Open Workshops Abstracts

 AAZK Chapters and Host Institutions Working Together to Drive Conservation Efforts

AAZK Resource Committee
Tuesday August 20th, 4pm-6pm


As an African proverb states, if you want to go fast go alone; if you want to go far, go together. 

Building a strong relationship with an AAZK Chapter’s host institution isn’t always easy and can present different challenges along the way. However, institutions and chapters can establish ways to support each other allowing both to drive conservation efforts further.   Additionally chapters can expand to work with members from several different types of institutions. 

Many established chapters and leaders within the organization have developed tips and practices throughout the years that have allowed them to succeed in forming strong relationships with their host institution and others around them.  This workshop would act as a guided round table that will highlight how chapter leaders can provide others with advice about working with institutions, communication tips, fundraising suggestions, and professional support.    This workshop will also allow for brainstorming and inter-chapter support when the most chapter leaders are together in one space. 

This proposal intends to reinstate an open workshop, aimed at the creation of partnerships between past and current chapter leaders and to create a place for leaders to establish connections. This workshop will focus on tips for creating a balance of meeting a chapters needs while supporting a host institution.  By working together with host institutions, chapters can expand their non-profit fundraisers, promote the work of keepers and can drive animal conservation efforts further.

Women in Leadership, 2019

Kelly Murphy,North Carolina Zoo; Courtney Janney, Curator of Large Mammals, Memphis Zoo; Debra Dial, Assistant Curator of Australia and Rain Forest, National Aquarium; Amber Eagleson, Area Curator- African Journey and Indonesian Rain Forest, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Thursday August 22nd, 4pm-6pm


Each of the panelists will give a brief overview introduction of their personal leadership path and style before opening the floor for a larger guided discussion about being a female leader in the zoological industry. The discussion will focus several key areas:

  • How our everyday lives and careers have affected the way we approach marriage and motherhood, and the struggle to balance work and life.
  • Ways that attendees can identify a mentoring within their facility as well as the best approach to finding external mentoring opportunities.
  • Encourage attendees to become mentors to women who are junior staff and/or interns/volunteers and the benefits of exemplifying “Women in Leadership” at their facility.
  • Developing your own leadership skills in your current facility and strategies for taking your leadership skills and opportunities into new roles.
  • A special subsection that looks at applying behavior analysis to children with autism.

The panelists see this discussion as an opportunity to inspire the participants to examine their current role within their facility and their career trajectories. Participants will leave with the skills and confidence to seek out leadership opportunities that will positively impact their career development and give them the confidence to pursue advancement opportunities in the future. The panel will reinforce the value of finding a mentor to guide them through their career development while also encouraging them to provide similar guidance to women who are early animal care professionals.

Toastmasters: Improve Your Communication and Leadership Skills

PJ Beaven, ZooFit
Tuesday August 20th, 1:30-3:30pm


Speaking skills improves more than our presentations. It helps all areas in our life. From exceptional interviews to standing out as a competent leader, Toastmasters helps you gain the confidence and skills to be a better communicator all around.

Improving our public speaking has multiple applications. Giving professional presentations and feeling comfortable in high stress situations are highly sought after strengths. Learn how to help yourself and your colleagues be the best versions of yourselves through constructive feedback and practice.

Toastmasters is an organization specifically designed to help anyone and everyone meet their goals, and emerge as leaders in their communities. Toastmasters gain the knowledge to speak in impromptu settings, present themselves in a professional manner, and be overall efficient orators.

Become aware of crutch words such as “um”, “ah”, “like”, or “you know”.

Keep presentations within time limits for your busy schedule.

Learn to speak to your audience.

Give and receive effective constructive feedback.

Take the tools back to your organization and start your own supportive and progressive Toastmasters meeting. Toastmasters is a fun and safe place to practice these skills. Become a competent communicator, and a stand-out leader. Change your life through effective public-speaking, and advance your career by stepping into the spotlight and shine like never before.

Zoos: Stakeholders in Holistic Conservation

Brian Badger, Cheetah Conservation Fund
Thursday August 22nd, 1:30-3:30pm


Holistic conservation considers the entire ecosystem including people.  Habitat, culture, community, history, economy, and education are all considered. Successful conservation is diverse and brings many skills, projects, disciplines, initiatives, people, aims and goals into a cohesive achievable strategy for the survival of people, wildlife, and the environment. It is by including all stakeholders that saving imperiled species becomes holistic and sustainable. 

Zoos and aquariums are a long-standing stakeholder in conservation, whose education and expertise connects the public to field conservation. These facilities and the field conservation organizations they work with rely on each other to support each other’s work. By telling each other’s story they can increase their impact, gain credibility with their audience, and create sustainable change.

Brian Badger, Cheetah Conservation Fund’s Director of Conservation and Outreach, will share his experience from the field and working at zoos to demonstrate the interdependence of zoos and field conservation projects.  Zoo employees have the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life and encourage them to use their skills, knowledge, and passion for conservation efforts.  

Participants will engage in roundtable discussions and share ideas on how to increase their impact on field projects, diversify their storytelling and create credibility for zoos as conservation organizations. Additionally, participants will develop a blueprint to increase their zoo’s level of participation in conservation.

The Workshop can be open to all levels including beginners, advanced. docents, educators and volunteers.

Inspiring Conservation Actions Through Natural Behaviors

Meghan Price, Megan Wright, Thea Itchells, Amanda Ista, and Diana Cartier, AAZK Behavioral Husbandry Committee 
 Monday August 19th, 1:30-3:30pm


As keepers, we understand the importance of creating connections between our animals and guests. These connections empower our guests to actively conserve wildlife and wild places. This may seem like a huge challenge to tackle, but a little help from the animals in our care paired with inspirational messaging in a demonstration or animal encounter, can make all the difference.

Our animals have a job to do, getting people to fall in love with them by making a connection. But keepers have the job of creating opportunities for those connections to take hold. Keepers can use an animal’s natural behaviors to tell a conservation story that will inspire guests to take action once they leave a facility. This workshop will provide tools and instructions on how to train and incorporate those natural behaviors into animal demonstrations, keeper talks and guest encounters. We will also discuss how to take your visitor interactions to the next level and become the best story tellers for our animals.

Join the Race for Conservation – Become a Species Champion

Amanda Ista, Milwaukee County Zoo; Shannon Irmscher, Mesker Park Zoo Botanic Garden; John Andrews, AZA Population Management Center at Lincoln Park Zoo, Sarah Duncan, Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden.
Monday August 19th, 4-6pm


Keepers are an integral piece of the puzzle that makes cooperative population management programs successful.  Whether it be supervising introductions, raising young, sharing husbandry expertise or training for reproductive procedures, keepers play a direct role in ensuring that the goal of sustainable populations is achieved.  Many keepers are also involved with population management extending beyond their own facility.  Keepers filling roles of Species Survival Plan (SSP) Coordinators, Studbook Keepers or other advisory roles can participate in management and conservation that can affect the whole species (in zoos and in the wild).

In this workshop, we will explore ways keepers can become more involved in population management programs from helping a specific Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) to managing your own SSPs.  Keepers who are currently Program Managers will guide attendees through what it takes to be a successful program manager, how to get involved with animal programs on various levels and demonstrate some great conservation actions happening in the community from the efforts of SSP Coordinators.