In September I was able to attend one day of the National AAZK Conference. IF ONLY I HAD BEEN ABLE TO ATTEND ALL WEEK! I had a FANTASTIC time!!! The conference was held at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in the Greensboro Sheraton in Greensboro, NC…
…which is only about 2 hours away, so I just took the day off work and drove down for the day. I really wanted to attend this particular day’s paper sessions and classes, and it was well worth the drive.
Walking in to the hotel and conference center itself was pretty spectacular. I was a little nervous at first. Everything was so large and grandiose, and I had no idea what the people would be like. I’m just a zoo volunteer, not an employee, and although I’ve been at it a while, I didn’t know if the discussions would be way over my head, or if I would be able to follow along.
I loved this eagle sculpture and the mirrored ceiling above it!
Seeing the AAZK Conference Welcome Sign was a welcome sight indeed!
The hotel/conference center was so big, I was glad to know that I was headed in the right direction! I went straight to the registration table and was given a really nice reusable tote bag filled with some awesome items including a pen, button, and cup from the North Carolina Zoo in addition to luggage tags, keychains, and brochures all depicting awesome animal themes. Perhaps the coolest inclusion into the goodie bag was the flash/thumb/USB drive containing all the posters and paper session materials from the entire conference. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE it when those hosting conferences splurge on a drive like this to provide you with the materials covered over the course of the conference. It’s hard to take notes and absorb everything that’s been thrown at you during the week or days that you’ve attended, so having some reminders to look back on is incredibly helpful. Not to mention, conference speakers can add bonus info to the drives if they aren’t able to cover everything during the conference. I was also given a binder of information including times for each day’s events, sponsors, and notes on certain events, and I was told my chapter’s president (who was attending the entire week) could pick up my t-shirt at the end of the week.
I proceeded to the main conference room where the paper sessions were held so that I could meet up with my chapter president and it wouldn’t be long before the morning sessions started.
There were so many animal people…it was pretty awesome! I found my president and we took our seats. Shortly, conference leaders made morning announcements and the paper sessions started. These sessions were lectures given by zoo staff from zoos around the country. They included information on a variety of topics. For example, on the day I attended, lecture topics included The Development of the Light-footed Clapper Rail (Rallus longiostris levipes) Project, Cooperatively Coping and Flight Training a Peregrine Falcon with WNV, Monocular Blindness and a ‘Can-Do’ Attitude, Training a Pair of Abyssinian Ground Hornbills for Voluntary Radiographs, and Pizza Boxes, PVC and Packing Paper: Enrichment for an Empty Wallet, just to name a few. The speakers were phenomenal. I couldn’t believe how relaxed they seemed. If I had been speaking to a giant room full of a couple hundred people, my face would have been bright red and my voice would have been shaking like crazy. I was also incredibly pleased with the information that was discussed. I could follow along just fine and never felt like the info was way over my head. In fact, the material was so engulfing, the day flew by incredibly quickly!
During breaks, I visited the exhibitor hall…
…where a variety of groups were represented including, the North Carolina AAZK Chapter,
the National Capital AAZK Chapter,
Mazuri exotic pet foods
the Madagascar Biodiversity Project (from whom I purchased the coolest little hand carved wooden turtle figurine)
the Carolina Tiger Rescue
Action For Cheetahs in Kenya (from whom I purchased some really amazing animal hair sticks)
in addition to Polar Bears International, and the National AAZK group among others. I didn’t get photos of every booth because I had too much fun speaking with everyone and spending too much money! I LOVE my AAZK fleece vest and special issues of the AAZK publication “Animal Keepers’ Forum” that I purchased at the event.
During breaks it was also fun and informative to look at all the posters that were displayed throughout the conference area. These posters were also included on our USB drives.
I think it’s great that these institutions are willing to share strategies and events that worked for them and also ideas that may not have been as successful. This is not a competition. We’re all working towards the same goal, so by sharing information, we can help make our own organizations the best they can be. You can see in this poster the Milwaukee County Zoo describes how they utilized wish lists to enrich the lives of their animals.
The variety of poster topics was enlightening and inspiring. They drew me in and made me want to become involved with even more organizations or activities.
Signage at the zoo…
I want to check this place out. I’d love to further my education.
And finally, the random tiger cardboard cut out!
This is where I ate lunch on the day I was there. Although I didn’t get any Cajun food, it was awesome. I loved the decor of the inside!
So I had a phenomenal time at the conference. I learned so much and met some fantastic people. Next year’s is in Orlando and I’d LOVE to attend the entire week, but don’t know if I’ll be able to attend at all since it’s much further away. Time will tell – my fingers are crossed!