Sweet Briar College research professor Lincoln Brower has been nominated for a $250,000 conservation award for his work on monarch butterflies.
The Nelson County resident is among 28 nominees from around the world in the running for the prize, which was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo in 2006. It is given every other year.
“The 2016 Indianapolis Prize Nominees represent many of the most significant and accomplished wildlife conservationists in the field today,” Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, said in a news release.
“They are protecting species and creating successful conservation methods that ensure future generations will live in a flourishing and sustainable world. We applaud their accomplishments and encourage individuals, organizations, companies, and governments to join them in advancing animal conservation.”
The 2014 winner, Patricia Wright, discovered a new species, the golden bamboo lemur, in 1986, and then the next year rediscovered the greater bamboo lemur, not seen in Madagascar in more than half a decade.
She went on to help push the Malagasy government to establish the Ranomafana National Park in 1991, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The prize committee cited Brower for his dedication to researching the “endangered biological phenomena and ecosystems” of monarch butterflies. Committee members point to his research on overwintering, mimicry, chemical ecology and migration biology, as well as “field work throughout the species migratory routes, including pioneering work in the discovery and protection of nesting grounds in Central Mexico.”
Last summer, Brower took a political stand in favor of Monarch Conservation in the United States, joining with The Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety and the Xerces Society to file the first petition to have the monarch listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Brower is a vocal critic of the use of powerful herbicides together with monoculture farming, a combination he said is eliminating milkweed from wide swaths of the Midwest and contributing to declining numbers of monarchs.
The agency will conduct a status review of the monarch, an early step in what’s often a long process aimed at determining whether a species should be listed. Technically, the review covers North American monarch sub-species, Danaus plexippus plexippus.
On Aug. 20, Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe announced his agency is dedicating $4 million per year during the next five years to support monarchs.
The money is a follow-up to a previously announced White House push to revive the population of pollinators with habitat restoration and other means. The money will be shared with partners to conserve monarch breeding and migration habitat in priority areas throughout the country. Seeding native milkweed along the prairie corridor that follows Interstate 35 from Duluth, Minnesota, to Texas will be part of the effort.
A winner and finalists for the Indianapolis Prize will be announced in early 2016.
Interviewed briefly on Sweet Briar’s campus Monday, Brower said for him, the importance of being nominated for such an award would be attracting more attention to the future survival of the monarch migration.
“Anything to get the monarch on the front page,” he said.
According to information from Sweet Briar College, Brower’s past awards include the University of Missouri-St. Louis Harris Center Conservation Action Prize, the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale University, the Medal for Zoology from the Linnean Society of London, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Animal Behavior Society and the Royal Entomological Society of London Marsh Award.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.