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Workshop Descriptions

Diversity Summit
Sunday, March 26, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm


AZA zoos and aquariums provide our communities with unique and valuable learning and recreation experiences not available anywhere else - it is essential that we are fully accessible to those communities. The Diversity Summit provides information and tools for understanding and advancing diversity and inclusion programs and practices to help ensure that our zoos and aquariums are representative of and accessible to the communities we serve.  Who should attend? Zoo and aquarium leaders, HR directors, hiring managers, volunteer managers, and those interested in shaping the future of zoos and aquariums. It is highly recommended that two colleagues from the same institution attend together.

As a result of participating in the AZA Diversity Summit you will:

  • Learn how to talk more effectively about diversity and inclusion within your organization
  • Increase your knowledge of leading practices in diversity and inclusion
  • Determine next steps to advance diversity and inclusion efforts at your zoo or aquarium
  • Leave with a Diversity Tool Kit to help you progress through next steps

The summit will include a series of external speakers to discuss unconscious bias, inclusion, accessibility, ADA, and best practices. Throughout the day, participants will break out into small groups to reflect on where their organization is on the pathway to diversity and inclusion facilitated by both the speakers and members of the AZA Diversity Committee. Speakers, just to name a few, include:

  • Keynote Speaker, Dr. Stephen Jones, CEO, Jones and Associates
  • Esther Hernandez, Chief Diversity Officer of Sandia Labs       
  • Gabriel Campos, City Of ABQ - Director, Albuquerque Office of Diversity and Human Rights            
  • Kyle Smith, member of the Navajo Nation and Coordinator for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Museum Tours
  • Stephanie Crise and Hans Gienapp, San Diego Zoo Global Human Resources
  • Jo-Elle Mogerman/Heather Doggett AZA Diversity Committee
The Diversity Summit is included in your Mid-Year Meeting registration, but an RSVP is required.

Green Summit
Monday, March 27, 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 am - 5:30 pm


AZA’s Green Guide Comes Alive!

Join us for the 7th Annual Green Summit, hosted by the AZA Green Scientific Advisory Group (GSAG). Learn how to apply GSAG’s Green Guide to your institution in an effort to make your operations more sustainable, saving natural resources and money at the same time. Learn where and how to begin, how to fund projects, and how to keep your staff and community engaged in the process. Breakout sessions will occur after each panel to allow more time for you to plan your strategies and dive a little deeper.

This year’s Green Summit will focus on:

Measuring What You Manage
When thinking about a sustainability program, how does one even get started? Where do we begin? This session will dive deep into the power of metrics - you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Learn how to get intimate with your numbers - energy usage, water consumption, tons of waste, and understand how much it all costs. Gain tips and strategies for conducting your own internal audits and recognize why data and metrics are an integral part of a successful sustainability program. We’ll explore different data tracking systems, how to utilize partners in your community, and how to analyze data so it works for you.

Power of People
Engaging your staff in sustainability practices, programs, and implementation is key in achieving success. Having constant, open, honest, and transparent conversations with staff, especially front line staff, will keep everyone on the same page and ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Celebrate successes, give opportunity for all staff to have a part in sustainability efforts, not just Facilities Departments or Administration. This session will highlight institutions that have engaged their staff in creative ways, allowing participation across the board with green initiatives.

Money Talks
You have an engaged staff. You have the metrics and data. You have the amazing ideas that will green your operations. All you need now is the funding to do it. Where does the money come from to pull off sustainability projects? Reinvestment? Grants? Sponsorships? How to engage your members, board of trustees, development department, and more to ensure more of these projects can come to fruition. Creative financing, collaboration and partnerships, and building trust to pull of these projects is all part of the dance.

Bringing It All Together
There isn’t a specific formula or blueprint to follow when it comes to sustainability projects. It is different for every institution; you just have to find what works best for you. Hear from a few institutions around the country who have successfully achieved greening up their institutions, surely hitting many obstacles along the way but not taking no for an answer.

In addition, staff from ABQ BioPark will host a special reception on Zoo Day to share the various green and conservation initiatives they put into practice. Tours may also be available of their Aquatic Conservation Facility, their Coral propagation program, and their Farm to Table program. This year’s Green Summit is packed with a lot of great information and resources to help you keep your institutions as sustainable as possible.


Animal Training Workshop - Honing a Sharper Edge on Training: Clarified Principles, Refined Procedures, and Ethical Criteria
Monday, March 27, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Presented by: Steve Martin, President, Natural Encounters, Inc.
Additional $50 registration fee. Proceeds will be donated to AZA's Conservation Grant Funds.

