Limited Topical Workshops Abstracts

Presenting At Conference: A How -To Guide from your Professional Development Committee 

Professional Development Committee Members
Monday, August 19th, 1:30pm – 3:30pm


Did you know that the majority of conference program is created by you, the membership? From Topical Workshops, to Papers, to Posters, our conference material is submitted and presented by you, the membership. Join your Professional Development Committee as we take you thru your conference program and answer your questions about how to apply and present at your National Conference.

Safety PCC Pull-out: Tabletop for Zoo Emergency Event

Kelly Murphy, AAZK, Safety Committee – Chair; Toby Barker, Director of Safety and Security, Indianapolis Zoo; Amy Stanley, Security Manager, Indianapolis Zoo; Paul Hicks, Safety Manager, Indianapolis Zoo; Dave Ruhl, Chief Operating Officer, Riverbanks Zoo
Monday August 19th, 4pm-6pm


“The tabletop exercise is a discussion-based session where the participants will examine a series of emergency scenarios that can and have occurred in zoological institutions. Participants will be guided through an informal discussion of Incident Command Systems (ICS) and how the structure is utilized in an emergency. Incident Command is the gold standard for coordinating emergency response for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services and is widely utilized in the zoological sector. 

Participants will role-play and discuss how they would respond to a series of emergency scenarios. The facilitators bring decades worth of experience managing and coordinating emergency preparedness and that expertise will give the participating members some new perspectives on the varied roles they play in emergency response. The facilitator’s role in the discussion is to not only present the scenarios, but encourage the participants to step beyond what their immediate role is in an emergency response.  Participants will be challenged to consider the responsibilities of their facilities’ management teams during and after an emergency utilizing an ICS model.

Teamwork will be encouraged while replicating the processes and procedures that are used at many facilities in a series of hypothetical emergency situations. The participants will leave the workshop better prepared to utilize an ICS for a variety of emergency scenarios that the zoological community can face. Tools taken from this workshop could be used for facility-wide discussions and improvements as well as modified for use within specific areas, units, or exhibits.  Attendees will be furnished with information and materials that they can share with their own facilities and improve facility preparedness. The exercises will expose participants to Incident Command and better prepare them for any future emergencies and provide them with confidence to act appropriately in the case of future emergencies.”

Life Support Systems Made Simple: An Introduction to the Beast in the Basement

Jade Block, Aquatic Exhibits International; Adrian Megay and Tim Graybeal, RK2 Systems; Keith Uyekawa, Asahi America; John Overby, Ozone Water Systems; AALSO (Aquatic Animal Life Support Operators)
Tuesday August 20th, 1:30-3:30pm


“Aquatic Exhibits International is proposing a workshop for beginning life support systems skills, to benefit keeper understanding and promote the use of water features to advance animal enrichment in the developing zoo world.

In a survey to terrestrial animal keepers around the world, 85.9% of respondents described their comfort and competency with life support systems as a grade of C or lower.

In a field of biologists, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Understanding the reproductive biology of polar bears, the nutritional needs of sea otters, or the social dynamics of flamingos doesn’t include a manual on sizing pumps. Yet these pumps (and other life support equipment) are a major component for the aquatic habitats that are vital to animal health.

Too often, the experts we consult for life support systems don’t make a lot of sense to those that are new at operating. We hope to break down these complexities, share our understanding, and help keepers gain confidence in their knowledge.

Topics covered will involve the function of equipment, including foam fractionators, ozonators, heat exchangers, uv sterilizers, and sand and drum filters, along with basic life support design, water quality, turnover, and troubleshooting.

Additionally, Aquatic Exhibits International intends to extend a sponsorship for an attendee of this workshop to attend AALSO in 2020 to become certified in life support operations and/or water quality testing.”

Diverse Animal Care Staff- Conversations with an Endangered Species  

Linda Castenada, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens; Justin Birkhoff – Cheetah Conservation Fund
Thursday August 22nd, 1:30-3:30pm


“Diversity and inclusion are important topics in all workplace environments, and the zoo world is no exception. Within the zoo community we commonly explore visitor demographics but how often do we turn the lens on ourselves to examine the demographics of our staff and in particular the staff that makes up animal care? As it stands the current state of zoological staff demographics do not reflect the current American population. Diversity is critical for innovation, productivity and profit so why is there a diversity gap in the animal care field? What factors and biases exist that discourage minorities to enter the animal care field and how do we start to remove these barriers for the animal care staff of the future?

The scope of this workshop will focus on diversity in animal care staff. A panel discussion from current and former animal care staff with diverse backgrounds will share personal stories, discuss hurdles and engage the audience in strategies to empower all animal care staff to move towards a more diverse workforce. Topics of focus will include how to create a culture of inclusion through self-awareness, shifting behavioral tendencies and learning strategies to act as allies. Audience participation is a must. Attendees will contribute to a constructive dialogue, share their personal challenges and successes in the animal care field. Attendees will leave with increased insight into the varied experiences and obstacles faced by all animal care staff.”

Running a Small Zoo with Limited Resources

Tori Spinoso, Ochsner Park Zoo
Thursday August 22nd, 4-6pm


“The beavers and monkeys need browse…call horticulture. The locks aren’t working properly… Maintenance. You need advice on diets… the commissary. Education department can you accomplish this program for us this summer?

Yes, many larger zoos may have these departments who can offer this assistance when the keepers, curators, and directors call. So, how do small zoos with very limited personnel and resources manage to operate?  With only 3.5 acres, two full-time and one half-time position we have become very resourceful while creating a very popular, well respected zoo with many annual programs, events, educational camps, and keeper/visitor interactions. We’ve accomplished many animal acquisitions, created new exhibits, maintained older buildings, and started an education progtam all while using and maintaining high standards.

Let’s get together and have a round table  discussion on what has worked (and what has become a learning experience) at our small facilities with limited staff and resources.”