Honors & Awards


The following awards were presented on September 16, 2020, at the Honors and Awards Ceremony during the AZA Virtual Annual Conference.

Edward H. Bean Award:

Innovation Award – Clouded Leopard; Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Washington, D.C.


William G. Conway International Conservation Award:

Top Honors – Collaborating to Conserve Cotton-top Tamarins: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Proyecto Titi; Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Fla.

Significant Achievement – Southern Tanzania Vulture Monitoring and Conservation; North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, N.C., and the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, N.Y..


Exhibit Award:

Top Honors – Walkabout Australia; San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego, Calif.

Top Honors – Tiger Crossroads; Nashville Zoo, Nashville, Tenn.

Innovation Award – African Forest; Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, Fla.


Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award:

Significant Achievement – Woodland Park Zoo Volunteer Inclusion Program; Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Wash.

Special Recognition – Family Nature Club; Brevard Zoo, Brevard, Fla.


Education Award:

Top Honors – ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge presented by Flint Hills Resources; Minnesota Zoological Gardens, Apple Valley, Minn.

Top Honors – Racine Zoo AmeriCorps Program; Racine Zoological Society, Racine, Wis.

Significant Achievement – Philadelphia Zoo Albert M. Greenfield Foundation UNLESS Contest; Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, Pa.

Significant Achievement – Sound Resilience – Get on Board; Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Norwalk, Conn.

Community Engagement Award – King Conservation Leadership Academy; Chicago Zoological Society / Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Ill.


Green Award:

Significant Achievement – Houston Zoo, Houston, Texas


Excellence in Marketing Award

Significant Achievement – Reconnect with Nature; Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Spring, Colo.

Significant Achievement – Audubon Zoo Lions: The Roar Returns; Audubon Zoo, New Orleans, La.


Volunteer Engagement Award:

Top Honors – Ocean Park Golden Age Volunteer Programme; Ocean Park Hong Kong, Aberdeen, Hong Kong

Top Honors – Volunteer Inclusion Program; Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Wash.

Significant Achievement – Trunk Island – “Living Classroom”; Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo / Bermuda Zoological Society, Flats Village, Bermuda


Research Award:

Top Honors – Great Ape Heart Project; Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga.

Significant Achievement – The Urban Wildlife Information Network; Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Ill. / Oakland Zoo, Oakland, Calif. / Seneca Park Zoo, Rochester, N.Y. / Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Garden, Sanford, Fla. / Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma, Wa. / Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Eatonville, Wash. / Brandywine Zoo, Wilmington, Del. / Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Wash.

Significant Achievement – Testing with Touchscreens: Studying Primate Cognition and Welfare and Facilitating Public Engagement with Research in a Zoo Setting; Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Ill.


Quarter Century Award (for 25 years of continuous AZA accreditation):

Cameron Park Zoo – Waco, Texas

Chahinkapa Zoo -  Wahpeton, N.D.

Sequoia Park Zoo – Eureka, Calif.

Texas State Aquarium – Corpus Christi, Texas

ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park – Hershey, Pa.


Awards Conferred via Nomination

R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence

  • 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. 

R. Marlin Perkins Award nomination form and guidelines


Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award Established July 2017

  • 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. 

Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award Nomination Guidelines


The Devra Kleiman Scientific Advancement Award

  • 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. 

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, 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.

About the Tim O'Sullivan Award


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.

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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