Stony Brook University graduate student Fanny M. Cornejo has been named the winner of the newly created “Emerging Conservationist Award” presented by the Indianapolis Prize. The award recognizes professional wildlife conservationists, biologists and scientists under 40 years of age who are working to make strides in saving animal species from extinction.
Cornejo is a Peruvian primatologist, anthropologist and executive 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. She was selected from among 10 finalists and will receive $50,000 provided by the Kobe Foundation to continue Yunkawasi’s conservation work.
Cornejo has dedicated more than 15 years to the conservation and research of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey, a primate species that only inhabits the montane forests of Peru and is critically endangered due to human unsustainable activities that have generated the loss of more than 80 percent of its population. She will be formally recognized as the 2023 Emerging Conservationist at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. in downtown Indianapolis on Sept. 30, 2023.
“I am very honored and grateful for this recognition that is not only for me, but also for my entire team, the people we work with, our partners in local communities, governments and our donors,” Cornejo said. “Undoubtedly, being the first winner of the Emerging Conservationist Award and from an organization as important as the Indianapolis Prize is a great recognition for our work in Peru.”
Cornejo is a member of the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences (IDPAS) at Stony Brook University and works in the Pat Wright Lab, where she focuses on the study of primates and big mammals, focusing on diversity, ecological studies as well as conservation activities to protect forests and improve the livelihoods of local and indigenous communities. Cornejo has also conducted research on the black and white ruffed lemurs in Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar. Her graduate mentors are Distinguished Service Professor and Herrnstein Professor of Conservation Biology Patricia C. Wright — who won the Indianapolis Prize in 2014 — and Liliana Dávalos, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution.
“Fanny lives and breathes conservation. Her energy, her motivation and her success are part of her very being,” said Wright. “What a joy to hear that her talents and hard work have been recognized with this inaugural Emerging Conservationist Prize. What an honor for Stony Brook and an honor for Peru!”
“Fanny was always a stand-out and it’s fantastic, but not surprising, that her talents and contributions continue to go above and beyond and to be recognized,” said Endowed Chair for Nature and Humanity Carl Safina.
“Fanny is leading the next generation of conservationists to protect nature and inspire people to care for our world,” said Indianapolis Zoological Society President and CEO Dr. Rob Shumaker. “The depth of accomplishments set her apart from the other nominees. I can’t wait to see the impact of her career in conservation.”
The Emerging Conservationist finalists were selected through a two-stage selection process, where a review committee evaluated and narrowed the application pool to 10 finalists. Those finalists were then evaluated by a selection committee who chose Cornejo the winner.
The Indianapolis Prize recognizes the world’s leading conservationists whose work provides future generations with replicable and actionable conservation practices. The finalists of the Emerging Conservationists represent the people we can rely on to save species worldwide. Stony Brook University professor Russ Mittermeier joined Wright as an Indianapolis Prize winner in 2018.