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General Sessions

The 2023 AZA Annual Conference features three exciting General Sessions, including the Honors & Awards General Session, to celebrate excellence in the zoo and aquarium community.

Tuesday, September 12
General Session
8:00 am – 9:30 am EDT
Dr. J. Drew Lanham
Ornithologist, Naturalist, Writer,
Professor of Wildlife Ecology
Clemson University
Joseph Drew Lanham is an ornithologist, naturalist, writer, and poet. He received a BA (1988), an MS (1990), and a PhD (1997) from Clemson University, where he is currently Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master Teacher in the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department. He was an inaugural fellow of the Audubon-Toyota Together Green Initiative and is an Advisory Council member of the North American Association for Environmental Education. Lanham is the poet laureate of Edgefield, South Carolina, and the author of Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts (2021). He has published in a variety of leading journals and media platforms, including Audubon, Orion, Vanity Fair, Forest Ecology and Management, and Oxford American.

Photo credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Wednesday, September 13
General Session
8:00 am – 9:30 am EDT
Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan
Explorer, Scientist, Astronaut,
Former NOAA Administrator
Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan has a long career as a distinguished scientist, astronaut and executive. She was one of the first six women to join NASA’s astronaut corps in 1978 and holds the distinction of being the first American woman to walk in space. Her submersible dive to the Challenger Deep in June of 2020 made her a triple Guinness World Record holder, as the most vertical person in the world, the first person to both orbit the planet and reach its deepest point, and the first woman to dive to full ocean depth.

Sullivan has held a variety of senior executive and advisory positions since leaving NASA, the most recent of which is her September 2021 appointment by President Biden to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Previous positions include Presidential appointments as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA; 2014), NOAA Deputy Administrator (2011), NOAA Chief Scientist (1993) and member of the National Science Board (2004). She currently serves on the boards of International Paper, Accenture Federal Services, Terra Alpha Investments and the National Audubon Society. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and Ambassador-at-Large for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Dr. Sullivan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences from University of California at Santa Cruz and a Ph.D. in Geology from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration, and has been inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, National Aviation Hall of Fame Government Executive Hall of Fame, Women Aviators Hall of Fame, Women Divers Hall of Fame and Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. She was recognized by Time Magazine in 2017 as one of the 46 Distinguished First Women, by the World Economic Forum in 2015 as one of the 15 Women Changing the World in, and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2014. She has been awarded the Nevada Medal, the Explorers Club Medal, the Rachel Carson Award, an Emmy and nine honorary degrees.

She is the author of the children’s book To the Stars! (Charlesbridge Press, 2016), Handprints on Hubble, An Astronaut’s Story of Invention (MIT Press, 2019) and How to Spacewalk (MIT Kids Press, 2023).