ABMA Annual Conference



The ABMA will host a 2021 virtual conference!  Join us on this exciting adventure 29 April-1 May!  

Quality Connections:  Ready, Set, Train



Register for the ABMA Conference HERE!




 



IFAW will be our conservation partner for 2021! We are proud to share part of your registration for this amazing project that utilizes behavior management to help with koala conservation. 





Upload your conference photos here!  **By uploading your photo(s) you agree to the ABMA photograph general disclaimer:  The undersigned (the "Photographer") hereby irrevocably grants to the Animal Behavior Management Alliance (the “ABMA") full and complete permission to use the photos submitted in any ABMA publication, including, but not limited to, use and display on newsletters, illustrations, advertisements, and internet content. With the exception of the foregoing, ABMA makes no claims to ownership of the submitted photographs and ownership rights are retained by the Photographer. 

*NEW* ABMA Conference Merchandise!


Quick Links for Conference Information

BMF VIRTUAL SCHOLARSHIP

Did you know that ABMA’s Behavior Management Fund (BMF) committee is providing a virtual scholarship for 10 lucky presenters this year!

This scholarship is to assist anyone whose institution is unable to give them financial support. This will help an award recipient the ability to present their work and help the organization by giving our membership the opportunity to hear information that supports the ABMA’s Core Value of “Sharing the Knowledge”.  The scholarship deadline for the 2021 annual conference has passed.  

The Scholarship will provide:

  • Virtual conference registration for the winners to present.

Application Requirements:

  • Applicant may not have received this scholarship in the previous year.
  • Applicant must submit the online abstract submission form, checking the BMF Virtual scholarship box within the form, and complete the additional scholarship questions after checking the BMF Virtual scholarship box within the online form. Incomplete submissions will not be considered. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure application materials are complete; applicants will not be notified if the application materials are incomplete.

The abstract submission deadlines for the annual conference are:
15 January- Abstracts due
mid January- Winner notified
end of January- Winner accept/deny

Application Process:

There are 3 required components of the Virtual scholarship application:

  1. Complete the online form. Don’t forget to check the box for BMF Scholarship.
  2. Complete the questions within the online abstract submission form after you check the box for the BMF virtual scholarship.
  3. The Scholarship winners must officially accept the award within one week of email notification, otherwise, the award will be offered to the runner-up.

If you have a behavior management accomplishment, an intriguing case study, a research project, or an innovation for the field, especially one that resonates with the theme of the conference, please come share it with your colleagues!  Announcing the first call for abstract submissions for the 2021 conference.  The deadline to submit your abstract for the 2021 annual conference has passed. 

Abstracts are evaluated on the following parameters:  quality of the abstract, content and subject matter of the paper, application of the ABMA mission statement, and incorporation of the theme of the conference.  Please keep in mind that we receive a number of quality submissions each year, and not all abstracts can necessarily be accepted for presentation.  When your abstract is accepted for either a poster or presentation you are required to submit a paper for the conference proceedings prior to presenting.  This submission deadline is one week before the conference.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Conference Content Advisory Committee Co-Chairs or the 2021 1st Vice President.

Presentation slots are 30 minutes total.  Presenters should plan for a few minutes of questions afterwards.  It is encouraged to be available for questions throughout the remainder of the conference.  Poster presentations will be part of the virtual conference as well.  For the virtual conference, all presentations must be pre-recorded.  Details on your presentation will be emailed to you if you are selected as a presenter. 

Tentative timeline for 2021 Abstract Submissions are:

15 January-  abstracts due by midnight EST

mid-January- notifications to presenters

late January- presenters accept/decline

11 April- papers due for proceedings

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION IS OPEN


AAZK and IMATA members can receive the ABMA member rate!  Please download & submit the registration form.   

Conference Pricing:  

Member rate- $60/day or $150/week 
*This allows 1 ABMA member to attend per day or for the week (3 days). 
*You will be able to participate in live chats during the conference. 
*There is no deadline to register as a member.
*You will have access to view the presentations for 90 days after the conference has ended.

