Dr. Ceballos is a major figure in global conservation science, carrying out strenuous field work testing ideas in countryside biogeography and doing important theoretical/practical work on the global distributions of mammals and their significance for mammal conservation as well as on global rates of extinction as humanity triggers the sixth great extinction event. Ceballos also has been responsible for enormous direct contributions to the preservation of the biodiversity of Mexico -- a global "hotspot." On top of that he has written a series of important books on Latin American conservation. His theoretical work on biogeographic patterns resulted in the first evaluation ever of the conservation status of a whole class (the mammals) at a global scale. The work has raised consciousness of the need to consider not only the problem of species extinction, but of population extinctions, as a more immediate and measurable threat to biodiversity. Closely related, but applied at the national scale in Mexico, he is the first and only person to have assessed the effectiveness of the protected areas of Mexico to maintain populations of all terrestrial vertebrate species, using complementarity analysis.
Professor Ceballos work has been diverse, and its impact clear. He started the Long Term Ecological Research Network Chapter in Mexico, and has the longest (22 years) population and community ecology study of small mammals in the Neotropics. He proposed, for the first time, that prairie dogs were keystone species, which now is a well accepted fact and is being used as one of the main arguments for the conservation of prairie dogs and associated species in North America. He has carried out the longest and more complete study on jaguars, and recently he finished the first jaguar census at a National scale, showing that there are roughly 4200 jaguars in Mexico. This pioneering work is leading to implement conservation actions to save this species from extinction.
Professor Ceballos work has have a profound impact on the conservation of endangered species and protected areas in Mexico. He proposed the first Mexican endangered species act, that includes roughly 4000 species of plants and animals in the country. This is the most important environmental legislation providing protection to those species in Mexico. In addition, he has tiredly proposed the establishment and better management of Mexican protected areas. He has been personally proposed to the government and seen through to establishment more than 20 protected areas such as the Cuixmala – Chamela, Janos, and Calakmul biosphere reserves. Those protected areas cover almost 2% of the Mexican land territory and protect thousands of plants and animals, including around 15% of all endangered species. No other Mexican scientist – perhaps no other individual scientist in the world -- has accomplished so much in hands-on conservation.
The Indianapolis Prize is given every other year to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to conservation efforts involving a single animal species or multiple species. It is frequently referred to as the world's leading award for animal conservation by members of the professional wildlife conservation community. Dr. Ceballos was a Top 6 Finalist for his championing work on jaguars in Mexico, conducting the first country-level jaguar census and the most comprehensive jaguar study to date.