Awards & Recognitions

 2016 Awards and Recognitions

At the 2016 National AAZK conference in Memphis, NCAAZK chapter members were honored to receive an award from the National AAZK Awards Committee.

The Nico van Strien Leadership in Conservation Award was given to Reptile Discovery Center keeper Lauren Augustine for founding and leading the Foundation for the Conservation of Salamanders (FCSal), which aims to increase awareness about the deforestation for the production of disposable chopsticks and educate about salamanders and their diversity within the United States, while raising money to support salamander conservation, education, and research.  Numerous AAZK chapters across the country participate in Chopsticks for Salamanders, Salamander Saturdays, and other initiatives developed by Lauren and FCSal.

2015 Awards and Recognitions

At the 2015 National AAZK conference in St. Louis, NCAAZK chapter members were honored to receive three awards from the National AAZK Awards Committee.

The Mazuri Animal Nutrition Award was given to Reptile Discovery Center keeper Lauren Augustine for conducting two scientific studies to improve the nutrition of captive animals.  Nutritional analysis of wild prey options was conducted and compared to captive diets to determine the most efficient and naturalistic diet for hellbenders in captivity.  The effects of macro and micro nutrients on Spindly Leg Syndrome (SLS) in Golden Mantella frogs are being investigated.

The Certificate of Merit for Zoo Keeper Education was given to the National Zoo’s Enrichment and Training Committee for initiating and creating Enrichment 101 and Training 101.  Both courses are required for new Animal Care employees, but are open to all staff.  In addition to familiarizing attendees with current standards in zoos, these courses also include National Zoo’s institutional policies on the two topics.  Eighty-five employees attended the classes in 2014.  Team members included Stacey Tabellario, Chelsea Grubb, Hilary Colton, Kirstin Schoeninger, and Judy Tasse.

The Certificate of Merit in Conservation was given to Amazonia keeper Mike Henley for his integral role in research for both in-situ and ex-situ conservation of endangered corals.  Mike is seeking to establish captive populations of threatened Elkhorn and Staghorn coral of the Caribbean by capturing the corals’ gametes during their annual mass spawn and rearing the juvenile corals in captivity.  He is also helping research cryopreserving coral gametes and stem cells to establish a genetic cryopreserved bank of endangered coral.

2014 Awards and Recognitions 

At the 2014 National AAZK conference, NCAAZK chapter members were honored to receive six awards from the National AAZK Awards Committee.

The Lutz Ruhe Meritorious Achievement-AAZK Professional of the Year Award was given to Reptile Discovery Center keeper Lauren Augustine, in recognition of her outstanding commitment to professionalism during her distinguished career as a zoo keeper. Specially noted is Lauren’s work leading the local conservation initiatives for the AAZK Chapter and the zoo, founding Chopsticks for Salamanders and conceiving the idea of a small conference to give first time presenters a chance to present in a small comfortable environment. She is also a prolific researcher, publisher and professional presenter, the SSP Coordinator for Cuora galbinifrons and serves on the AAZK Conservation Committee and the National Zoo’s Professional Development Committee. Lauren embodies the AAZK mission to advance animal care, promote public awareness, enhance professional development and contribute to local and global conservation.

The Certificate of Merit for Zoo Keeper Education was given to the NCAAZK 2014 Regional Symposium team for their creation and facilitation of a one-day regional conference “The Science Behind Animal Keeping.” The conference, which included 17 formal presentations and 25 poster presentations, increased sharing and cooperation among local institutions and provided zoo professionals a comfortable venue to practice presentation and socialize with their peers/  Team members were: Lauren Augustine, Colleen Bernard, Elise Bernardoni, Chelsea Grubb, Hilary Colton, and Kenton Kerns.

