An Interview with Dr Amanda Vincent, winner of the Indianapolis Prize, 2020
Dr Amanda Vincent has been a driving force for ocean conservation for more than three decades, anchored in her speciality of seahorses. She was the first person to study these extraordinary animals underwater and in 1996 she co-founded Project Seahorse, a conservation organisation that works to save seahorses by finding solutions for coastal marine ecosystems. This year Amanda – who still directs Project Seahorse – won the world’s most prestigious award in animal conservation, the Indianapolis Prize, becoming the first person to win the award for ocean conservation.
Congratulations on becoming the first conservationist focusing on life in the ocean to win the world’s most prestigious environmental prize! What does this prize mean to you and the Project Seahorse team?
It’s huge on many levels. As the top prize in the world for animal conservation, it’s enormously valuable as a seal of approval. People have to sit up and take notice if we’ve got the Indianapolis Prize in our pocket, so that gives us a platform to talk about critical issues. And then of course it brings the funding, which comes to me personally. I have to decide what to do with it, which is a nice challenge!
But more than that it brings a sense of pride and validation for what we are doing. We’re a tiny band of people – no more than six professional people at any given moment – supplemented by lots of students, volunteers, partners and collaborators, but we’ve always punched far above our weight in terms of funding and capacity. I also want to pay special tribute to Heather Koldewey, who co-founded Project Seahorse, and to Sarah Foster, who joined us 20 years ago. These two inspirational friends have made all the difference to our success and my enjoyment.
Thorny Seahorse (Hippocampus histrix). Image © Project Seahorse
Seahorses are iconic, extraordinary creatures, yet what lies beneath the surface of the waves often seems to be ignored when people talk about wildlife. Why do you think that is?
Try a little experiment: close your eyes and think about the ocean. Chances are you’ll think about waves lapping on a shore, but that’s just like thinking of the wind whistling through the very tops of the trees in the rainforest. Trying to convey to people that we have canyons and forests and jungles and prairies and plateaus and all their ab