Behavior Scientific Advisory Group

Behavior Scientific Advisory Group

The mission of the Behavior Scientific Advisory Group (Behavior SAG) is to promote positive welfare and science-based approaches to animal training, enrichment, and behavior-based husbandry programs. The Behavior SAG serves the AZA community of accredited institutions by supplying tools to support and enhance institutional programs, providing technical advice to meet the husbandry, social, and behavioral needs of animals, and promoting behavioral strategies which can be applied to the conservation of species.

It is overseen by the Animal Welfare Committee.

What We Do

  • Provide behavioral advice/input to the various AZA Animal Programs.
  • Provide information and guidance to enhance behavioral monitoring and record keeping techniques.
  • Use behavior science-based approaches to create robust training programs, provide expertise in animal training, and provide assistance to training programs as requested.
  • Increase innovation in enrichment programming and move industry focus from item-driven to behavior-driven enrichment programs.
  • Increase understanding in the field of how to use the animal's natural behaviors to guide husbandry programs and improve animal welfare.
  • Promote the increase of science-based behavior knowledge by developing research projects and providing tools to support and facilitate behavioral research in zoos.
  1. Behavior SAG Grant

    The Behavior SAG sends out a call for grant applications on March 1st.

    2021 Call for Grants

  2. Applications Submitted

    Behavior SAG Grant applications are due June 1st. Applications can be sent to Angela Miller, Behavior SAG Chair.

    2021 Behavior SAG Grant Application

  3. Grant Winner Announced

    The Behavior SAG Grant award winner is announced at the AZA Annual Conference during the Behavior SAG Open Session.

  4. Funds Distributed

    The Behavior SAG Grant funds are distributed by December 31st.

  5. Mid-Year Project Updates

    The Behavior SAG will request a mid-year project update from awardees via email in August of the following year, after the grant is distributed. Progress updates should be a brief 2-3 sentences.

  6. End-of-Project Report

    The Behavior SAG Grant End-of-Project Report is due April 1st, the year following the mid-year project update.

Who We Are

The Behavior SAG is administered by a Steering Committee (SC) composed of a maximum of 15 members. There are four officer positions within the committee: Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. 

  • Angela Miller, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Chair
  • Stephanie Allard, National Aquarium, Vice-Chair
  • Stephanie Chandler, Akron Zoological Park, Secretary
  • Heidi Hellmuth, Saint Louis Zoo, Treasurer
  • Erika Bauer, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
  • Nicki Boyd, San Diego Zoo
  • Ellen Dreyer, Brevard Zoo
  • Kimberly Leser, Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden
  • Steve Martin, Natural Encounters, Inc.
  • Brenda Melton, Steinhart Aquarium
  • Christine Montgomery, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
  • Melissa Nelson Slater, Bronx Zoo
  • Rachel Salant, Woodland Park Zoo
  • Jason Wark, Lincoln Park Zoo

In addition to the Steering Committee, the Behavior SAG includes a general membership comprised of individuals serving on working groups to advance the goals of the SAG.

  1. Behavior SAG General Membership

    The Behavior SAG sends out a call for general membership applications (dependent on open positions) and holds Steering Committee open position elections at the AZA Annual Conference during the Behavior SAG Open Session.

  2. Applications Submitted

    Behavior SAG General Membership Applications are due October 1st. Applications can be sent to Angela Miller, Behavior SAG Chair.

  3. Applicants Selected

    The Behavior SAG reviews and selects General Membership applicants by November 1st. Decision notifications are emailed to applicants by November 15th.

What We're Working On

Animal Training

Use behavior science-based information to provide AZA-accredited facilities with resources to create robust training programs.


Provide resources to help AZA-accredited facilities increase innovation in enrichment programming and move industry focus from item-driven to behavior-driven and experiential enrichment programs.

Enrichment Evaluation Toolkit

Behavior-based Husbandry

Increase understanding in the field of how to use animal natural behaviors to guide husbandry programs and improve animal welfare.

Behavior Research

Provide tools to support and facilitate science-based behavior research in AZA-accredited facilities. 


Provide a robust communication platform for AZA-accredited facilities to ensure access to resources regarding all aspects of behavior-based animal care and research.


Work with AZA entities to develop and recommend standards that encourage a strong culture of behavior-based animal care for AZA-accredited facilities.

How to Get Involved

The Behavior SAG Steering Committee organizes open meetings for all individuals and proposes relevant sessions in conjunction with AZA’s annual conference and mid-year meeting.

The Behavior SAG has an Institutional Representative (IR) from every AZA Accredited facility.  The IR is the contact for Behavior SAG communications, able to vote in our election process, and has the opportunity to run for election to our steering committee.  

The Behavior SAG will announce opportunities to serve on the Steering Committee or General Membership. For more information about responsibilities, appointments and terms see the Behavior SAG Steering Committee and General Membership Positions Descriptions.

Join the Animal Behavior Open Forum on the AZA Network to stay connected with discussion threads, resources and announcements.

Questions about the Behavior SAG? Please contact Angela Miller, Chair.

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