2017 Open Topical Workshops

The six workshops below will be offered as Open Topical Workshops at the 2017 AAZK Conference. No pre-registration is required for these workshops.

Pullout Workshop for “Keeper Role in Research” Professional Certificate Course: Role of Endocrinology Research in Zoo Animal Care and Management
Monday, August 28 (1-3:00 PM)
Ballroom 1

First Hour:

  • Endocrinology Research Laboratory, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
    • Dr. Janine L. Brown – Senior Reproductive Physiologist
    • Dr. Katie L. Edwards – Post-doctoral Fellow
    • Dr. Natalia A. Prado – Post-doctoral Fellow

Second Hour:

  • Reptiles, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
    • Alan Peters – Curator of Herpetology
    • Lauren Augustine – Animal Keeper
  • Birds, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
    • Sara Hallager – Curator of Birds
    • Kathleen Brader – Animal Keeper
    • Debra Talbott – Animal Keeper
  • Bird Unit, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
    • Wesley Bailey – Animal Keeper
  • Primates, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
    • Meredith Bastian – Curator of Primates
    • David Glendinning – Intern
  • Great Cats, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
    • Craig Saffoe – Curator of Great Cats
    • Sara Colandrea – Animal Keeper

Workshop Abstract
Wildlife endocrinology is an increasingly important conservation tool that can help identify what factors are important for the health, reproduction and welfare of captive and wild populations of endangered species. In zoos, animals are exposed to a variety of conditions that may or may not reflect how they live in nature. Thus, some people question how well we are meeting their physical and psychological needs. The purpose of this workshop is to show how collaborations between animal care and research staff not only generate new knowledge about species biology, but also can provide important information to guide animal management decisions. In the first hour, we will discuss how hormones can be measured in a variety of sample types, including serum, feces, urine, hair and saliva, and how analyses have benefited species conservation by addressing questions related to disciplines of behavior, reproductive biology, health and stress management. We will cover topics such as, basic concepts of endocrinology, general methods and experimental design, and highlight some of the most common pitfalls when designing endocrine research projects in a zoo setting. Animal care staff from the National Zoo and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) will then give short presentations on current work being done in collaboration with SCBI Endocrine Research Laboratory staff, including describing what motivated them to start their project, how research questions were developed, what samples were collected, what challenges they have encountered, and ultimately what they hope to gain from the research.

Developing an Open Forum for Zoological Ethics at Your Institution
Monday, August 28 (3:30-5:30 PM)
Ballroom 1

Chelsea Grubb, Animal Keeper, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Hilary Colton, Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Workshop Abstract
The zoological industry is often faced with challenging, multifaceted ethical issues that can have an array of effects on institutional goals and public interactions. It is critical that animal care professionals have not only a solid awareness of these topics but also the opportunity to learn and openly talk about them. Hearing all sides of an issue and discussions among peers facilitates the development of thoroughly informed opinions. At the National Zoo, keepers have developed a forum for ethical review of industry “hot topics.” The intent behind this initiative is to serve as a continuing professional development program focused on gathering and sharing multiple perspectives on issues within the profession. Staff members ranging from intern level to director from every department are invited to participate in these events to allow for a comprehensive discussion. These sessions have been well-received by attendees because staff from all backgrounds are on an equal playing field. This forum is especially beneficial for Animal Care staff as they interact with the public on a frequent basis and are often seen as the unofficial face of the zoo.
This workshop will facilitate the creation of a similar discussion forum by assisting keepers with determining what questions to pose, guiding research on all aspects of a topic, how best to present the topics and troubleshooting potential disagreements.

How AAZK Professionals Can Get Involved in SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction
Tuesday, August 29 (1-3:00 PM)
Ballroom 1


  • Rob Vernon, Senior VP, External Affairs at Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • Amy Rutherford, Director, Education and Public Engagement at Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • Debborah Luke, Ph.D., Senior VP, Conservation and Science at Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • Sandra Elvin, Ph.D., Director of Conservation Planning at Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • Dave Bader, Director of Education, Aquarium of the Pacific and Coordinator, Public Engagement project, SAFE Vaquita Conservation Action Plan
  • Kevin Graham, Wilds of Africa bird supervisor, Dallas Zoo, and Coordinator, Artificial Next Box Development project, SAFE African Penguin Conservation Action Plan
  • TBD, National Sharks Campaign, Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Additional presenters will be added

