2018 AAZK National Conference

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October 4th - October 8th, 2018

View conference schedule here. *Schedule subject to change.

Professional Certificate Courses

We are proud to offer 3 Professional Certificate Courses.

*Registration for a Professional Certificate Course means you will not be able to register for other workshops.

Choose from:

  • Elevating Your Impact: Leadership Process, Improvement, and Team Building
Course Abstract
This 12 hour workshop is designed for keepers who are interested in developing their leadership
skills; either within their team, their institution, or in the zoo-keeping field. The course will
concentrate on leadership skills that are applicable across many aspects of the job. Topics will
include Process improvement, coaching and feedback, interdepartmental relationships,
teambuilding, and professional development. The goal of this course is to equip staff with
problem-solving skills that identify & reduce “waste”, innovate, and increase efficiency and
effectiveness, by providing the tools to solve challenges in their daily jobs. The course will
culminate with a Leadership Panel Q & A.
Sponsored by: Animal Care Software
  • Innovation in Small Primate Care
Course Abstract
This 12-hour workshop is designed for keepers interested in small primate husbandry, with a
focus on callitrichids, small cebids, and small prosimians. The course will concentrate on
innovations in small primate care from medical management techniques to managing large
social groups and breeding. Topics such as health and nutrition, behavioral management,
exhibit management, and mixed species exhibits will be covered. Techniques learned may be
transferable between primate species.
  • Advanced Behavioral Husbandry
Course Abstract
This 12-hour workshop is designed for keepers who work with any species or taxa and are
interested in a middle to advanced level of behavioral husbandry coursework. The course will
concentrate on topics associated with training and behavioral husbandry and will move beyond
basic skills. Topics will include choice & control, motivational operators, advanced training
challenges, and behavior program management. Participants will learn how to implement
choice and control into their husbandry routines, how to handle aggression and incorrect
responses, and visual management techniques. Team consistency and communication
strategies, as well as problem-solving tools will also be covered.

