This agenda was developed as a global pandemic (COVID-19) converged with a rapidly growing
social movement spurred by racial injustices (Black Lives Matter). While these crises were
not the impetus for identifying research that would enhance understanding the role of zoos
and aquariums within this context, they were emblematic of the bigger changes in the social
climate, including expectations of organizations - both for- and non-profit - and provided added
urgency and relevance for the agenda. This is where the first key research question prompts
zoos and aquariums to take stock of their operations, including work culture, communications,
and other business practices. This question is about understanding how the operations of
zoos and aquariums may be contributing to the continuation of or could be used to dismantle
certain societal norms and privileges that are now seen by many as antiquated and divisive.
This question also invites reflection on a historical legacy within the zoological/conservation
world that includes colonialism and a focus on the values of western and northern countries.
Organizational culture and its role in meeting conservation initiatives was first explored by
members of AZA’s 2018-2019 Executive Leadership Development Program to support AZA
SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction. In 2019, AZA’s Board of Directors created a one-year
Conservation Culture Task Force that created a logic model (see Appendix B for outcomes)
describing the relationship among organizational culture, conservation practices, visitor
engagement, and public perception. It is efforts like these that social science research can
inform and support moving forward. As detailed in the sub-questions, there are a number of
questions about zoo and aquarium operations, norms, and practices that can be explored.