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General Sessions

The 2019 AZA and IMATA Annual Conference features three exciting General Sessions, including the Honors & Awards Lunch to celebrate excellence in the zoo and aquarium community. 
Monday, September 9
AZA & IMATA Opening General Session

AZA President & CEO Dan Ashe and IMATA Board of Directors President, Kelly Flaherty Clark of Discovery Cove, will welcome delegates to New Orleans. They will be joined by the Chair of the AZA Board of Directors, Peggy Sloan, of John G. Shedd Aquarium.

Dr. Enric Sala is a former university professor who saw himself writing the obituary of ocean life, and quit academia to become a full-time conservationist as a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He is a marine ecologist who fell in love with the sea growing up on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. After obtaining a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Aix-Marseille, France, Sala moved to the United States for ten years, where he was a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 2006, Enric moved back to Spain to hold the first position on marine conservation ecology at the Spanish National Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), and in 2008 he became a National Geographic Fellow.

He founded National Geographic's Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 21 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of over 5.3 million square km - more than half the size of Canada. Scaling the work of Pristine Seas, Enric is currently leading the National Geographic Society's Last Wild Places initiative, which will support the protection of 30% of the planet by 2030, and the development of new business models for conservation.

Enric has authored two books and more than 130 scientific publications that are widely recognized and used for real-world conservation efforts, and produced 25 documentary films.
Ken Ramirez helps to oversee the vision, development and implementation of training education programs. Previously, Ken served as EVP of animal care and training at Chicago's John G. Shedd Aquarium. A 40+ year veteran of animal care and training, Ramirez is a biologist and behaviorist who has worked with many zoological organizations and dog programs throughout the world. He helped develop, and has been an instructor for, AZA’s Animal Training Applications course. He is past president of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association and has been active in various leadership positions within IMATA for over 30 years. He hosted two successful seasons of the TV series Talk to the Animals. 

Ramirez authored the book ANIMAL TRAINING: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement in 1999 and Better Together: The Collected Wisdom of Modern Dog Trainers in 2017. He taught a graduate course on animal training at Western Illinois University for 20 years. He currently teaches at ClickerExpo every year, offers hands on courses and seminars at the Karen Pryor National Training Center (the Ranch), and teaches online courses through Karen Pryor Academy.
Tuesday, September 10
AZA General Session

The Annual Conference continues on Tuesday with the Chair’s Service Awards and the Accreditation Report. AZA welcomes:

As the Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research, Colleen Dilenschneider utilizes data to help cultural organizations maintain their relevance and secure their long-term financial futures. Colleen is the author and publisher of the popular website Know Your Own Bone, a resource for cultural executives that has been prominently featured in several national publications and is required reading for numerous graduate programs and professional conferences. She has been a featured expert on audience behaviors surrounding cultural organizations in outlets ranging from the American Alliance of Museums to NPR, and conducts speaking engagements and workshops globally. She graduated from the University of Chicago and received her Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Southern California. Ever the curious nerd, she has also completed professional programs at The London School of Economics, Yale, and Harvard. Colleen currently serves on the board of directors of the National Aquarium.
Tuesday, September 10
AZA Honors & Awards Lunch

Enjoy lunch while AZA honors excellence in the profession. Prestigious awards will be presented, along with many other honors presented by the AZA Honors & Awards Committee. The incoming and outgoing AZA Board of Directors will be recognized for their leadership. Incoming Chair of the Board will also address attendees.

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