Workshop Abstract
For decades, conservation organizations around the world, including Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredited facilities, have been working to protect animals and habitats. Still, animals that we have the ability to save continue to decline and disappear. With so many species at risk, a new approach to conservation is needed. AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction was created to do exactly this — to harness the collective power of AZA and its members to lessen species decline around the world in a more impactful way. And to do so strategically — moving from working on many smaller projects, to large and coordinated efforts. SAFE takes a long-game approach to conservation, knowing that each year the activities enacted by SAFE will build on those in the years before. There are many opportunities for animal care professionals to become involved in SAFE. From serving as project coordinators for the many Conservation Action Plans for the 10 SAFE Signature Species to sharing SAFE information with the public, this Open Topical Workshop will present information on SAFE and explore the many ways AAZK professionals can become involved in the effort.

Crisis Management for Zoos and Aquariums
Tuesday, August 29 (3:30-5:30 PM)
Ballroom 1

Kelly Murphy, North Carolina Zoo and AAZK National Safety Committee Chair

Workshop Abstract
In this module, the instructor will provide information and techniques on Crisis Pre-planning, statistics of current events, and effective responses in matters of the following:

  • Development of Animal Escape Drills/Person in Dangerous Animal Area with progressive complexity
  • Recapture, Immobilization and Dispatch Plans and Drills
  • Introduction to Incident Command
  • Defining response to Public Emergencies and Evacuations
  • Incorporation of local authorities into Emergency Response
  • Team planning and response to Active Shooter
  • Planning and Response for Media and Institutions
  • Social Media vs. A Crisis

Keepers and others in the animal field will leave this course more prepared for Emergencies that can happen in a zoo or aquarium on any typical day.

Diversity and Inclusion in Animal Care Sciences
Thursday, August 31 (1-3:00 PM)
Ballroom 1


  • Hilary Colton, Animal Keeper, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
  • Devin Murphy, Communications Specialist, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
  • Ishmael Ganame, Animal Keeper, Memphis Zoo
  • Juan Rodriguez, Curator, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
  • Craig Saffoe, Curator, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
  • Katie Zimmerman, Animal Keeper, Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Workshop Abstract
As the zoological and aquarium fields are becoming more embedded with scientific studies in husbandry and welfare of our collections, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) skills are becoming more and more important. Despite emphasis on education and opportunities in these fields, there is a lack of diversity seen in animal care of zoological institutions. In the open market, 84% of STEM positions are held by white males. Within the zoo field, a similar lack of diversity can be seen among zoo keeper staff. We emphasize the use of science and technology when speaking to the public and media about why zoos are important and necessary, but the demographics of animal care are overall homogenous.
Panel members will be of varying career levels and departments in zoological institutions, ranging from keeper staff to curators. We will talk about where we feel the gaps are in outreach to underserved communities, missed opportunities and give ideas on how to increase diversity of applicants to volunteer positions, internships and paid staff. This workshop hopes to create open dialogue and expose attendees to:

  • How we are promoting careers in animal care to children
  • Internship expectations and opportunities
  • How to discuss diversity in the workplace in a meaningful way
  • Mentoring & networking

Women in Leadership, 2017
Thursday, August 31 (3:30-5:30 PM)
Ballroom 1


  • Brandie Smith, Associate Director for Animal Care Sciences, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
  • Courtney Janney, Curator of Large Mammals, Memphis Zoo
  • Lauren Augustine, Animal Keeper, Smithsonian National Zoological Park and President of the Foundation for the Conservation of Salamanders
  • Kelly Murphy, Animal Keeper, North Carolina Zoo; Chair of the American Association of Zoo Keepers; ICS, Safety Committee, Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Workshop Abstract
Presenters will give a brief overview of their personal leadership path and style before opening the floor for a larger guided discussion. We will talk about how we expect staff to show they’d like to advance as well as unexpected lessons we’ve learned as leaders. We will address the pros and cons of moving up within an organization vs. moving to other organizations in order to advance. Additionally, we hope to highlight ways to become a leader in your current position, if career advancement is not your goal. Our variety of speakers will speak about different paths keepers might pursue – highlighting becoming a leader in husbandry practices, advancing in other organizations (AZA/AAZK), conservation or in research as well as management. This workshop aims to give keepers a different way to view their current roles as well as their career paths.
The workshop will expose its audience to:

  • Readiness to advance in your career
  • Struggle to balance work and life
  • Overcoming stereotypes
  • Supporting other women; competition with one another
  • Confidence
  • Mentoring, networking
  • Training and development opportunities
  • Working the 20/1 balancing act with outside agencies