Honors & Awards

New award announced and 26 awards presented at the Honors and Awards Lunch on September 12 at the 2017 AZA Annual Conference  in Indianapolis, IN hosted by the Indianapolis Zoo. 

Kris Vehrs announced the new Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award. which will honor a person who significantly influences the quality of animals’ lives through long-term personal commitment to the field of animal welfare. The significant contributions can be in the form of animal management, professional development, education, research, and/or exhibit design. Only one recipient can be honored in any given year, and since the award criteria are lofty, it is anticipated that the award will not be given every year. Information about how to nominate a deserving person for this award will be available soon.

Kris also reminded those gathered about the new SSP Awards first presented at the Midyear meeting in Albuquerque. The 2017 Recipients:
Tawny Frogmouth SSP and
Blue-billed Curassow SSP

The applications and guidelines for the 2018 SSP Awards are here now and are due on December 15, 2017.

Congratulations to all those receiving the following awards!

Devra Kleiman Scientific Advancement Award
Kathy Carlstead, Ph.D.

Wendy Fisher Award for Professional Excellence
Gary H. Lee, AIA, RLA, Co-Founder and Senior Principal, CLR Design, Inc.


Edward H. Bean Award

  • TOP HONORS - The Wilds for Southern White Rhinoceros

International Conservation Award

  • Significant Achievement -  Zoological Society of Milwaukee for Bonobo & Congo Biodiversity Initiative
  • TOP HONORS-  Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International for Saving one of the world's most charismatic species: Fifty years of conserving eastern gorillas

North American Conservation Award

  • Significant Achievement - Saint Louis Zoo for The Saint Louis Zoo's American Burying Beetle Recovery Program
  • TOP HONORS - San Diego Zoo Global, Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Oakland Zoo, Phoenix Zoo for California Condor Bi-national Recovery and Reintroduction Program, United States and Mexico
    New this year! A $25,000 cash award for TOP HONORS in the North American Conservation category thanks to the Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation. This amount will also be presented to the TOP HONORS winner(s) of the North American Conservation Award in 2018 and 2019.

Exhibit Award - institutional operating budget under $5 million:

  • TOP HONORS - Henry Vilas Zoo for Arctic Passage

Exhibit Award - institutional operating budget over $5 million:

  • Innovation - California Academy of Sciences for Twilight Zone: Deep Reefs Revealed; Philadelphia Zoo for ZOO360®
  • Significant Achievement - Cincinnati Zoo for Africa
  • TOP HONORS - Detroit Zoo for Polk Penguin Conservation Center
  • TOP HONORS - Oregon Zoo for Elephant Lands

Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award

  • Significant Achievement - Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for W.I.L.D. (Wildlife Immersion and Leadership Development) Program;
  • Significant Achievement -Utah's Hogle Zoo for Zoo Just for You
  • TOP HONORS - John G. Shedd Aquarium for All Are Welcome: Accessibility and Inclusion at Shedd Aquarium

Education Award - institutional operating budget under $5 million:

  • Significant Achievement - North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for Aquarium Teen Ambassadors
  • TOP HONORS - Africam Safari for Guardians of the forest

Education Award - institutional operating budget over $5 million:

  • Significant Achievement - Denver Zoo for Nurturing Scientists Through Nature Play
  • TOP HONORS - Wildlife Conservation Society for Urban Advantage

Green Award

  • TOP HONORS - Philadelphia Zoo

Excellence in Marketing Award - campaign budget less than $175,000

  • Significant Achievement - Fresno Chaffee Zoo for We are Fresno Chaffee Zoo

Excellence in Marketing Award - campaign budget more than $175,000

  • TOP HONORS - Philadelphia Zoo for Zoo Changes You

Volunteer Engagement Award

  • Innovation - Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute for Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) Volunteer Program;
  • Innovation - The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: 141-derful years as an urban oasis
  • Significant Achievement - Lincoln Park Zoo for Lincoln Park Zoo's Volunteer Program
  • TOP HONORS - John G. Shedd Aquarium for Shedd Aquarium's Guest Engagement Volunteer Program

The winning applications from the past few years are available on the individual award pages (with your member login). The winning applications from 2017 will be posted soon.

