Honors & Awards

Nominations for the 2019 R. Marlin Perkins Award and
applications for the 2019 SSP Sustainability Awards
are due December 15, 2018. 

Honors and Awards presented at the 2018 AZA Annual Conference in Seattle

  • Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award
    Significant Achievement
    Wildlife Conservation Society for Project TRUE (Teens Researching Urban Ecology)
    Akron Zoological Park and Birmingham Zoo for Sensory Inclusive Zoo Initiative

  • Education Award (two budget categories) 
    Top Honors - institutional budget less than $5 million
    WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium for The Living Curriculum Initiative
    Significant Achievement - institutional budget less than $5 million
    Western North Carolina Nature Center for Expanding Impact throught Targeted Low Income Outreach Education
    Top Honors - institutional budget over $5 million
    Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo for Naturestart
    Significant Achievement - institutional budget over $5 million
    Seattle Aquarium, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and Woodland Park Zoo for Fostering Empathy for Animals: A Collaborative Project
    Innovation - institutional budget over $5 million
    Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre for AquaVan 150: Connecting Communities to Coastlines
    Community Engagement - institutional budget over $5 million
    Detroit Zoological Park for Celebrate Urban Backyards

  • Excellence in Marketing Award (two budget categories)
    Top Honors - campaign budget less than $175,000
    Akron Zoological Park for Curious Creatures
    Innovation - campaign budget less than $175,000

    Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for #Team Fiona
    Top Honors - campaign budget greater than $175,000

    San Diego Zoo Global for Africa Rocks
    Significant Achievement - campaign budget less than $175,000

    Saint Louis Zoo for Our Promise

  • Exhibit Award 

    Top Honors
    Sedgwick County Zoo — Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley
    Significant Achievement

    San Diego Zoo Global — Africa Rocks 
    South Carolina Aquarium — Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery

  • Green Award
    Significant Achievement
    Calgary Zoo

  • William G. Conway International Conservation Award
    20 Year Achievement in Conservation Award
    Disney's Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends for Disney Conservation Fund: Saving Wildlife. Inspiring Action. Protecting the Planet.
    Top Honors
    Minnesota Zoo, Houston Zoo and North Carolina Zoo for Scaling Up Community-based Rhino Conservation in Namibia
    Significant Achievement
    Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, Dallas Zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Houston Zoo, Nashville Zoo, San Diego Zoo Global, and White Oak Conservation Center for Over Three Decades of Protecting the Endangered Okapi and Its Habitat
    Significant Achievement
    Houston Zoo, Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, and Nashville Zoo for The Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative, Brazil
    North Carolina Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society for The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) project helps to protect species around the world

  • North American Conservation Award
    Top Honors

    Houston Zoo and Fort Worth Zoo for Houston Toad Recovery Program
    Significant Achievement
    Brevard Zoo, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society and Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo for Perdido Key beach mouse Species Survival Plan Program

  • Volunteer Engagement Award (two budget categories)
    Top Honors - institutional budget over $5 million
    Houston Zoo, Inc. for Houston Zoo Volunteers: An Empowered Culture
    Significant Achievement - institutional budget over $5 million
    Seattle Aquarium for Youth Ocean Advocates Volunteer Program
    Innovation - institutional budget less than $5 million
    Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens for Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens Volunteer Program


2018 SSP Sustainability Award -  Lion SSP

The 2018 winner, Lion SSP, was announced by Larry Killmar, Chair of the Wildlife Conservation Management Committee, at the Mid-Year Meeting in Jacksonville, FL on March 28, 2018.

The applications and guidelines for the 2019 SSP Awards are here and the deadline is December 15, 2018.

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

Awards Conferred via Nomination

R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence

  • 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 15th of the year preceding the year in which the award is to be conferred. 

Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award

Established July, 2017
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. Nominations for 2018 are due by June 1.

Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award Nomination Guidelines

The Devra Kleiman Scientific Advancement Award

  • 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

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 2018 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

  • 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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