Sponsored by: Wildlife Toy Box


  • Open Topical Workshops (open to all conference attendees)
Opportunities and Challenges of Rotational Animal Management
*Advanced Behavior PCC Pull-Out:
Open Topical - Ballroom
Workshop Abstract:
Rotational animal exhibits offer new opportunities for enrichment for the animals and
they create a unique experience for zoo visitors. As zoos continue to implement
rotational qualities into their exhibit design, keepers are facing new experiences
regarding safety, shifting, enrichment, feeding, and communication. These challenges
and opportunities have led to advancements and innovations in the animal care field.
While highlighting the Predator Ridge and Toyota Elephant Passage exhibits at Denver
Zoo, this workshop will focus on strategies and protocols used by zookeepers that work
in rotational exhibits. This workshop will also discuss how these strategies could be
applied to traditional exhibit spaces. Keepers that currently work in rotational exhibits,
have previously worked in rotational exhibits, or hope to work in rotational exhibits can
collaborate on relevant topics such as safety and shifting, communication, enrichment
improvement and restrictions, and feeding management.
Primary Workshop Instructor and Institution: Kelsey Barker and Matt Lenyo, Denver Zoo
 We’ve All Been There: Building a Better Internship For Us and Them
*Leadership PCC Pull-Out:
Open Topical – Ballroom
Workshop Abstract:
Today’s keepers play a critical role as intern mentors, ensuring the future generation’s
success in providing high standards of animal care and welfare. This workshop will
empower keepers to build and/or improve upon their zoo’s animal care internship
program by providing tips, ideas, and resources to do so.
Internships are typically considered a requirement for entry into our field, yet
internship experiences can vary widely between facilities, and sometimes within a single
facility. Keepers are invaluable as an intern’s main resource for coaching and skill
development, but are often not recognized as leaders in this way, or given adequate
support to accomplish this. This workshop will provide resources that keepers can begin
to use immediately to build a more consistent and valuable experience for their interns
and for themselves.
We will discuss the overall framework of an intern program, and go through
various ideas for process improvements, from job postings and onboarding through exit
interviews. We will provide examples of useful documents such as an intern code of
conduct and intern tips to succeed, learning plans, and more. Lastly, we’ll give an
overview of different elements that Denver Zoo incorporated in creating an animal care
internship program, including partnering with HR, gaining staff buy-in, mentor
recognition, and more, so that keepers can begin to strategize what areas of focus
would benefit their home internship programs.
Primary Workshop Instructor and Institution: Lindsey Kirkman, Denver Zoo
Just Culture: A Different Approach to Improving Safety and Welfare
Open Topical - Ballroom
Workshop Abstract:
Working with animals requires a constant focus on safety. Mistakes can result in human
injuries as well as impacting the welfare of the animals in our care. Regardless of our
innovations in technology, exhibit design, and staff training, mistakes do happen.
Learning from these mistakes and the near misses that precede them is critical to
improving safety and animal welfare. Unfortunately, reluctance to report errors and a
fear of punishment reduces our ability to properly analyze these incidents. Just Culture
is a system of workplace accountability that has proven success in other high stakes
industries such as aviation and human health care. Just Culture focuses on
understanding the nature of human error, addressing behavioral choices and system
factors that lead to negative outcomes, and using a structured and data-driven
approach to analyze events and reduce future mistakes. This workshop will focus on the
techniques and tools that keepers can implement to help make themselves, their team,
and their workplace safer for staff and animals. This will include discussion of the factors
that increase the likelihood of human error, improving self-reporting of errors, and
conducting thorough root cause analysis of negative outcomes (both real and potential).
Instructors will discuss real examples from the Denver Zoo and provide time for
questions from attendees.
Staff Driven Sustainability: Achieving Zero Waste Goals
Open Topical - Ballroom
Workshop Abstract:
This workshop goes over the creation, innovation, and implementation of the Zero
Waste Team at Denver Zoo. This team is comprised of keepers from multiple
departments, nutrition staff, and operations staff who expressed an interest in
decreasing our waste footprint. We will discuss the Zero Waste Team’s ideas for
reaching the Denver Zoo’s goal of being Zero Waste by 2025.
The workshop will mainly center on the creation of the Zero Waste Building Challenge
which encouraged each building (often comprised of multiple departments) to adopt
waste management practices in order to become Zero Waste certified. In order to
become certified, each building goes through a waste management audit, receives a
personalized list of recommendations to help them towards their goal, and finally
receives certification when the building’s waste diversion rate reaches 90% diverted
from landfill.
Own Your Shovelful
Open Topical - Ballroom
Workshop Abstract:
Whether you call it drama, conflict, or just dealing with diverse personalities, these
challenges distract us from our common goal: excellent animal care. If we refuse to
recognize and address these issues they hinder our ability to do our jobs. However, if we address
and learn to understand our issues we can work to resolve problems before they arise and
create healthier interactions. We all have problems, weaknesses, vices, annoying habits, and a
whole host of other things that make us hard to work with. Just like in our daily lives, being
able to observe, identify, and clean up our shovelful makes our jobs and our lives easier.
Own Your Shovelful will challenge you to dig deep in to your personality, learn about
your strengths, weaknesses, and what to do about both. We will discover how to
become more self-aware and how to shape your day-to-day interactions using the 4 “P’s,” which
include: what makes a person popular or like-able, how perception differs from person
to person, what your personality types is, and how perspective can change the way you
