SARASOTA — Dr. Randall Wells, leader of the longest-running study of a wild dolphin population, has been nominated for the Indianapolis Prize — the world’s top award for animal conservation. Wells, who has dedicated his life to studying dolphins, is among 39 conservation all-stars nominated, including anthropologist Jane Goodall and ocean conservation leader Carl Safina.
Dr. Randall Wells
Photo credit: Sarasota Dolphin Research Program
Wells is director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, a collaboration between the Chicago Zoological Society and Mote Marine Laboratory which has studied the dolphins of Sarasota Bay since the program began at Mote in 1970.
Wells and his team of researchers have collected decades of data on many aspects of dolphin biology, including health, behavior, genetics, environmental change and adverse interactions with humans. Results inform other scientific studies along with policy decisions that help protect marine animals.
The program is unique as nowhere else in the world can researchers work with a group of wild dolphins in their natural habitat where the medical and behavioral history of each dolphin is so well known.
Wells has studied Sarasota Bay’s dolphins since high school, when he helped program founder Blair Irvine begin a dolphin-tagging study in Sarasota Bay. Since then he has studied marine mammals around the globe, has led or co-led more than 170 marine mammal research projects and has served as president of the international Society for Marine Mammalogy, chairman of the Atlantic Scientific Review Group, chairman of NOAA’s Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events, and in numerous other science and conservation leadership roles.
Six finalists will be revealed in spring 2014, and the winner will be announced in mid-2014 and honored at the next Indianapolis Prize Gala to be held Sept. 27, 2014, in Indianapolis. The winner will receive $250,000 and the five other finalists will each receive $10,000.