Research and Science

AZA believes that contemporary animal management, husbandry, veterinary care, and conservation practices should be based in science, and that a commitment to scientific research, both basic and applied, is a trademark of the modern zoological park and aquarium. AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have the invaluable opportunity, and are expected to, conduct or facilitate research both in in situ and ex situ settings to advance scientific knowledge of the animals in our care, enhance the conservation of wild populations, and engage and inspire the visiting public. Members participate in AZA Taxonomic Advisory Group or Species Survival Plan Program sponsored research, conduct original research, are affiliated with local universities, and/or employ staff with scientific credentials.

In 2013, AZA’s Research and Technology Committee explored which studies would be considered “mission-focused research” and defined it to include projects that involve application of the scientific method with a primary focus on studying questions relevant to the conservation, animal care and welfare, science, or education missions of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.

AZA-Accredited Zoo and Aquarium Mission-Focused Research

Every year, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums provide information about their mission-focused research to AZA’s Conservation and Research Database. While members use this database to enter updates, it is open for anybody to explore; follow the link, select “Research” as the project category, and learn more about how the AZA community participates in important research.

AZA’s Conservation Grants Fund provides financial support to AZA members for scientific research. For example, in 2006, the CGF supported the development of a valuable "Methods for Animal Behavior Research" DVD. Led by David Powell, PhD, members of the AZA Behavior Scientific Advisory Group Steering Committee collaborated to develop a high-quality tutorial that addresses all of the steps needed in the research process as they pertain to behavioral research. Learn more about the CGF, which members have received awards, and about the outcomes of many of the awards online.

A Snapshot

Mission Focused Snapshot at AZA

In 2020, 160 AZA-accredited and certified related facilities reported spending approximately $20.5 million on research efforts that impacted over 600 species and subspecies. Explore each Annual Report on Conservation and Science to learn about what each facility is doing individually, or explore Highlights to see what the AZA community is accomplishing together. The following institutions led the way by having the most full-time equivalent (FTE) staff dedicated to research:

Alaska SeaLife Center
Assiniboine Park Zoo
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens
Chicago Zoological Society- Brookfield Zoo
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Detroit Zoo
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Fort Worth Zoo
John G. Shedd Aquarium
Lincoln Park Zoo
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Mystic Aquarium
New England Aquarium
North Carolina Zoo
Oregon Zoo
Saint Louis Zoo
SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium
Seattle Aquarium
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Tennessee Aquarium
The Seas
Toronto Zoo
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
Zoo de Granby

The results of this research can be found in the publication of peer-reviewed papers, technical reports, book chapters, and graduate theses and dissertations. In 2013 and 2014, publications focused on animal health and welfare, conservation, and education and professional development.

Helping Members Reach Their Goals

AZA’s Research and Technology Committee helps all members engage in, conduct, and apply the lessons learned from high quality scientific research. They also have developed several resources to support AZA engagement in priority research. Visit the Committee's wepage or contact Committee members to learn more.

Standardized Research Application Form

The purpose of the AZA Standardized Research Application Form is to facilitate and expedite the proposal application and review process for single and multi-institutional research projects conducted in AZA accredited zoos and aquariums. The form is designed to be as comprehensive as possible to allow for its use by as many AZA institutions as possible. Before submitting your application to a particular institution, please check in advance as to whether they accept the AZA standardized form or whether they need any supplemental information.

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