Non-member rate- $80/day or $200/week
*This allows 1 person (not an ABMA member) to attend per day or for the week (3 days).  *You will be able to participate in live chats during the conference. 
*There is no deadline to register as a non-member.
*You will have access to view the presentations for 90 days after the conference has ended.


Facility rate- $1000 
*This allows 7 separate logins for the conference, which is the equivalent of 7 members from your facility to attend for the week.  This is ideal for large facilities that can view the conference from different computers around your facility. 
*You will be able to participate in live chats during the conference.  
*There is no deadline to register as a facility.
*You will have access to view the presentations for 90 days after the conference has ended. 

On Demand rate- $100 
*This allows for 1 person, regardless of membership status, to view all presentations AFTER the conference has ended.  The presentations will be available to view for 90 days after the conference has ended.   
*You will not be able to participate in live chats.   
*There is no deadline to register for the On Demand rate.

General schedule of events:
29 April - 1 May- keynote, invited speakers, presentations

**See program for more detailed schedule** 


Contact us if you have any questions.

REFUND POLICY:
100% until 30 days before the start of the conference
50% from 29 days until 8 days before the conference
No refunds starting the week before the conference

CONTINUING EDUCATION CREDITS (CEU’s):
We typically offer CEU’s for a variety of organizations.  Once the program is finalized we will submit for credits and post here.  
IAABC
IATCB
CCPDT
NAI

We look forward to seeing you at our first virtual conference!

There is no conference hotel for the 2021 virtual conference.  You can join us from home, work, school, or wherever!

The only transportation you'll need to join us for the 2021 virtual conference is how to get to a computer with high-speed internet.  

Our annual conference would not be possible without the support of our sponsors. Thank you!  If you would like more information on how to become a sponsor, please contact us! 
 

 
   
   

There will be no site visits for the 2021 ABMA virtual conference.  

There will be no badge entries for nearby facilities for the 2021 virtual conference.

There are many questions you may have about our virtual conference.  We'll be posting more information soon about using Zoom for the ABMA virtual conference, how to log in, and what to expect.

The ABMA conference will be held via Zoom.  If you do not already have the Zoom program on your electronic device you'll be using to watch the conference (laptop, ipad, computer, etc), now is a good time to get that done!

Details on how to log in will be emailed to the address you submitted when you registered.  
Questions?  Contact us or the first VP directly.  We look forward to seeing you soon!


 

Our keynote speech will be a panel discussion entitled "Connections" and will discuss the animal-human bond as well as mental well-being during a pandemic.  Our panelists are Dr. Scarlett Magda, Veterinarians International; Dr. Suzan Murray, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Dr. James Hassell, Yale Public School of Health; Dr. Sue Varma, New York University Langone Health.
 

Everything is connected.

From recent world events and how it has affected our industry, to how a person handles the stress that comes with the territory of working in the professional animal field. Connections is a four-part approach to breaking down topics and finding viable solutions. First, we will discuss the pandemic; how it happened and wherewe are now. Second, we will focus on the "One Health" approach, and how we need to recognize these connections. Third, we will look at human/animal conflict and what we can do to continue to progress in this area. Fourth, we will discuss self-care during stressful times, addressing compassion fatigue and techniques to seek help. These connections run deep and offer strength and hope to the animal community.

 

Dr. Scarlett Magda is a veterinarian with a passion for raising awareness about the interconnectedness of human and animal health and tackling the root causes of zoonotic disease transmission and animal welfare issues. She has over 20 years of international experience working with organizations ranging from the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka, Elephant Family, UK, the Belize Zoo and the Ministry of Environment in Costa Rica. She had sat on the board of directors for Veterinarians Without Borders Canada for five years prior to moving to the United States. Her involvement in international veterinary medicine started in 2007 while she was a veterinary student designing an elephant saddle project investigating skin wounds in Thailand and India. This project honored her with the Ballard Award for Wildlife from Morris Animal Foundation and is the only work on the topic that has been published in the scientific literature to date. She later participated in a goat health project in Mbarara Uganda which demonstrated to her the clear link between human and animal health through brucellosis prevention work. After graduating with a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2009, she moved to New York City to understand how the veterinary profession was engaging in global health issues. In 2014, Dr. Magda founded Veterinarians International, a global network of veterinarians, animal welfare specialists and researchers who partner with local communities to improve the care and conservation of animals in need, both wild and domestic. The non-profit organization's mission is to provide veterinary aid and education to improve the health and well-being of animals and their communities worldwide. Dr. Magda also practices emergency veterinary medicine in numerous specialty hospitals across New York State.


