Friday, September 22, 2023

AZA switches to virtual Annual Conference

A message from Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums:

Haruki Murakami popularized an ancient Buddhist adage when he said, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Sending this message is painful: Due to the necessary mass-gathering restrictions in place in the State of Ohio, the 95th Annual Conference of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will not take place in Columbus. This will be the first time since World War II that an in-person Annual Conference will not be held. Although this is painfully disappointing, we also know this is the best decision for AZA and the membership, given the circumstances. 

And indeed, suffering is optional. In the tradition of our community, we are adapting and are excited about the opportunities for all-virtual Annual Conference to bring us together, safely, during a time when leaning on and learning from each other is more important than ever. So, please mark your calendars and plan to participate in this historic event, September 14-18.

We offer our sincerest appreciation and admiration to Tom Stalf, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and his incredible team. They were prepared to make our 2020 conference everything you would expect from Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. They have put so much effort and enthusiasm into planning the Conference and I want to thank them for their dedication. But as with everyone in our community, their focus must be on reopening and recovering and we’re thrilled they have received the green light to open their doors to the public. An Annual Conference, in Columbus, is already in the works for 2022 or 2023. We will continue to share news from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in the coming months and they will have a presence in the new virtual format…think virtual Zoo Day! 

As each of your facilities is reopening, you are experimenting, innovating, and reimagining the ways you do business. Day-to-day operations are changing. You’re not waiting for a new normal to develop, you’re actively creating it! Therefore, it’s the ideal time for us to join together – virtually – to share and learn from one another, and leverage the collective experience and wisdom of the greater zoo and aquarium community. That community includes AZA Commercial Members who are also bringing new innovations and technologies to turn our pressing challenges into evolving and promising opportunities.

Although we will all miss the experience of being together in person, our traditions of sharing, learning, growing and improving will not suffer. Your AZA staff and your Annual Conference Program Committee, with inspired leadership from Florida Aquarium Chief Operating Officer, Andy Wood, are preparing to bring you an engaging online experience. You won’t want to miss it!

The 95th Annual Conference will have many of the same offerings. Those AZA Committees – including Animal Programs, SAFE and Scientific Advisory Groups – that wish to convene virtually will be able to do so during the week of September 7-11 and registration for the virtual Annual Conference will not be required to take part. 

More information is forthcoming, so stay tuned! And please bookmark for ongoing program highlights and schedule information.

Registration is now open and we hope that you’ll join us for this first-ever, all-virtual AZA Annual Conference. And while we hope to be back together – in person, in 2021, in Baltimore, Maryland – we won’t ever go back. I’m certain that this year’s experience will mean that a virtual element will become part of every future AZA conference. And by doing so, we will continue expanding the diversity of access to future annual conferences.

So prepare to help us define the future, by registering and participating in AZA’s 95th Annual Conference.

It pains me to think of what a wonderful conference we would have had in Columbus, Ohio. But suffering is optional.

Because We are AZA and We are #AZAStrong.

Thank you!

Dan Ashe

President & CEO

Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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