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General Sessions

The 2022 AZA Annual Conference features three exciting General Sessions, including the Honors & Awards General Session, to celebrate excellence in the zoo and aquarium community.

Tuesday, August 30
Opening General Session
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. EDT
AZA President and CEO, Dan Ashe, and the co-hosts from the Maryland Zoo and the National Aquarium, Kirby Fowler and John Racanelli, join to welcome all back to the AZA Annual Conference and the city of Baltimore! They will be joined by the Chair of the AZA Board of Directors, Dr. Brian Davis, President and CEO of Georgia Aquarium.
Guest Speakers and Panelists
Mamie Parker, Ph.D.
Former Head of Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
Conservationist, Success Coach, M.A. Parker and Associates

Dr. Mamie Parker is a professional fish and wildlife biologist, success coach, and principal consultant at Ecologix Group, Inc. She was elected chair of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Commission leading the commission in the changing the name of the agency. Parker is the chair of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and serves on the Board of Directors of Brown Advisory, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, The Nature Conservancy-Virginia Chapter, Marstel-Day Consulting, Duke University NSOE, the National Wildlife Federation, the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Known for her public speaking throughout the environmental community, Parker has given commencement addresses and speeches for several organizations, including Duke University NSOE, Wisconsin Northland College, the World Fisheries Congress in China, the Oprah Winfrey Academy and the office of the Prime Minister of Lesotho in southern Africa. Dr. Parker made history serving as the first African American FWS Regional Director of the 13 Northeastern states after working in the Great Lakes and Big Rivers regions and in the southeastern United States. She spent a career as a biologist and senior executive in the federal government as the FWS Chief of Staff, Assistant Director of Habitat Conservation/Head of Fisheries in this country.

Curtis Bennett
Director of Equity and Community Engagement
National Aquarium

Curtis Bennett is the National Aquarium’s director of equity and community engagement. He and his team develop long-lasting relationships with local residents and stakeholders, and collaborate with them to develop environmental programs and projects that meet the needs of the community. Curtis also ensures that the Aquarium intentionally integrates and applies principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice within its conservation mission.

Curtis began his career in environmental education and community engagement in 2003 as a naturalist at the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. He is a member of several diversity, equity, inclusion and justice-focused committees and workgroups, including with AZA’s Diversity Committee, the Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program and the Choose Clean Water Coalition. He also serves on the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education Advisory Council, and was recognized with their Robert Finton Outdoor Educator of the Year Award in 2018.
Dan earned a bachelor's degree in biological science from Florida State University and a graduate degree in marine affairs from the University of Washington, where he studied under a fellowship from the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation. His master's thesis, on estuarine wetland mitigation, was published in the Coastal Zone Management Journal in 1982.
Dan’s journey to the greater D.C. area was made possible by the National Sea Grant College Program. He was awarded a National Sea Grant Congressional Fellowship in 1982.

Bridget Coughlin, Ph.D.
President and CEO
John G. Shedd Aquarium

Dr. Bridget Coughlin was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Shedd Aquarium in 2016. Under her leadership, 1.9 million aquarium guests each year enjoy innovative experiences that are focused on Shedd’s Mission of compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world.

A relentless advocate for access in all ways, Dr. Coughlin commits the organization to offering tens of millions of dollars in free admission each year; champions varied learning styles and approaches; and is a voice for real diversity, equity and inclusion practices in the business world. A nature lover and scientist at heart, Dr. Coughlin is passionate about animal life in oceans, rivers and lakes and her commitment to learning and conservation extends well beyond the walls of Shedd Aquarium. She has connected families and community members to Shedd’s aquatic life on the Great Lakes, in neighborhoods across the city and in the digital world with urban outposts and immersive virtual learning experiences.

Wednesday, August 31
General Session
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. EDT
Dr. Scott Terrell and guests will explore AZA’s Animal Wellbeing Strategy, sharing insight as to what it means and why it’s foundational to AZA-accredited members.
Scott Terrell, DVM, DACVP
Director, Animal and Science Operations
The Walt Disney Company

Dr. Scott Terrell grew up exploring the wilds of the Everglades in Southern Florida. His passion for wildlife and wild places led to a career focused on working with wild animals. His undergraduate focus was Wildlife Ecology at the University of Florida. He then entered veterinary school at the University of Florida and received his doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1997. Dr. Scott completed a residency in veterinary anatomic pathology and was board certified by the American College of Veterinary Pathology in 2001. He came to the Disney Company and Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a veterinarian in 1999. Since 1999, Dr. Scott has had the opportunity to lead a number of teams within the Disney Company. In his current role, he leads a team of more than 800 animal care professionals, educators, scientists, and veterinarians that provide the animal care and guest experiences for Disney theme parks and resorts around the world.
Christopher Dold, DVM
Chief Zoological Officer
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment

Dr. Christopher Dold has served as the Chief Zoological Officer of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment since April 2016. In his role, Chris leads a team of zoological professionals and oversees all animal programs, rescue and rehabilitation, science, conservation and education. Prior to that, Dr. Dold served as Vice President, Veterinary Services from 2008 until April  2016 and Senior Veterinarian at SeaWorld Orlando from 2005 to 2008. Prior to joining SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Dr. Dold was a National Academies- National Research Council Postdoctoral Clinical Fellow with the US Navy Marine Mammal Program and completed a University of California-Davis Internship in Marine Mammal Medicine and Pathology at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. Dr. Dold is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine, European Association for Aquatic Mammals, and the American Association of  Zoo Veterinarians
Nicola Craddock
Executive Director
Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia Nicola

Craddock joined the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA) as Executive Director in 2017, and currently sits on WAZA Council, the WAZA Ethics and Animal Welfare Committee, Associations Committee and is the Chair of the WAZA Membership Committee. Focused on strategy development and execution to achieve ZAA’s vision and long-term strategic goals, as well as Government advocacy, stakeholder management and relationship development, and strategic planning for ZAA’s Accreditation Program and its central focus to support positive animal welfare across Australasian zoos and aquariums.
Dr. Dwight Lawson
Executive Director/CEO
Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden

Dr. Dwight Lawson joined the Oklahoma City Zoological Park and Botanical Garden in May 2014 as Executive Director &CEO. He previously worked at Zoo Atlanta as Director, Senior Vice President of Collections, Education and Conservation, and General Curator. Before joining Zoo Atlanta, Dr. Lawson worked as an Associate Research Scientist for The Wildlife Conservation Society where he led a community-based wildlife conservation project in southwestern Cameroon, Africa. He has also served as Biological Curator and Live Collections Manager for the herpetological collection at The University of Texas at Arlington Collection of Vertebrates, and an Environmental Scientist for Stone and Webster Environmental Services in Boston.
Wednesday, September 22
Honors & Awards
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT
Honor excellence in the profession at the Honors and Awards Lunch! Prestigious awards will be presented, along with special presentations of PIZZAZZ. The incoming and outgoing AZA Board of Directors and Ethics Board Members will be recognized for their leadership. Incoming Chair of the Board, Adrienne Rowland, will be inducted and address delegates.

Adrienne Rowland
Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

Incoming Chair of the Board,  
Association of Zoos and Aquariums

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