The Certificate of Merit in Conservation: The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding keeper-initiated contributions to conservation of wildlife and their habitats. It is hoped that recognition of outstanding efforts by keepers to contribute to conservation will provide incentive to keepers to continue to be leaders in this important endeavor. NCAAZK was thrilled to have two of our members acknowledged for this prestigious honor:

  • Reptile Discovery Center keeper Matt Neff was recognized for starting a Frog Watch Chapter which monitors several DC metro area sites. Under his leadership of the salamander ambassador project, the group raised just under $50,000 for a new salamander exhibit. He is dedicated to helping the Turtle Survival Alliance, the Orianne Society, Chopsticks for Salamanders, teaches conservation classes for the Friends of the National Zoo and applied for grants to fund emerging disease research at a local nature center.
  • Bird House keeper Kathy Brader was recognized for creating the only “Meet A Kiwi” program in the United States. This demonstration allows visitors to observe the brown kiwi up close and learn about their conservation.  Kiwi in zoos are rare, but under Kathy’s care and instruction, the National Zoo has hatched and raised six kiwi between 2005 and 2012. Kathy works closely with the New Zealand embassy and the New Zealand Department of Conservation and is the SSP coordinator and studbook keeper for all brown kiwi outside of New Zealand.

Excellence in Journalism awards: NCAAZK members do so much wonderful research that they share with their fellow zoo professionals.  In 2014, NCAAZK members received two Excellence in Journalism awards.  Lauren Augustine and Janice Gerrits were recognized for their article “More Snakes, More Problems.” Photographer Mehgan Murphy was recognized for her photograph “Lions.”

2013 Awards and Recognitions

  • The Lee Houts Excellence in Enrichment Award: The purpose of the award is to recognize outstanding keeper-initiated contributions to the art and science of environmental enrichment. It is hoped that recognition of outstanding efforts by keepers to improve animal care and welfare through environmental enrichment will provide incentive to keepers to continue to be leaders in this important endeavor. This award was given to NZP’s Enrichment and Training Steering Committee (Chair Stacey Tabellario, Co-Chairs Heather Baskett, Rachel Metz, and Judy Tasse).
  • The Certificate of Merit for Zoo Keeper Education: The purpose of the award is to recognize individuals, institutions and organizations in the zoological community most actively promoting educational programs for zookeepers. This award was given to the National Capital AAZK Chapter for its professional development courses and programming (short seminars, in DEPTHs, and behavioral research methods and population management classes).
  • The Certificate of Merit in Conservation: The purpose of the award is to recognize outstanding keeper-initiated contributions to conservation of wildlife and their habitats. It is hoped that recognition of outstanding efforts by keepers to contribute to conservation will provide incentive to keepers to continue to be leaders in this important endeavor. This award was given to Reptile Discovery Center keeper Lauren Augustine.
  • The Lutz Ruhe Meritorious Achievement – AAZK Professional of the Year Award: The purpose of this award is to recognize professional members of AAZK, in good standing in the association, for their day-to day professionalism within their facility. Commitment and dedication to AAZK at a Committee or Chapter level enhances the nomination. This award was given to Small Mammal House keeper Kenton Kerns.

2012 Awards and Recognitions

In 2012, NCAAZK members won two Animal Keeper Forum journalism awards at the National AAZK Conference.

  • Primate keeper Melba Brown won the 2012 Susan D. Chan Author of the Year award for her articles “Enrichment Effects on Lemur Behavior and Exhibit Visibility: Part 1 – A Special Partnership & Part 2 – Lemur Island Enrichment.” Melba is the first recipient of the Susan D. Chan Author of the Year award!
  • Small Mammal House keepers Kenton Kerns and Stephen Schulze won the Excellence in Journalism Award for their article, “Managing Meerkat Reintroductions: Keeping Peace in the House.”

2011 Awards and Recognitions

National Capital AAZK Chapter Wins AAZK Chapter of the Year!

The National Capital AAZK Chapter was named AAZK Chapter of the Year at the 2011 National AAZK Conference in San Diego!

The award is given to chapters for extraordinary initiative and support of AAZK and its worldwide membership, for the chapter’s commitment to conservation, and for helping fulfill the vision of animal care professionals.

Our application highlighted NCAAZK’s record-breaking contributions to conservation organizations, our busy schedule of events that highlighted our chapter, our members, and our zoo, a robust professional development course, and our education and outreach programs.

2010 Awards and Recognitions

Chris Crowe wins AAZK’s Excellence in Journalism Award

SCBI Keeper and NCAAZK member Chris Crowe received a 2010 Excellence in Journalism Award for his article, “Artificially Inseminating White-Naped Cranes.” The article appeared in the April/May 2010 dedicated avian edition of AAZK’s Animal Keeper Forum.