Honors and Awards

2022 application materials are available on each award's page.
Applications are due June 1, 2022.

The following awards were presented on September 22, 2021, at the Honors and Awards Ceremony during the AZA Virtual Annual Conference.

William G. Conway International Conservation Award:

Top Honors – Giant Armadillo Conservation Project; Houston Zoo, Houston, Texas / Naples Zoo and Caribbean Gardens, Naples, Fla. / SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Orlando, Fla.


Exhibit Award:

Top Honors – Eagle Passage: Wings of Hope; Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Eatonville Wash.

Top Honors – Kathrine G. McGovern Texas Wetlands and Cypress Circle Café; Houston Zoo, Houston, Texas

Significant Achievement - Australian Adventures; The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Desert, Calif.


Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award:

Top Honors - For Wildlife, For ALL; Lincoln Park Zoo, Lincoln Park, Chi.

Special Recognition – WCS Youth Career Lattice; Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, N.Y.


Education Award:

Top Honors – Zoo School; Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, Wisc.

Top Honors – Virtual Aquarium: Supporting Teachers, Students and Families In a Time of Crisis; The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Norwalk, Conn.

Significant Achievement - Young Naturalists; Western North Carolina Nature Center, Asheville, N.C.

Significant Achievement – ZooConnect; Zoological Society of Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisc.

Significant Achievement – Toronto Zoo's Great Lakes Program; Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Canada


Green Award:

Top Honors - Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha, Neb.

Innovation Award - Brevard Zoo, Melbourne, Fla.


Excellence in Marketing Award

Top Honors - Our World Without: Save the Heart and Soul of the South Carolina Aquarium; South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, S.C.

Top Honors - Shedd Aquarium Recovery Campaign; John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Ill.

Significant Achievement - Calgary Zoo Daily & Weekly Dose Campaign; Calgary Zoological Society, Calgary, Canada

Significant Achievement - Tembo Camp; Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, Ind.


Volunteer Engagement Award:

Significant Achievement – Calgary Zoo Volunteer Program; The Calgary Zoological Society, Calgary, Canada

Innovation Award - Docent-Led Virtual Field Trips (VFT); Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles, Calif.


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

African Safari Wildlife Park - Port Clinton, Ohio 

Northeastern Wisconsin (NEW) Zoo - Green Bay, Wisc.

Rainforest and Aquarium at Moody Gardens - Galveston, Texas

The Wilds - Cumberland, Ohio


Awards Conferred via Nomination

R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence

  • 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. 

R. Marlin Perkins Award nomination form and guidelines


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. 

Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award Nomination Guidelines


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. 

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

I Accept

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. If you continue using our website, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on this website and you agree to our Privacy Policy.