The goal of this workshop is to clarify and refine participants’ understanding and application of training knowledge and skills. Topics include: What science does better than conventional wisdom; the problem of effectiveness as a sole criterion for procedural choice; changing behavior by changing conditions; effective and humane approaches to creating and increasing motivation; changing training interactions with animals from monologues to dialogues. Throughout the workshop attendees learn a holistic approach to training that includes husbandry, medical, and management procedures leading to enhanced animal welfare.


Collection Planning Workshop
Tuesday, March 28, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The AZA Wildlife Conservation and Management Committee, working in association with the AZA Accreditation Commission, offers a workshop for those who develop Institutional Collection Plans (ICPs).  Topics covered will include the philosophy and importance of ICPs, the necessary (and unnecessary) components of ICPs, and the tools and resources available to AZA members.  The workshop will include advice and testimonials from ICP users from various zoological fields and an exercise to develop an ICP for a hypothetical institution.  Workshop attendees will gain new understanding of the intended function and value of ICPs, as well as the skills to produce them.

The SMART Approach to TAG Strategic Planning
Wednesday, March 29, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

This WCMC led workshop will discuss a new initiative to address SSP population sustainability: TAG level strategic planning. WCMC members will discuss strategies for species selection, and the purpose, value and importance of developing SMART goals for AZA Animal Programs. This will be followed by participants engaging in and discussing mock scenarios. The workshop will be especially geared toward TAG Chairs, Vice Chairs, and AZA Program Leaders.  We hope that the workshop will encourage participants to engage with their fellow TAG members in making strategic, transparent decisions regarding Animal Programs to advance population sustainability. 

Animal Program Conservation Workshop: Enhancement and Communications
Thursday, March 30, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm

Animal Program Conservation and “Enhancement” Requirements - 9:00 am - 10:30 am
“Enhancement” of a species’ propagation or survival in its native range is a requirement for obtaining US Fish and Wildlife transport permits for listed species. This requirement is only likely to become more stringent as an increasing number of lawsuits are filed against the issuance of these permits and for international species subject to CITES listings. Learn more about this requirement and how Animal Program-led, strategic, outcome-oriented conservation projects can help the AZA community meet both the letter of the law of the requirement, and build conservation credibility internationally and at home.

10:30-11:00 Break

Developing a High-Impact Communications Plan - 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Communication is a tool that can either pave the way to program success or become an overwhelming obstacle for Animal Programs engaged in conservation. With expectations of developing and disseminating content via social media, websites, annual reporting, communications to donors and field personnel, and more, early development of a comprehensive communication plans can lead to significant time-savings down the road, fend off donor fatigue, engage new donors, and build lasting support for a conservation program. Learn more about developing a high impact communication plan that capitalizes on tested messages and the latest tips and trends in digital media.


Safety Summit
Thursday, March 30

10:00 am - 11:30 am
The Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Risk Assessment Program
In this session, Mr. Terry Lincoln of The Dakota Zoo will discuss their participation in a risk assessment program, and the positive outcomes from that effort.  Mr. Jeffrey Murray will introduce the audience to the current Department of Homeland Security program designed to provide strategies for increasing facility resilience. 

  • Mr. Terry Lincoln, Director, Dakota Zoo
  • Mr. Jeffrey Murray, Protective Security Advisor, Department of Homeland Security

11:30 am - 12:00 pm
Hurricane Matthew:  Information, Coordination and Lessons Learned
In this session, updates will be provided on preparedness and response measures in Florida institutions for Hurricane Matthew.

  • Rick Holzworth, Safety and Security Manager, Jacksonville Zoo
  • Kelly Murphy, Keeper II, North Carolina Zoological Park

1:15 pm - 1:45 pm
AZA Safety Committee Drill Month/Survey Outcomes
In September and October 2016, over 80 AZA institutions participated in the drills inspired the National Preparedness month.  A survey of participants was conducted to gather valuable data on type of drills conducted, participation, and reporting.  Highlights of the survey will be shared.

  • Rick Holzworth, Safety and Security Manager, Jacksonville Zoo
  • Rene Martin, Security Manager, Fresno Chaffee Zoo
  • Ruel Murphy, Program Manager, Disney's Animal Kingdom

1:45 pm - 2:15 pm
So What’s the Big Deal with ICS?
The Incident Command System (ICS) is a method for organizing a response that is used by the first responder community, and by a number of AZA institutions to organize the response to incidents or for use in pre-planned events. In this session, AZA Safety Committee members will share their experiences in using ICS, and present findings from a Safety Committee Survey that should be of interest to every institution.  The audience will be provided a basic introduction to ICS structure so all participants will have basic knowledge of the system, which will be helpful for the afternoon sessions.

