UM Professor Named Finalist for Most Prestigious Animal Conservation Prize

January 30, 2014

MISSOULA – University of Montana wildlife conservation Professor and John J. Craighead Chair Joel Berger has been named a finalist for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation.

Selected from 39 nominees, Berger is one of six scientists in the running for the $250,000 prize, which recognizes outstanding achievements on behalf of the world’s most endangered species.berger

“I’m stunned to be considered along with these distinguished conservation scientists for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize,” Berger said. “It’s obviously great to receive recognition, but it’s not the acknowledgement that matters. In the end, it’s about what is achieved that counts.”

Berger has addressed questions about how large iconic mammals survive and how to improve their conservation in natural systems in geographies as different as Asia, Africa and North America. The broad scope of his work includes social behavior and ecology of wild horses; behavioral and demographic consequences of horn removal in African rhinos; effects of predator reintroduction on prey species and on the structure of vertebrate communities; long-distance migration and how to protect migration corridors; effects of climate change in the Arctic on demography and persistence of musk oxen; and conservation of large mammals in Bhutan, Tibet and Mongolia.

As a senior scientist in the Wildlife Conservation Society, Berger led the creation of America’s first federally sanctioned wildlife migration corridor, the Path of the Pronghorn, in Wyoming's Yellowstone Ecosystem. Berger achieved this victory by working with stakeholders, including ranchers, oil and gas companies, local county officials, Wyoming’s governor and federal agencies.

“Joel and the other finalists are among the most important wildlife conservationists working in the field today,” said Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, which initiated the Indianapolis Prize as part of its core mission. “They are achieving real victories in saving animal species, creating hope and outlining a path for generations of conservationists around the world to follow.”

The winner of the Indianapolis Prize will receive an unrestricted $250,000 cash award and the Lilly Medal, an original work of art that signifies the winner's contributions to conserving some of the world’s most threatened animals. The remaining five finalists each will receive $10,000. The winner will be announced mid-2014 and honored at the Indianapolis Prize Gala in September in Indianapolis. 

For more information call Berger at 208-351-5124 or email


Photo: UM Professor and Wildlife Conservation Society Biologist Joel Berger, pictured in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, is a finalist for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation. (Photo courtesy of Joel Berger)




Contact: Joel Berger, John J. Craighead Chair and professor, UM Wildlife Biology Program, 208-351-5124,