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

In 2015, 154 of AZA’s 241 accredited institutions and certified-related facilities reported spending approximately $28 million on research efforts that impacted nearly 400 species. 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 Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens 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
Ocean Park Corporation Oregon Zoo Smithsonian National Zoological Park
South Carolina Aquarium Tennessee Aquarium The Seas
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Centre  

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.

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