Honors & Awards

2017 applications and guidelines now available
Excellence recognized and a new award announced!

Honors and Awards at Annual Conference

The new AZA SSP Sustainability Award will celebrate the successes of the collaborative, volunteer-run programs by recognizing initiatives that have a quantifiable impact on the long-term sustainability of an SSPs managed population. For more information and to apply, click on the SSP Sustainability Award link on the right-hand side of this page. Note: deadline for applications is February 3, 2017.

The following awards were presented on September 10 at the 2016 AZA Annual Conference in San Diego, California hosted by San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and SeaWorld San Diego.

  • R. Marlin Perkins Award was presented to Charles L. (Chuck) Bieler, Executive Director Emeritus, San Diego Zoo
  • Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award
    • Top Honors to Chicago Zoological Society for A Zoo for All
  • Education Award
    • Top Honors to John G. Shedd Aquarium for Shedd Aquarium's Teen Field Experiences
    • Top Honors to Mystic Aquarium for Sea School Preschool Think Green in the Spring Program
    • Significant Achievement to Chicago Zoological Society for King Conservation Science Scholars
    • Significant Achievement to The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk for Teen Maritime Program Emphasizing Science & Technology (TeMPEST)
  • Volunteer Engagement Award
    • Significant Achievement to California Academy of Sciences for Volunteer Services Across the Academy
    • Significant Achievement to Minnesota Zoo for Minnesota Zoo Volunteers: 3 million Hours of Engaging & Inspiring Action to Save Wildlife
  • Excellence in Marketing Award (campaign less than $175,000)
    • Top Honors to Memphis Zoo for How Many People Does it Take to Move a Hippo?
    • Significant Achievement to Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden for Join Our Family
  • Excellence in Marketing Award (campaign greater than $175,000)
    • Top Honors to Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo for 120 Ways #NYisWild
    • Significant Achievement to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park for Spend the Day in Nature
    • Significant Achievement to South Carolina Aquarium for Opening of Shark Shallows
  • Green Award
    • Top Honors to Akron Zoological Park
  • Edward H. Bean Award
    • Top Honors to Wildlife Conservation Society - Bronx Zoo for Maleo
  • Exhibit Award (operating budget less than $5 million)
    • Top Honors to Sequoia Park Zoo for Watershed Heroes Exhibit
  • Exhibit Award (operating budget greater than $5 million)
    • Top Honors to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for Penguin Coast
    • Top Honors to National Aquarium for Living Seashore
    • Innovation to Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo for Hamill Family Wild Encounters / Bramsen Animal Ambassador Pavilion
  • North American Conservation Award
    • Top Honors to Woodland Park Zoo and Oregon Zoo for Recovering Western Pond Turtles in Washington State: A 25-Year Team Effort
    • Top Honors to Calgary Zoo, Audubon Nature Institute, International Crane Foundation and San Antonio Zoo for Whooping Crane Recovery Program
    • Significant Achievement to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium for Salt Creek Tiger Beetle Captive Breeding and Reintroduction
    • Significant Achievement to Saint Louis Zoo for Ozark Hellbender Augmentation Program
  • International Conservation Award
    • Top Honors to Disney's Animal Kingdom, Dallas Zoo, Detroit Zoological Society, Houston Zoo, Jacksonville Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Nashville Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, and Utah's Hogle Zoo for Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center
    • Significant Achievement to John G. Shedd Aquarium for Conservation of Bahamian rock iguanas
  • Wildlife Emergency Response Award
    • to Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens for Florida Panthers
    • to Turtle Conservancy for Crisis in the Philippines: International Collaboration to Save a Turtle from Immiment Extinction

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

Keith Winsten
Director, Brevard Zoo
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 2015 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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