC Nightly News for his work to save polar bears from extinction.  [close]​​


The Indianapolis Prize is pleased to recognize the 2012 finalists for their outstanding work to protect and conserve the endangered animals of our planet. 

Markus Borner, Ph.D., Frankfort Zoological Society

Never hesitating to shoulder ambitious, complex and also seemingly hopeless rhino rehabilitation projects, Markus Borner's efforts have led to the release of 32 black rhinos from South Africa back into their natural habitat, the Serengeti. This marks the world's largest reintroduction project, initiated in 2010 with the translocation of the first five rhinos.  [close]

Rodney Jackson, Ph.D., Snow Leopard Conservancy 

A three-time finalist for the Indianapolis Prize, Rodney Jackson is the world's foremost expert on the elusive snow leopard that serves as a flagship species for Central Asia's high mountains. Credited as being the first individual to radio collar snow leopards to track their movements, Jackson has been able to obtain unprecedented data on the species' movements and behavior.

Carl Jones, Ph.D., Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

Carl Jones is a true conservationist, and he is personally credited with the leading role in saving a dozen species from extinction, including the Mauritius kestrels, pink pigeons and echo parakeets whose effective populations were less than 10 and now range in the hundreds. He has revitalized dozens of degraded islets, controlled invasive species, and re-introduced endemic plants, reptiles and birds to the group of islands that make up the remote and beautiful Republic of Mauritius. [close]​

Russell A. Mittermeier, Ph.D., Conservation International

Russell Mittermeier is an icon in the conservation community. He was one of the first academic primatologists to become concerned with the sustainability and conservation of primates, and one of the first to see conservation synergies between field research, zoos, biomedical colonies, universities, government agencies and sanctuaries. In spite of his role as president of Conservation International, which has become one of the most important conservation organizations in the world, Mittermeier himself remains a classical biologist, escorting expeditions through forests and swaps in New Guinea, Madagascar and Brazil, and discovering a steady stream of new primate species. He is also credited with developing the "biodiversity hotspots," which has become synonymous with conservation. [close]

Patricia C. Wright, Ph.D., Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environment​

A field researcher whose work reaches far beyond science, Patricia Wright has become internationally known as a leading expert on lemurs following her discovery of the golden bamboo lemur in 1986, a species that was then unknown to science. That discovery helped catalyze the transformation of Madagascar's park system, turning it into a model for global conservation efforts. [close]​



The Nominees for the 2012 Indianapolis Prize included 29 outstanding conservationists representing a wide range of scientific and educational programs involving animals from every corner of the globe.  

In alphabetical order:  [more]

Steven C. Amstrup, Ph.D., chief scientist for Polar Bears International who's work includes research that led to the 2008 listing of polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and the development technology to locate polar bear dens under the snow. 

P. Dee Boersma, Ph.D., conservationist dedicated to the study of global warming's impact on penguins and successful in stopping harvesting and development through penguin colonies as director of the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels.

Markus Borner, Ph.D., founder of the first Community Conservation Program in the Serengeti in effort to save its endangered black rhinos and ecosystem through biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. 

Robert Buchanan, founded Polar Bears International and recognized as a champion for the Arctic environment, leader in polar bear conservation, and educator on the harmful effects of climate change.

Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D., champion for jaguars in Mexico currently conducting the most comprehensive jaguar study to date; finalist for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize.

Lisa Dabek, Ph.D., founder of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program at Woodland Park Zoo responsible for the first conservation area in Papua New Guinea and using Crittercam© technology to record animals behavior and movement.

Jaret Daniels, Ph.D., butterfly conservationist dedicated to assisting imperiled butterfly species recovery by forming the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network to train volunteers and engage researchers. 

Karen L. Eckert, Ph.D., executive director of WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) who's been dedicated to the research, resource management and international conservation of sea turtles for more than three decades.

Lisa Hywood, founded Tikki Hywood Trust in her effort to preserve Zimbabwe's wildlife through captive breeding, monitored release of endangered species and conservation education.

Rodney Jackson,Ph.D., founded the Snow Leopard Conservancy and remains dedicated to building local communities' role as key players in conserving their native species; finalist for the 2008 and 2010 Indianapolis Prize.

Charlene Jendry, conservation specialist at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium who's impact on mountain gorilla survival has resulted in significantly reduced poaching and deforestation.

Carl Jones, Ph.D., biologist at the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation who helped create the first national park in Mauritius while bringing five bird species, including the Mauritius kestrel, the pink pigeon, and the echo parakeet, back from populations of fewer than ten.

James A. Kushlan, Ph.D., co-founded Heron Conservation and authored the 2004 North American Waterbird Conservation Plan to bring life to the needs of more than 200 species from Canada through the Caribbean.

Robert C. Lacy, Ph.D., population geneticist for the Chicago Zoological Society who pioneered research on the importance of genetic diversity thus developing industry-changing techniques and software for genetic management of wildlife populations. 

David W. Macdonald, D.Sc., established conservation biology as a science among European universities by founding WildCRU (Wildlife Conservation Research Unit).  

Laurie Marker, D.Phil., founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund and led a conservation program from humble beginnings in rural Namibia to an unparalleled model for predator conservation; finalist for the 2008 and 2010 Indianapolis Prize.

Sharon Matola founded the Belize Zoo and has devoted her entire life to leading the country's environmental education that aims to protect all of Central America's wildlife, from jaguars and tapirs to scarlet macaws and harpy eagles, many of the latter that she successfully reintroduced to the wild.

Charles Mayhew, MBE, co-founded Tusk Trust and backed the launch of a collection of community-managed conservancies now covering 3 million acres in northern Kenya. 

Russell A. Mittermeier, Ph.D., visionary leader of Conservation International who is focused on the welfare and conservation of primates.

George B. Rabb, Ph.D., Chicago Zoological Society conservationist who is halting the decline of amphibians and facilitated discovery of the chytrid fungus that has been called the most devastating animal disease ever recorded.

Alan Rabinowitz, Ph.D., large cat conservationist at Panthera whose dedication to the species has led to the development of multiple protected areas across the globe.

Terri Lynn Roth, Ph.D., Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden researcher who successfully bred the first Sumatran rhino calf to be produced in human care in 112 years.

Carl Safina, Ph.D., environmental activist and leader of the Blue Ocean Institute who has inspired a "sea ethic" through his writing and multiple media appearances; finalist for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize.

Joel D. Sartore, National Geographic photojournalist who is giving vanishing species and habitats a voice before they're gone forever.

Anne Savage, Ph.D., Disney's Animal Kingdom conservation biologist and tamarin specialist who established Aug.15 as "Day of the Cotton-top" in Colombia, South America – now declared a national holiday – and has created innovative programs in South America to reduce pollution and build jobs. 

Claudio Sillero, Ph.D., founder and director of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, keeping watch over Africa's rarest and most endangered carnivore.

Jim Thomas, Tenkile Conservation Alliance founder who tripled the endangered Tenkile (tree kangaroo) population from 100 to 300 animals in eight years.

Charlie Welch, works alongside his wife at the Duke Lemur Center to preserve endangered lemurs in Madagascar.

Patricia Wright, Ph.D., discovered the golden bamboo lemur in 1986, a species that was then unknown to science, which helped to catalyze the transformation of Madagascar's park systems, turning it into a model for global conservation efforts.