Judging & Nominations
Celebrating Conservation Heroes

The Indianapolis Prize Awards

The Indianapolis Prize

Selecting the Finalists and Winner of the Indianapolis Prize is an intense two-step judging structure undertaken by the Prize Nominating Committee and Jury. Nominating an individual is simple and includes a 500-word narrative about the individual along with two to four letters of support. All applications will be reviewed for appropriateness and completeness. A staff member will then contact the applicant and request additional documentation including a CV and supporting materials.

Judging Process
  • Nomination Criteria

    Thank you for your interest in the Indianapolis Prize. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the sustainability of an animal species or group of species. The following information details the criteria needed to nominate an individual. To be nominated, applicants must have accomplished an individual achievement or series of achievements that have resulted in a demonstrable positive impact on an animal species or group of species that is likely to improve long-term sustainability. The impact of achievements under consideration must be clearly recognizable when evaluated by the Nominating Committee and Jury*. Consideration will be given to:

    • The challenges overcome by the individual in the pursuit of his or her achievement.
    • The significance of the achievement or achievements in the conservation of an animal species or multiple species.
    • The measurable outcomes resulting from the individual’s work.
    • The quality of any science involved.
    • The number of years the individual has dedicated to the aspect of conservation work under evaluation. This includes consideration of any fieldwork which the individual has participated in or led, although fieldwork is not a specified requirement. Please note that length of career is not the primary criteria.
    • The unselfish dedication to conservation work that the individual has demonstrated throughout his or her career.
    • Any cooperation the individual has demonstrated with zoological and other like-minded conservation organizations, particularly those for which the individual does not work.
  • Restrictions

    Nominations are open to anyone with knowledge of an individual whose work has had a great impact upon a species or group of species that can be measured over time. Their work must demonstrate the improvement in long-term sustainability was the result of direct and specific actions of the applicant.

    • Applicants must be individual living persons, not an organization, program or group of individuals.
    • If selected as the Winner of the Indianapolis Prize, the individual must agree to participate in activities scheduled to take place in Indianapolis, Indiana, the week of the gala. Transportation and lodging will be covered by the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc.
    • If selected as one of the five (5) Indianapolis Prize Finalists, the individual must agree to participate in activities scheduled to take place in Indianapolis, Indiana, the week of the gala. Transportation and lodging will be covered by the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc.
    • Applicants must agree that, if selected as a Winner or Finalist, they will reasonably assist in the obtaining of necessary permissions to use materials reflective of their work on Indianapolis Zoo grounds, and will assist as necessary in the production of media and materials required to present a synopsis of their work at the Indianapolis Prize Gala.
    • Applicants may not be employees, Board Members, or volunteer staff of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. Immediate family members or significant others of the Nominating Committee, Jury, Indianapolis Zoological Society employees, Board Members, and volunteer staff are also ineligible.
    • A Nominee is limited to being named a Finalist three times during the four most recent Prize cycles. When the maximum has been reached, he or she may not be nominated for the next two consecutive Prize cycles.
  • Nominating Committee & Jury

    The Indianapolis Prize Nominating Committee and Jury each consist of nine different individuals, from across the globe, who are representative of the scientific and conservation sector, the Indianapolis community and the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. At the close of the nomination period, all applications are reviewed for completeness and qualification requirements by the Indianapolis Prize Steering Committee. Once the applicant list is final the Nominating Committee begins the first round of discussion. In closed deliberation, Nomination Committee members have roughly three months to thoughtfully review the materials and determine the six individuals who will advance to the level of Finalist. Once chosen the Jury then analyses the six Finalists’ work, in a second closed deliberation spanning three months, to select the award recipient. The Nominating Committee and the Jury utilize the following criteria to give thorough consideration to the nominee’s scientific impact and sustainable conservation methods:

    • The significance of an achievement or achievements in the conservation of an animal species or multiple species;
    • The measurable outcomes resulting from the Nominee’s work;
    • The quality of science involved;
    • The number of years the individual has dedicated to the aspect of conservation work under evaluation;
    • The unselfish dedication to conservation work that the individual has shown throughout his or her career;
    • The spirit of cooperation the individual has demonstrated with zoological and other like-minded conservation institutions, especially those not directly affiliated with any organization for which the Nominee works.

    *Nominating Committee and Jury members change each Prize cycle.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: Can an organization be nominated for the Indianapolis Prize?

    A: No, Nominees must be individual living persons.


    Q: Can you nominate yourself?

    A: Yes, however, the stature of the nominator is considered when selecting Finalists and Winners.


    Q: Is there an age restriction?

    A: No, however consideration is given to the number of years the nominee has dedicated to the aspect of conservation work.


    Q: What kind of information should be included in a letter of support (what makes an

     effective letter)?

    A: The stature of the author; the working relationship the author has with the applicant; highlighting specific examples of how the applicant’s work influenced conservation; aspects of the applicant’s dedication to their work.  The letters of support are important because they tell the applicant’s story through the eyes of a peer.

    Q: Are more support letters important?

    A: Letters provide judges with a variety of information and perspectives. It’s best to submit up to four letters, if possible.


    Q: What is a measurable outcome?

    A: Examples should be specific and can include things such as evidence of specific species population stabilization or increase, legislation written, educating and shifting community practices as well as protecting species specific habitat.