see things. Looking at these will help you put on your muck boots and dredge through the
drama without drama!
This workshop will help you discover, own up to, and work to neutralize your
shovelful and work towards creating healthier and more productive relationships. By
thinking about the four “P’s” and applying them to yourself you can become more self-aware,
enhance your ability work cooperatively, and spend more time focusing on animal care.
Tools for Running a Successful Chapter; adjusting how we develop membership
to reach a new altitude
Open Topical - Ballrooom
Workshop Abstract:
Zooquaria is entering an age of heightened advocacy and collaboration. In order to
support the advancement of the field and the zookeeper profession as a whole, AAZK
and its chapters strive to provide resources for its members so they can reach new
Chapter leaders often reach out for advice on various online platforms regarding
member recruitment, retention, and development. Building a strong chapter isn’t easy,
and the strength of a chapter is often defined by its ability to maintain and support its
As such, communication amongst chapters and members is one of the most powerful
tools for growth and stability. This workshop acts as a guided round table that will
highlight how chapter leaders can provide others with advice, fundraising suggestions,
and professional support. While members have access to online forums like Facebook
and AAZK Online, these platforms can create an information gap and repeated
questions. This workshop will allow for brainstorming and inter-chapter support when
the most chapter leaders are together in one space - a frequent request expressed at
the 2017 conference.
This workshop aims to create partnerships between past and current chapter leaders
and a place for leaders to establish connections. This workshop will help both existing
chapters as well as those just getting started by focusing on how to create a balance of
membership support while continuing non-profit fundraisers and promoting the work of
keepers. By working together we can adjust our efforts to reach a new altitude for
AAZK’s chapters.
  • Limited Topical Workshops (registration required)
Only 2 limited topical workshops allowed per registrant!
*Small Primate PCC Pull- Out: Managing Social Groups
of Small Primates
Limited Topical – Registration Required
Workshop Abstract:
Participants will learn techniques in managing and problem solving with social
groups of small primates. Topics will include: husbandry management in social groups,
behavioral management and observations, training in social settings, managing singly
housed primates, and mixed species exhibits.
Primary Workshop Instructor and Institution: Abby Peterson, Denver Zoo
Hosting a Successful National Conference
Limited Topical Workshop - Registration Required
Workshop Abstract:
Each year one chapter from the American Association of Zookeepers volunteers their
time, energy, and resources to host the national conference. Most of the conference
committee members come from animal care background and lack event planning
knowledge. While the National organization provides basic introduction for how to host
a national conference, the ins and outs of planning an event as large as these can be
difficult. The steps that go into booking and planning the event space, hosting
fundraisers, planning pre and post conference trips, and proper financial planning are
mostly unknown to those who take on the challenge. The National Capital Chapter held
the National Conference in 2017, hosting over 250 animal care professionals from
around the country. While there were some road blocks, the conference is considered a
success on many levels.
This workshop will give future hosts the opportunity to discuss questions that may be
unanswered from the national handbook. This will also be a great chance for chapters
who are considering nominating themselves to gain a better understanding as to what it
takes to host your own conference.
Presentation Messaging: A Conversation About the Balance of Education and
Limited Topical – Registration Required
Workshop Abstract:
Animals in zoos and aquariums serve as ambassadors for their species, as well as the
habitats in which they are found. Positive experiences with these individuals often spark
a passion for saving both the species and conservation efforts. One often hear that you
can’t save what you don’t love, and you can’t love what you don’t know. But how are
facilities introducing the general public to what they don’t currently know? The goal of
presentations is to encourage people to learn about the importance of wildlife, and there
are many different styles in which messages are presented.
Animal keepers are the group responsible for most of these interactions, and how they
represent the individual animal can sometimes spark passion in a guest about an issue.
There is a spectrum of presentation styles, which can range from scripted performances
that follow a specific storyline to more casual “meet a zoo keeper” talks. Some may
have more anthropomorphic messaging and animal presentation style, while others are
strictly delivering natural history facts. The goal is generally the same- to educate the
visitors about an animal, but the delivery of the message is sometimes very different
depending on the type of demonstration. This workshop will be an extension of 2017’s
“Creating an Ethics Discussion Forum at Your Institution,” in which attendees will have
the opportunity to debate the many types of educational presentations that zoos and
aquariums develop.
The Personal Touch: Using Animals to Create an Individual Connection to
Limited Topical – Registration Required
Workshop Abstract:
The use of program animals in zoological collections as a means of connecting guests
with the natural world has grown in popularity throughout recent years. Directly
engaging with an animal not only offers guests a memorable experience, but also allows
for the opportunity to deliver educational and conservation messages in a highly
personalized manner, thus strengthening their overall effect. Unfortunately, it is easy to
fall into the routine of “line up, touch with two fingers, and don't forget your hand
sanitizer!”. We can all remember a moment in our lives that changed the way we looked
at the world, and it probably wasn't while standing in one of these lines... This workshop
will focus on how to bring out the best in your guests by showing off the best your
animals can offer. We will cover topics such as guest husbandry participation, defining
