Greg Lipps receives Columbus Zoo’s Commitment to Conservation Award

Greg Lipps takes a close look at a hellbender salamander.

COLUMBUS—The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has named Greg Lipps of The Ohio State University as recipient of its 2023 Commitment to Conservation Award.

Lipps, a leader in Ohio amphibian and reptile conservation in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Resources (CFAES), understands the vital role zoos play in conservation. He also serves as the amphibian & reptile conservation coordinator in the Ohio Biodiversity Conservation Partnership, a long-term relationship between Ohio State and the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The professional herpetologist is the sixth recipient of the Commitment to Conservation Award which recognizes and rewards global conservation heroes who have made a measureable impact on wildlife conservation, and honors the lifetime achievements and dedication of field partners who have shared a long-term working relationship with the Columbus Zoo.

Established in 2011, this biennial honor includes a $50,000 grant, funded by Kim and Steve Germain of New Albany, Ohio, to support the recipients’ conservation work.

Lipps has led and continues to lead herpetological conservation projects with the participation of staff from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds. The Zoo and Wilds’ involvement in hellbender salamander, plains garter snake, and Massasauga rattlesnake is largely due to his efforts.

Lipps created the Ohio Hellbender Partnership and led the effort to develop the Captina Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust in Belmont County, Ohio, that focuses on conserving and protecting Captina Creek and regional watersheds. The conservancy now has 1,897 acres under a combination of conservation easement, stewardship, and ownership.

He was also an editor and contributing author to the Amphibians of Ohio (2013) and Reptiles of Ohio (2021) books and was the 2017 recipient of the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation award for excellence in herpetofaunal conservation.

“Greg is the authority when it comes to hellbenders and uses his position and expertise to educate others to the importance of these state-endangered species. He is the visionary behind the Ohio Hellbender Partnership and the driving force behind the development of the Captina Conservancy, a remarkable nonprofit land trust in Belmont County, Ohio,” said Tom Schmid, president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo. “Greg's profound commitment, and heartfelt passion resonate perfectly with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's mission in wildlife conservation. His life work is why we’re immensely proud to honor him with the Columbus Zoo's 2022 Commitment to Conservation Award.

Since 2008, the Columbus Zoo Conservation Fund has supported Lipps with $27,000. These funds supported hellbender research, producing artificial nest boxes for hellbenders, and sponsoring Ohio reptile and amphibian conferences.

“It's a great honor to be recognized by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. For nearly two decades, I've been fortunate to count the zoo as a vital partner in our efforts to conserve Ohio's amphibians, reptiles, and their habitats,” Lipps said. “The zoo has been instrumental in head-start programs for the Eastern hellbender and Plains gartersnake, both endangered species in Ohio that are less likely to be extirpated due in part to the zoo's efforts. I'm excited to apply this award towards our ongoing conservation work in Ohio and look forward to further collaboration with the Columbus Zoo.” 

Lipps will be recognized at the zoo’s 2023 fundraiser event, Wine for Wildlife, on Saturday, July 15. Proceeds from this event will support the construction of the zoo’s new North America Trek, which will showcase native Ohio wildlife, including the partnerships shared by the Zoo, The Wilds, and Lipps.

Read more about Lipps' hellbender work here. For additional updates about the Columbus Zoo, events, and more, follow the Zoo’s social media accounts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, and visit


Sherrie R. Whaley
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Nicolle Gómez Racey