Honors and Awards

2023 application materials are now available on each award's individual page.

The following awards were presented at the Honors and Awards Ceremony during the 2022 AZA Annual Conference.

William G. Conway International Conservation Award:
Top Honors – North Carolina Zoo’s UNITE for the Environment (UNITE) in Uganda; North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, N.C.

Exhibit Award:
Top Honors – Por el Camino de los Andes or “Along the Andes Trail;” Fundacion Zoolgica de Cali – Cali Zoo, Valle del Cauca, Colombia
Top Honors – South America’s Pantanal; Houston Zoo, Inc., Houston, Tx.
Top Honors – Zoo Knoxville’s Clayton Family Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Campus (ARC Campus); Zoo Knoxville, Knoxville, Tenn.
Significant Achievement – Owen Sea Lions Shores; Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha, Neb.

Facility Award:
Top Honors – Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership; Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, Calif. 

Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award:
Top Honors – Morton Family Exhibit; Nashville Zoo, Nashville, Tenn.

Education Award:
Top Honors – Toddler Time; Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Dayton, Ohio
Significant Achievement – Virtual Zoo Pals; Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Los Angeles, Calif.
Top Honors – You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: Increasing Representation in Conservation Science Stories; WCS / Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Significant Achievement – Wildlife Action Crew; Seneca Park Zoo Society, Rochester, N.Y.
Significant Achievement – Inclusion Initiatives Project: The Importance of Inclusive Education; Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Research Award:
Top Honors – Integrating genetics, behaviour, and ecology to align with a novel stepping-stone approach for Vancouver Island Marmots and other critically endangered species; Wilder Institute / Calgary Zoo, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Excellence in Marketing Award:
Top Honors – Wild Asia; Akron Zoo, Akron, Ohio
Top Honors – This Is How We Zoo; Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Wash.
Significant Achievement – “Just ZOO It;” Memphis Zoological Society, Memphis, Tenn.
Significant Achievement – Aquarium Aglow; South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, S.C.

Volunteer Engagement Award:
Top Honors – Covid Can’t Curb Conservation Connections; San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, San Diego, Calif.

Quarter Century Award (for 25 years of continuous AZA accreditation):
Brevard Zoo; Melbourne, Fla.
Dallas World Aquarium; Dallas, Tx.
The Florida Aquarium; Tampa, Fla.
Hutchinson Zoo; Hutchinson, Kan.

Awards Conferred via Nomination

R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence

  • 2022 Honoree: Julie Packard, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • 2021 Honoree: Douglas Myers, President and CEO Emeritus, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
  • 2019 Honoree: Kristin L. Vehrs
  • 2018 Honoree: J. Stephen McCusker
  • 2017 Honoree: Jacqueline Ogden, Ph.D.
  • 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 15 of the year preceding the year in which the award is to be conferred. 

For a full list of awardees, the nomination form, and guidelines, visit the R. Marlin Perkins Award page.


Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award Established July 2017

  • 2021 Honoree: Jill Mellen, Ph.D.
  • 2018 Honoree: Terry L. Maple, Ph.D. 

Deadline: June 1 annually
Animal welfare is a critical part of modern professional animal care, and there are many animals that have benefited from the dedication of animal welfare practitioners. Individuals within the AZA community who have moved the field of animal welfare forward through implementation, research, education, veterinary care and professional development that improves animal lives deserve to and should be recognized.  The Animal Welfare Individual Leadership Award honors 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. 

For a full list of awardees, the nomination form, and guidelines, visit the Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award page.


The Devra Kleiman Scientific Advancement Award

  • 2021 Honoree: Oliver Ryder, Ph.D., Director of Conservation Genetics, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
  • 2019 Honoree: Robert Lacy, Ph.D., Senior Conservation Scientist Emeritus, Chicago Zoological Society
  • 2018 Honoree: presented posthumously to Michael Hutchins, Ph.D. 
  • 2017 Honoree: Kathy Carlstead, Ph.D.
  • 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

Deadline: June 1 annually
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. 

For a full list of awardees, the nomination form, and guidelines, visit the Devra Kleiman Award page.


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, Ph.D., 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.

For a full list of awardees, the nomination form, and guidelines, visit the Tim O'Sullivan Award page.


Wendy Fisher Award for Professional Excellence

  • 2017 Honoree: Gary H. Lee, AIA, RLA, Co-Founder and Senior Principal, CLR Design, Inc.
  • 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.

For a full list of awardees, the nomination form, and guidelines, visit the Wendy Fisher Award page.


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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