    Q: What should be included in an applicant’s supporting materials?

    A: A detailed portfolio or a narrative of significant achievements (10 pages) including hyperlinks to videos, articles and websites. Compelling photos and visuals such as graphs and maps are also helpful.  Inclusion of social media that correlates to the organizational affiliation is also helpful.


    Q: Do Finalists and the Winner have to be present at the Gala?

    A: Yes, they must be present.


    Q: Who serves on the Jury/Nominating committee?

    A: The members change each year and are selected by the members of the Indianapolis Prize Steering Committee and approved by the Indianapolis Zoo’s executive committee. They represent broad-based leaders in conservation. There is also a representative from the Indianapolis community, the Indianapolis Zoo Board of Trustees and an Indianapolis Zoo staff member.

    Q: What is the general timing of announcements?

    A: For the 2025 Indianapolis Prize, applications are accepted from June 2023 to February 2024.

    • Nominees are announced in the Fall 2024.
    • Finalists are announced in the first quarter 2025.
    • Winner is announced second quarter 2025.

    Q: What type of communication will I receive from the committee once I submit an application?

    A: For the Indianapolis Prize and Emerging Conservationist, anticipate receiving communication via email.

    • Check spam filters to ensure all emails from the Indianapolis Prize committee and Indianapolis Zoo staff are read in a timely fashion. For Indianapolis Prize candidates, ensure nominators also check spam folders for email correspondence from the Indianapolis Prize committee and Indianapolis Zoo staff.

    Q: Are there specifics you are looking for with regard to place of residence?

    A:  Please include the address where you receive the majority of your mail. The Indianapolis Prize Committee understands the nature of conservation work that might take applicants to many areas the world.

    Q: Is there an age limit for the Emerging Conservationist award?

    A: Individuals applying for the Emerging Conservationist award much be under forty years of age on the application due date.  Documents verifying age are required.  Satisfactory documents include birth certificate, passport, national identify card, motor vehicle operator license, etc.

Indianapolis Prize Nominating Committee and Jury 2023
  • Nominating Committee Members

    Gene D’Adamo, Pulliam Foundation Trust (community representative)

    Brian L. Davis, Ph.D., President & CEO, Georgia Aquarium

    Jennifer Gray, Ph.D., CEO, Zoos Victoria

    Rima Jabado, Ph.D., Project Leader, Save our Seas Foundation

    Krithi K. Karanth, Ph.D., Chief Conservation Scientist, Centre for Wildlife Studies

    Kira Mileham, Ph.D., Director of Strategic Partnerships, IUCN SSC

    Jeff S. Proudfoot, DVM, Vice President of Veterinary Science, Indianapolis Zoological Society

    Megan R. Ross, Ph.D., President & CEO, Lincoln Park Zoo

    Michael W. Wells, President of REI Investments, Inc., and Vice President, Indianapolis Zoological Society Board of Trustees (board representative)

  • Jury Members

    Steven A. Amstrup, Ph.D., 2012 Prize Winner and Chief Scientist, Polar Bears International

    Vivek Menon, Founder and Executive Director, The Wildlife Trust of India

    Christopher Martin, Ph.D. (liaison)

    Anne Nobles, M.A., J.D. (community representative)

    Myrta J. Pulliam (board representative)

    Amanda Vincent, Ph.D., 2021 Prize Winner, Director and co-founder of Project Seahorse and Professor at the Institute for Oceans and Fisheries at The University of British Columbia

    Serge A. Wich, Ph.D., Professor in Primate Biology, Liverpool John Moores University

The Emerging Conservationist Award

The Emerging Conservationist award is a biennial award recognizing 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.

Learn More

Emerging Conservationist Selection Committee 2023
  • Committee Memebers

    Monika Böhm, Ph.D., Freshwater Coordinator, Global Center for Species Survival (liaison)

    Trey Fehsenfeld, Executive Director, Sidekick Foundation (community representative)

    Carl G. Jones, Ph.D., 2016 Prize Winner and Chief Scientist, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

    Russell A. Mittermeier, Ph.D., 2018 Prize Winner and Chief Conservation Officer, Re:wild

    Jo-Elle Mogerman, Ph.D., Director of Saint Louis WildCare Park

    Crickette Sanz, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis

    Amy Willis (board representative)

    Patricia C. Wright, Ph.D., 2014 Prize Winner and Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments and Centre ValBio


Contact Prize Program Director, Liana Mitchell Wallace

Disclaimer of Responsibility, Rejection of Applications, Disqualification. The Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. is not responsible for lost, late, non-delivered, or misdirected mail, e-mail, or communications malfunctions of any kind in the administration of the Indianapolis Prize or for the failure of any application to be received by the Indianapolis Zoo on account of postal or courier delays or losses, technical problems, or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any Web site, or any combination thereof. The Applicant acknowledges and accepts that the Indianapolis Zoo reserves the absolute right to reject any late or incomplete application. Likewise, if the Applicant or the Nominating Party omits any material fact on the application form or in any other submitted materials, or if Applicant engages in immoral, improper, unseemly or illegal behavior, or any behavior adverse to the Indianapolis Zoo or the other Applicants, whether intentional or unintentional, the Applicant may be disqualified at any point in the process at the Indianapolis Zoo’s sole discretion. If any disqualifying information or provision of false information is discover.