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Nat Geo Explorers Nominated for Top Conservation Prize

2016 Indianapolis Prize nominees include nearly a dozen National Geographic explorers.

Update: On February 9, Joel Berger, Dee Boersma, Rodney Jackson, Carl Jones, Carl Safina, and Amanda Vincent were announced as finalists for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize. The winner will be announced in late spring.

Twenty-eight of the world’s top animal conservationists were recognized Tuesday as nominees for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize, the biggest award in the field. Nearly half of the nominees have a connection to National Geographic. And in some cases, the relationship goes back decades.

The Indianapolis Zoo has given the biennial prize for the past ten years. The winners are a veritable who’s who in conservation.

“The [nominees] are protecting species and creating successful conservation methods that ensure future generations will live in a flourishing and sustainable world,” said Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, in a statement.

Prize judge John Francis says the award “fills a huge gap left by the Nobel Prize, which is remarkably limited in its ability to feature people who are involved in conservation.”

“The prize helps draw attention to the important work of animal conservation,” adds Francis, who is also vice president for research, conservation, and exploration at National Geographic.

Six finalists will be selected among the 28 nominees and honored at a gala on October 15, 2016. Five finalists will receive $10,000 and the winner will receive an unrestricted award of $250,000 and a medal.

WATCH: Primatologist Patricia Wright becomes to the first woman to receive the prestigious Indianapolis Prize.

The prize has a history of recognizing conservationists with deep ties to National Geographic, says Francis. Last year’s winner Patricia C. Wright, founder of Centre ValBio, was honored for her work saving Madagascar’s lemurs from extinction. Wright has received funding support from National Geographic, as have past winners George Schaller and Iain Douglas-Hamilton.

Among this year’s nominees are:

Joel Berger (Wildlife Conservation Society, Colorado State University) The scientist has led studies on pronghorn antelope migration corridors, the threatened saiga antelope in Mongolia, and the impacts of energy development and climate change on wildlife. His work has been supported by National Geographic.

P. Dee Boersma (University of Washington) The conservationist has documented the impacts of climate change on penguins and successfully stopped oil tanker lanes through penguin colonies. She has received support from National Geographic.

Lincoln Brower (Sweet Briar College, University of Florida) Studies the endangered monarch butterfly, with support from National Geographic, which was particularly helpful in kick-starting his career.

Lisa Dabek (Papua New Guinea Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, Woodland Park Zoo) The first person to use a Crittercam to document the behavior of arboreal (tree-climbing mammals), Dabek founded the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program to help the endangered animals in Papua New Guinea. She is supported by National Geographic.

Biruté Mary Galdikas (Orangutan Foundation International) She has spent more than 35 years studying wild orangutans, has established rehabilitation and release programs, and saved millions of acres of tropical rain forest in Borneo. She has received early support from National Geographic.

Rodney Jackson (Snow Leopard Conservancy) He has studied snow leopards since the 1980s and works with local communities to involve them in conservation. He has received early support from National Geographic.

WATCH: Lincoln Brower helps explain the perilous decline of the Monarch butterfly in this video on how to help restore their population.

Peter Knights (WildAid) Founder of WildAid, which works to reduce demand for endangered species products, particularly in Asia. WildAid has received support from National Geographic.  

Laurie Marker (Cheetah Conservation Fund) Founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, which is working to save the imperiled big cat. She has received funding from National Geographic.

Alan Rabinowitz (Panthera) One of the world’s leading advocates for wild cats, Rabinowitz has received funding from National Geographic.

Carl Safina (Blue Ocean Institute) The marine biologist and former fisherman is a leading advocate and author who has helped raise awareness about threats to the global ocean. Safina has written stories for National Geographic magazine and blogs regularly for Ocean Views.

Joel D. Sartore (National Geographic magazine) National Geographic photojournalist who raises awareness about animal conservation around the world.  Co-founder of The Grassland Foundation and creator of the Photo Ark project, which seeks to document the world’s rarest animals.

Fernando Trujillo (Foundation Omacha) Conservationist working on behalf of South America’s river dolphins in the Amazon and Orinoco basins. He has received support from National Geographic.

WATCH: National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore captures images of the rarest of animals.

Amanda Vincent (The University of British Columbia) The first person to study seahorses underwater, Vincent started Project Seahorse to bolster conservation of these rare fish. She has received support from National Geographic.

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