Emerging Conservationist
The Indianapolis Prize

Emerging Conservationist Award

2023 Winner
Fanny M. Cornejo

Over the past 15 years, Cornejo has devoted her professional life to primate conservation and research. She leads Yunkawasi, a conservation organization she founded with her mother, the late Fanny Fernández Melo. Yunkawasi works with Amazonian and Andean communities for the conservation of threatened species through sustainable economic development, education and a protected area management approach.

The Emerging Conservationist Award is supported by the Kobe Foundation and as Winner, Cornejo will receive a $50,000 award to continue with the Yunkawasi conservation work for endangered species through engaging participation from more than 20 rural and indigenous communities to sustainably manage territories and create protected areas. To date, more than 15,000 people have been reached through Cornejo’s conservation education programs focused on Peruvian endangered wildlife. She has also authored more than 100 scientific articles and congressional presentations.

What is the

Emerging Conservationist Award

The Indianapolis Prize created a new award recognizing conservationists early in their careers. The Indianapolis Prize – the world’s leading award for animal conservation – is a biennial award recognizing an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to wildlife conservation. The Indianapolis Prize also awards the Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has lent their influential and effective voice for conservation. The Emerging Conservationist Award is an exciting new addition to the Indianapolis Prize Program.

The Emerging Conservationist award – made possible through a grant from the Kobé Foundation – 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. Established to help support their work, the Emerging Conservationist Award aims to encourage the courageous, talented and dedicated people who devote themselves to protecting Earth’s wild things and wild places.

Through a two-stage selection process, a Review Committee will narrow the application pool to 10 Finalists who will then be sent to the Selection Committee. Once the Selection Committee chooses a Winner from the top three applicants, the Winner will be notified and receive a $50,000 award to further their conservation work.

Meet the Heroes!

2023 Emerging Conservationist Award Finalists

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 was announced in April 2023 and was recognized at the 2023 Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. in downtown Indianapolis on Sept. 30, 2023

Alejandro Arteaga

Alejandro Arteaga is a biologist, conservationist and wildlife photographer. Arteaga is the Research Director at Khamai Foundation and also 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 rain forest in Ecuador.

Sergio A. Balaguera-Reina, Ph.D.

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 develops conservation plans that provide support for other species as well as the habitats and landscapes that they inhabit.

Fanny M. Cornejo

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

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. He has established the ‘Global Biorepository on horseshoe crabs’ as a reference source for genome-wide study on horseshoe crabs in the next few decades.

Corinne J. Kendall, Ph.D

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 poisoning and other illegal activities in real-time, based on the movements of vultures fitted with satellite tracking tags.

Arthur Bienvenu Muneza, Ph.D

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.

Dr. Megan Murgatroyd is a conservation biologist focused on understanding and conserving the world’s most understudied and threatened birds of prey. She investigates the impacts of land-use change on Verreaux’s Eagles and implements GPS tracking to understand and predict wind turbine collision risk for this species.

Nguyen Van Thai

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, Ph.D.

Dr. 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. Dr. 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

Stephanie Vaz is an entomologist dedicated to firefly conservation. She is responsible for describing dozens of firefly species and providing information and resources to facilitate firefly identification. Her project investigates how climate change, land use change and light pollution affect fireflies in the Neotropics.

Meet the Heroes Saving Species from Extinction!

2023 Emerging Conservationist Finalists

Saving Species
Key Outcomes

The Emerging Conservationist award aims to keep promising conservationists active in their work to save animal species across the globe. The Winner will have the unique opportunity to utilize the Indianapolis Prize’s platform to garner additional support which allows for a tangible career boost and increased professional recognition.

This program also allows the Winner to network with established conservation leaders and funders through the Indianapolis Prize Gala and special events. The Award will serve as a catalyst to energize the next generation of animal conservationists to carry on the important work of the world’s leading conservationists.

Saving Species


Applicants applying for the Emerging Conservationist Award must comply with the following:

  • Applicant must be under 40 years of age at the time of the application deadline.
  • Applicant must have the background that will lead to future success in saving an animal species or group of species.
  • Applicant must be actively engaged in conservation and must have a direct field work connection.
  • The Winner must agree to be in Indianapolis, at the Indianapolis Prize’s expense, for the week of the Prize Gala.
  • The Winner is required to submit a report documenting how they used the funds one year following the award.



Applications for the 2025 Award Opens on June 12, 2023 and Closes on Feb. 26, 2024

Request an Emerging Conservationist application by sending an email to application@indianapolisprize.org. Applications will be accepted in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Mandarin, Russian and Arabic; translation services must be requested no later than Jan. 5, 2024, by emailing info@indianapolisprize.org. All applications are due by 5pm EST on Feb. 26, 2024.

To be considered for the Emerging Conservationist Award, applications must include the following:

  • Narrative
    • Summary of the specific achievement or achievements regarding the applicant’s fulfillment of the listed criteria.
    • Includes a description of how the grant would impact the applicant personally and professionally.
  • CV Letter
    • Include a current CV of no more than three pages. PDF format is preferred.
  • Letters of Support
    • Applicant must submit two but no more than four letters of support. Letters should address the following criteria:
      • Address the challenges overcome by the Applicant in support of their conservation work.
      • Explain the significance of the achievement.
      • Outline measurable outcomes resulting from the Applicant’s work.
      • Describe the quality of any science involved.
      • Identify the number of years the Applicant has been engaged in conservation work.
      • Detail any cooperation the Applicant has demonstrated with zoological and other like-minded organizations, preferably those the applicant does not work for or with.
    • Supplemental materials can include:
      • Videos or other supporting materials highlighting projects or programs the applicant has played a significant role.
      • Grant or award notifications.
      • Publications.
      • Presented posters.
      • Syllabi from courses or trainings offered.
Emerging Conservationist Selection Committee 2023
  • Selection Committee Members

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

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

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

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

    Jo-Elle Mogerman, Ph.D., Director of Saint Louis Zoo 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 Indianapolis Prize Winner and Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments and Centre ValBio