Associate Professor Marcella Kelly received the Global Conservation Leader Award from the Philadelphia Zoo at the zoo’s fourth annual Global Conservation Gala on Nov. 14. This year’s gala served to spotlight issues facing big cats with an emphasis on one key threat — habitat loss due to deforestation caused by the expansion of nonsustainable palm oil plantations — and launched 2014 as the zoo’s “Year of the Big Cat.”

The award recognizes Kelly for her potential to create a global impact on wildlife preservation through her work with big cats. The zoo will provide $20,000 each year for five years to support her global cat conservation projects. An additional $5,000 each year will enable students in the Zoo Champions for Restoring Endangered Wildlife program to join Kelly on domestic and international cat conservation projects.

“I am so honored by this award recognizing my wildcat work and so thankful for the tremendous support that the Philadelphia Zoo has provided,” Kelly told the gala audience. “Their exceptional support has enabled wildcat research and makes me optimistic that the world’s wildcat population will survive, especially in the case of tigers, which are the most endangered.”

“The college is very proud of Marcella’s accomplish- ments and her ongoing work with big cats around the world,” said Dean Paul Winistorfer. “Her stellar research and conservation passion are making a difference, especially in regards to keeping the tiger population from extinction. Her efforts epitomize what our college is all about — advancing the science of sustainability.”