Authored by Amanda Newsom
We are proud to announce that our CEO, Dr. Chris Jenkins, has been selected as a nominee for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize. Created by the Indianapolis Zoo in 2006, the Indianapolis Prize has garnered international precedence and aims to shine light on conservationists who are making extraordinary contributions in their fields.
This highly prestigious prize is awarded every other year, making this the sixth award in its history—the selection process for the 2016 winner is currently in progress. Jenkins was also chosen as a nominee for the 2014 award alongside renowned conservationists such as Jane Goodall and Rodney Jackson. Past winners have been prominent conservationists working with lemurs, elephants, polar bears, cranes and other notable mammals. We at The Orianne Society are pleased that Jenkins’ work to conserve reptiles and amphibians—an underrepresented group of imperiled animals—has been recognized for a second time for the Indianapolis Prize.
When asked about his nomination for the Indianapolis Prize, Jenkins said, “It is an incredible honor to be considered amongst the list of conservationists nominated for the Indianapolis Prize. My hopes are that my nomination can serve to bring more awareness to reptiles and amphibians as some of the most endangered and maligned species in the world.”
Jenkins began his conservation career as a wildlife biology undergraduate student where he had a vision of working with large mammals like big cats and bears. But on one of his first summer internships, Jenkins worked with turtles in the field and never looked back. After that project, he found himself focused on looking for turtles or frogs instead of bears. He went on to receive his master’s degree in wildlife conservation and a doctoral degree in biological sciences, and he planned to take the track of academia from there. During his postdoctoral work, he joined the team at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) working with various species. He worked on projects within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and with the Department of Energy. During his time with WCS, he met Dr. Thomas Kaplan.
Jenkins joined Tom Kaplan in 2008 to create a foundation focused on conserving Eastern Indigo Snakes, and The Orianne Society was formed. Though the organization’s flagship species was the Indigo, Jenkins has always had a vision of developing The Orianne Society into the world’s foremost organization dedicated to conserving reptiles and amphibians. Since 2008, he has helped transition the organization from a private operating foundation focused on one species to a public charity with four initiatives focused on various landscapes and species. With his nomination for the Indianapolis Prize, we think he is well on his way to creating a lasting legacy for their conservation.
Because reptiles and amphibians aren’t seen in the same light as other species, Jenkins hopes that his nomination for the Indianapolis Prize will lead to increased awareness about their conservation needs. It helps to shine the spotlight not only on these animals, but also on the work we are doing here at The Orianne Society. The conservation of these animals is currently lagging far behind other animal species in relation to the exposure within the scientific and public community, so a win would only expand that spotlight more quickly worldwide to be able to do the most we can with our conservation efforts. As for the significant prize award, Jenkins says that if he is chosen as the 2016 winner, he looks forward to contributing a large portion of the award to The Orianne Society.