Principles of Aquarium Husbandry, Design and Leadership

Hosted by Shedd Aquarium
Chicago, IL
October 1 - 6, 2017

This course will help experienced aquarists build their leadership, design, and husbandry skills to advance both their career and institution. Students will experience a blend of lectures, group discussions, behind the scenes tours, and hands-on activities. This interactive class involvement also yields rich opportunities for networking with colleagues.  Participants will explore the many facets of modern aquariums including best practices and leadership across the fields of animal care, exhibit design, facility operations, dive safety and much more.

Course Objectives

After completion of the Principles of Aquarium Husbandry, Design, and Leadership Course, students will:

  • Contextualize aquariums by their relevance beyond public display to learning, guest experience, science and conservation
  • Leverage existing experience to expand positive impact and influence in all areas of communication, customer service, animal care, conservation, facility operations and learning
  • Develop a strategy to improve collaboration among facilities to achieve greater collection sustainability
  • Examine regulatory processes and their impact on maintaining a living collection
  • Explore the technology, biology and physical elements of aquarium operations
  • Identify aquatic conservation priorities and gain an awareness of how their expertise can be used to address them
  • Engage in life-long learning with professional peers committed to excellence in aquariums


Paul Clarkson, Senior Curator, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Ally McNaughton, Staff Veterinarian, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
Rachel Metz, Director of Live Exhibits, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
Arnold Postell, DSO and Senior Biologist, South Carolina Aquarium
Chris Spaulding, Director of Career and Technical Education/Aquarium Science STEM, Oregon Coast Community College
Lise Watson, Wild Reef Manager, Shedd Aquarium
Marcus Zevalkink, Curator of Fishes and Invertebrates, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Is This Course Right for You?

This course is designed for aquarists with two to five years of experience working in a public aquarium or similar facility looking to expand their skills to become leaders within their institutions and the profession.


None. Priority will be given to AZA members. Those not affiliated with an AZA accredited institution will be considered on a case-by-case basis; please submit a letter describing your intended benefit from taking this course to for consideration.

Course Schedule  

First Day
 - Student registration
 - Opening evening ceremony

- Class meets all day

Last Day
- Classes meet
- Closing ceremony

Attendance for course participants is required for the duration of the course until the evening of the last day. As a result, individuals generally depart the following day. Attendees will receive a detailed schedule for their course after their registration is confirmed.  

Course Travel & Registration

Travel & Accommodations

Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) are the closest airports. MDW is closer and provides easier access to the hotel via public transportation. Course participants will stay at a designated hotel downtown within walking distance of Shedd Aquarium.  

General Hotel Pricing*:
$180+ for One/Two Queen Bed(s) 

Please wait until you are admitted into the course before making your reservations. You will receive an email containing detailed information regarding your accommodations and transportation once you are admitted. 

Tuition & Expenses*

The AZA registration fee below covers tuition and lunches for each day of the course. Other expenses include hotel, travel, and other meals. Registration prices are subject to change. 
Scholarship funding for courses is available through a competitive process. AZA scholarship applications are due by mid-July and are awarded by early September. 

Early Bird Rates:
$775 for AZA Individual Members
$875 for Non-members
Registration deadline: 12 weeks prior to course start date

Regular Rates:
$875 for AZA Individual Members
$975 for Non-members 
Final registration deadline: 4 weeks prior to course start date

Accepted forms of payment for registration are by: credit card, check or purchase order. Interested individuals will be able to view further details and register for the course from this page starting late March 2017. 

*Prices are subject to change 

Questions? For additional details please contact the AZA Professional Development Department.

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