  •          Edward H. Bean Award
  •          Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award
  •          Education Award (two budget categories)
  •          Excellence in Marketing Award (two budget categories)
  •          Exhibit Award (two budget categories)
  •          Green Award
  •          International Conservation Award
  •          North American Conservation Award
  •          Volunteer Engagement Award (two budget categories)

Feel free to contact Barbara Pueschel at bpueschel@aza.org if you have any questions.

Sue Chin
Vice President of Planning & Design and Chief Architect
Wildlife Conservation Society
Chair, Honors and Awards Committee


Awards Conferred via Nomination

R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence

  • 2016 Honoree: Chuck Bieler, Executive Director Emeritus, San Diego Zoo Global
  • 2015 Honoree: David L. Towne, Director Emeritus, Woodland Park Zoo
  • 2013 Honoree: Palmer "Satch" Krantz, President and CEO, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
  • 2010 Honoree: Karen Sausman, President Emeritus, The Living Desert
  • 2008 Honoree: Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

In 1978, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums established its highest award for professional excellence, named for its first recipient, R. Marlin Perkins. Only one recipient can be honored in any given year, and since the award criteria are lofty, it is anticipated that the award will not be given every year.

Nominations are accepted year-round and are due no later than December 15th of the year preceding the year in which the award is to be conferred.

The Devra Kleiman Scientific Advancement Award

  • 2016 Honoree: Jonathan D. Ballou, Ph.D., Research Scientist Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution
  • 2015 Honoree: Cheryl S. Asa, Ph.D., Director of Research, Saint Louis Zoo
  • First Award presented posthumously to Devra Kleiman in 2014 at the AZA Annual Conference in Orlando

In March, 2014, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums established an award to recognize outstanding scientific research contributions to the field(s) of animal management, education, and/or conservation within the AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium community. This award, named for its first recipient Devra Kleiman, honors an individual’s long-term commitment to using science-based research and mentoring others to advance the zoo and aquarium profession. Only one recipient can be honored in any given year, and since the award criteria are lofty, it is anticipated that the award will not be given every year. Nominations for 2017 are due by June 1.

Devra Kleiman Award Nomination Guidelines

Tim O'Sullivan Award for Professional Development

  • 2015 Recipient: Bruce Bohmke, Chief Operations Officer, Woodland Park Zoo
  • 2013 Recipient: Steve Marshall, Director, El Paso Zoo
  • 2012 Recipient: Kevin Willis, Director of Biological Programs, Minnesota Zoo
  • 2008 Recipient: Margaret A. Dankworth, AZA Executive Director 1972 - 1975
  • 2007 Recipient: John Hargleroad, Operations Director, Oglebay Park
  • 2005 Recipient: Earl Wells, Retired Director, Fort Wayne Children's Zoo (awarded posthumously)
  • 2004 Recipient: Bruce Carr, PhD, AZA Director of Conservation Education 

Deadline: June 1 annually
The Tim O'Sullivan Award for Professional Development recognizes significant long-term individual achievement and service to AZA members through the AZA Professional Development Program and the AZA Board of Regents.

About the Tim O'Sullivan Award

Wendy Fisher Award for Professional Excellence

  • 2012 Honoree: Kevin McNicholas, K-M Concessions and Service Systems Associates (SSA)
  • 2010 Honoree: Charles M. Davis, FAIA, EHDD Architecture
  • 2007 Honoree: Joyce Basel, Adventure Boutique, Inc.

Deadline: June 1 annually
Commercial Members who have demonstrated outstanding character, leadership, professional excellence and distinguished service to AZA and fellow Commercial Members. The award is named for its first recipient, Wendy Fisher.

Wendy Fisher Award nomination form and guidelines

Honorary Membership Award

The AZA Board of Directors has instituted a moratorium on nominations for Honorary Membership while the Membership Committee and the Board of Directors are in the process of evaluating all membership categories.

AZA has created a special membership category to recognize both members and non-members who have made significant contributions to the profession. Candidates should not be working in the zoo or aquarium profession and are elected by the Board of Directors.

List of Honorary Membership recipients


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