A meeting of bird minds
One important aspect of working in a zoo is collaborating and communicating with other zoos across the country, continent, and even world. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA, is an accrediting institution for zoos and aquariums in North America, but it also serves as an organization that facilitates collaboration across institutions. Recently, AZA held its mid-year conference in Jacksonville, Florida, and a few of us on the Bird Team were able to attend. AZA mid-year tends to attract the bird folks from across the continent, so it was a hub of bird nerds (myself included).
I know, I know, conferences sound like they would be dry and boring … but this was anything but! In a word, it was overwhelming. And I mean that in a great way! There were sessions about different taxa of birds—from Struthioniformes (ratites or flightless birds like ostrich or emu) to raptors to Charadriiformes (shore birds). There was a crane fertility workshop and an all-day North American migratory bird workshop. All of these sessions were chock full of information about husbandry, natural history, novel training and enrichment, research, education, conservation …you get the picture. And vultures – so much information about these incredibly endangered birds.
Aside from the mountain of information, it really left an impression on me to meet so many people who are so dedicated to the welfare and conservation of birds. It’s both inspiring and intimidating to meet so many rock stars of the bird world (I’m only half kidding when I use the term “rock star”). My coworkers, Luke and Kyle, and I talked about feeling simultaneously small and insignificant but also full of ideas and inspiration. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine of working with the birds at Zoo Atlanta, but it was great to be reminded of just how much opportunity there is in the zoo world to make a positive difference in the lives of so many birds.
Keeper I, Birds