moments, storytelling, and more. After a guided opening lecture, participants will have
the opportunity to brainstorm their own ideas for program animal interpretation and put
them into practice with visiting program animals. Instructors will also cover tips and
techniques for incorporating these ideas into traditional zoological collections with non-
outreach animals.
Conservation: One Small Step to Empower Your Own Journey
Limited Topical – Registration Required
Workshop Abstract:
Conservation is an extremely important part of the zoo industry. We use it in our daily
keeper talks, education programs, take home actions for our guests and participate in
field work. We have such a deep passion for our natural world and now more than ever,
the environment is in need of all of our help. Dave Johnson is the Director of the Katie
Adamson Conservation Fund and will discuss how he created this fund and the projects
he has worked on both current, past and future. Stacy Johnson is an animal keeper at
Denver Zoo and was able to use her passion to create conservation initiatives. This
workshop will focus on creating and participating in conservation projects at zoos,
nationally and internationally, and the ways in which people can create their own niche.
Lectures and presentations will be given to “Adjust You Altitude” toward a better
Koala Husbandry & Care
Limited Topical – Registration required 
Workshop Abstract:
The San Diego Zoo maintains the largest collection of Queensland Koalas outside of
Australia. The SSP breeding program has resulted in over 140 joey births since the
1970’s. Through partnerships associated with the Koala Education and Conservation
loan program, San Diego Zoo has completed 81 koala loans to other zoological
institutions in 12 countries. The success of these programs have afforded SDZ keepers
the knowledge and experience to develop best practices in koala care.
The goal of this workshop to align koala husbandry and management practices among
koala holding facilities in North America. Topics covered will include:
• Koala Natural history – biology, habitats, threats & conservation status
• Daily care - browse maintenance, prep and presentation; monitoring fecal output;
body weights; behavior observations etc.
• Handling – individual personalities, sitting positions, aggression
• Breeding practices – estrus indicators
• Joey rearing - developmental milestones, hand rearing, weaning
• Illness and geriatric animal management - indicators, supportive care,
supplemental feeding, quality of life assessment
• Facility design guidelines - optimal dimensions, perching, sunlight requirements,
public viewing
• Koala Loan Program
• Conservation Programs
Managing Mixed-Species Aviaries
Limited Topical – Registration Required
Workshop Abstract:
Denver Zoo has recently introduced a number of new techniques for better managing
our mixed-species aviaries in the tropical Bird World exhibit. Management techniques
include training birds for voluntary weights, medications and foot treatments, the
construction and implementation of automatic trap cages, the use of camera systems
for monitoring breeding birds, and the use of fledge cages and family cages in exhibits
for small passerines to improve chick survivability. Our workshop would cover a wide
variety of opportunities to improve avian management in mixed-species aviaries,
including sources from Denver Zoo and information gathered from other institutions with
innovative management techniques.
Creating a Movement: How to work together to save a species
Limited Topical – Registration Required
Workshop Abstract:
Operation Twiga. Giraffe Plasma Bank. World Giraffe Day. Love for Longnecks. Giraffe
SAFE initiatives.
Whether you’re watching posts on social media, nature documentaries on BBC, or
hashtag symbols in zookeeper groups, you’ve probably noticed that giraffe have popped
up more in the last few years than they ever have before. That’s no accident; people
who are passionate about these gentle giants decided to combine efforts on all fronts in
order to push them into the limelight. These people all have a common goal: to save this
species, both in-situ and ex-situ.
In order to help save the giraffe, this team started putting their skill sets to use on
collaborative projects such as wild giraffe hoof studies, the Giraffe Care Workshop, and
Operation Twiga 2. They started sharing everything they could on topics that they were
skilled in, including but not limited to: veterinary care, research, conservation, training,
enrichment, husbandry practices, education, and public awareness.
Each instructor has a unique path that lead to working with giraffe, but they also ended
up also working with each other. This workshop will dive into how each one became
infatuated with a long-legged, spotted creature, and what each person is personally
doing to try to save them. It will also cover the steps they took to reach out to others in
various platforms in order to create a movement that ensures the long-term survival of
giraffe. The hope is that workshop attendees can replicate the processes with animals
they have a similar connection with.
Ungulates Unleashed: Thinking outside the herd with ungulate management
Limited Topical – Registration Required
Workshop Abstract:
The Denver Zoological Foundation has a large and diverse ungulate collection. Over
the past couple of years it has been a priority for our entire hoofstock team to go above
and beyond what is considered “normal” ungulate management. Come see how we
have taken hoofstock management to a whole new level:
  • Training
o Utilizing training crates for blood draw and injections
o Free contact and working walls for acupuncture and massage therapy
• Enrichment
o Debunking the myth that enrichment may scare ungulates or go unused
• Social
o Mixed species
o Innovative approaches to managing singly housed animals
• Making Ungulates sexy
o Tapping into marketing and social media
o Keeper talks and tours
o Engaging your own staff
• Quality Of Life/Observational tactics
o Creating lifelong wellness trackers and end of life parameters
o Behavioral observations through volunteers, ethograms, and surveillance
This workshop aims to teach methods on how to manage the individuals as well as the
entire herd -understanding that both are equally important. In utilizing the workshop
platform, we encourage participants to bring successes and learning experiences to be
shared with the group in an environment that may help problem solve participants’ own
ungulate husbandry questions.