  • Rene Martin, Safety Manager, Fresno Chaffee Zoo

2:15 pm - 2:45 pm
Jacksonville Zoo’s Participation in an Oil Spill Response Drill
AZA institutions are more involved than ever in working with stakeholders all over the country.  Jacksonville Zoo will share how they were invited to participate in a large scale oil spill response drill, by virtue of the integration they have done with their local Emergency Management agency.  

  • Rick Holzworth, Safety and Security Manager, Jacksonville Zoo
  • Mike Taylor, Curator of Herps, Birds and Others, Jacksonville Zoo

3:00 pm - 3:45 pm
Conducting Complex Animal Escape Drills and Pre-planning Events
In this session, Zoo New England will share the process for planning a complex animal escape drill, and the lessons learned from that exercise.  They will also share how they use the Incident Command System to help them organize their “Free Fun Friday” events.

  • Anne Knapp, Director Animal Resources, Zoo New England
  • Andrea Lewicki, Administrative Assistant, Zoo New England

3:45 pm - 4:15 pm
All Hazards Drill Planning and Reporting
It’s challenging to find the time to train and exercise, but it is SO important.  In this session, participants will be given tips on planning drills in your facility, some proven ways to ‘report out’ the outcomes, and some strategies for USING what you learned in the drills to improve your planning and training

  • Rob Dahl,  Occupational Health & Safety Manager, Oregon Zoo

4:15 pm - 5:15 pm
Panel Discussion, Forms, Tools and Resources
This discussion will bring a number of Safety Committee professionals into an informal Q & A session where they will share some of the resources they have used to develop robust plans, and training programs.  Bring your questions to our Safety Committee experts!

Friday March 31

8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Updates from the ZAHP Fusion Center
The Zoo and Aquarium All Hazards Preparedness, Response and Recovery (ZAHP) Fusion Center will discuss new training tools available for the exotic animal industry.  

  • Yvonne Nadler, Program Manager, ZAHP Fusion Center
  • Ashley Zielinski, AZA Program Coordinator, ZAHP Fusion Center

8:30 am - 9:30 am
Making a Safe Zoo Safer: The “New Normal” after a Tragedy
Most of us at one point in our career have seen a report on a tragedy at another zoo and thought, “that could never happen here”.  We talk about it, we have training and drills about it, but we don’t actually think it will happen.  But it can, and it did for the Palm Beach Zoo.  In this session the Palm Beach Zoo will share what they learned about managing staff and the zoo in the days, weeks, and months after their tragedy, as well some new safety strategies that have been implemented in the dangerous animal areas to try to ensure that an accident like this never happens again.

  • David Ruhl, Facilities Director, Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society

9:45 am - 10:45 am
Reputation Management Through Effective Crisis Communications
When a crisis situation occurs, time is of the essence and the need to communicate is immediate. That’s why organizations must have a crisis communication plan in place before a potentially damaging situation arises. But what does that mean? What communications elements should be included in your crisis plan? While there’s no such thing as a cookie cutter plan, this session will help identify the components your zoo or aquarium should consider to be prepared to respond promptly, accurately and confidently during an emergency and the hours and days that follow. Because “by the time you hear the thunder, it’s too late to build the ark.”

  • Patty Peters, Vice President Community Relations, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

10:45 am - 11:45 am
Just Culture: A Different Approach to Safety and Accountability
Working with dangerous animals requires a constant focus on safety. Regardless of our innovations in technology, exhibit design and staff training, accidents do happen. Because of the serious consequences of mistakes (potential or real), the traditional approach to accountability has been a progressive discipline system, accompanied by additional training or perhaps changes to procedures. However, we also know that increased reporting of incidents will help improve safety. How do we encourage people to report something when they know they could be fired for it? If the punishment is removed, how do hold people accountable? Just Culture is a system of workplace accountability that addresses these questions. With its origins in aviation and health care, it has proven success in other high stakes industries. After the concept was introduced at the Felid TAG Husbandry Course last year, Denver Zoo committed to embrace Just Culture across our institution and we believe this is a system that could make zoos and aquariums safer for our animals, staff and guests.

  • Hollie Colahan, Vice President for Animal Care, Denver Zoo




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