 

Dr. Suzan Murray is a board-certified zoo veterinarian at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and serves as both the program director of the Global Health Program and as the SCBI’s chief wildlife veterinary medical officer. She leads an interdisciplinary team engaged in worldwide efforts to address health issues in endangered wildlife and combat emerging infectious diseases of global significance, including zoonotic diseases. Dr. Murray also acts as the Smithsonian liaison to the Foreign Animal Disease Threat and Pandemic Preparedness subcommittees of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology. Dr. Murray’s work focuses on providing clinical care to free-ranging wildlife, pathogen detection, advanced diagnostics, training of international veterinarians and other health professionals, capacity building, and collaboration in infectious disease research at the human-wildlife-domestic animal interface. She previously served as chief veterinarian for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and has a wealth of clinical knowledge and experience with wildlife and zoo animals both free-ranging and in human care.

Dr. Murray earned a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in 1984 and completed her veterinary degree in 1991 from Tufts University. After a surgical internship, she completed a residency in zoological medicine at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in 1995 and became a Diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine (DACZM) in 2000. Dr. Murray has been either the principle investigator or co-principle investigator on several research grants including Morris Animal Foundation, Smithsonian Endowment, Smithsonian Women’s Committee, and James Bond Funds.

 

 

Dr. James Hassell’s research combines ecology and epidemiology to study the connections between environmental change, wildlife and human health. As Skorton Scholar to the Global Health Program, he leads and advances the program's work in Kenya, which looks to combine capacity building with cutting-edge research to mitigate risk at the interface between wildlife, livestock and human health. Through his work with GHP, Dr. Hassell aims to promote the conservation of species and their ecosystems, while protecting human and wildlife health.

Topics he is currently working on include:

•Population heath and diseases of eastern black rhinoceros

•The role of wildlife in the emergence of pathogens and antimicrobial resistance in urban settings

•Toxicology training to mitigate poisoning of African carnivores and vultures

•The ecology and epidemiology of viral pathogens in bats

•Wildlife health training programs in East Africa

Dr. Hassell received his Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Medicine from the Royal Veterinary College, before pursuing a master's degree in wild animal health. He completed his doctorate in epidemiology with the University of Liverpool and International Livestock Research Institute, investigating the role of urbanization on the ecology and epidemiology of disease transmission between wildlife, livestock and humans in Nairobi. Dr. Hassell is an appointed assistant professor adjunct of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, and is currently enrolled in a zoological medicine residency with a focus on wildlife population health through the University of Liverpool School of Veterinary Science.


 

Dr. Sue Varma is a board certified psychiatrist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York University (NYU) Langone Health. Dr. Varma is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the highest honor bestowed upon its members. As a cognitive behavioral therapist and couples counselor, she also integrates nutrition, mindfulness, yoga and exercise into her holistic mental wellness approach. Dr. Varma was the first medical director and attending psychiatrist to the World Trade Center Mental Health Program at NYU Langone where she treated first responders and civilians impacted by 9/11. Dr. Varma is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the inaugural Sharecare Emmy in 2019 for her work in the media and a Mayoral Proclamation from Mayor Ravi Bhalla. Dr. Varma has delivered keynote and virtual presentations and panel discussions on mental wellness to audiences ranging from journalists to C-Suite leaders throughout the world.

An informative and engaging presence, Dr. Varma can regularly be seen on multiple media outlets including The Today Show, NBC News, MSNBC, CNN, CBS News, ABC News, NPR, PBS, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Nightly News, and Conde Nast. She provides insight into the impact of everything from mass shootings, poverty, suicide, and homelessness to trends in marriage, relationships, and lifestyle have on our general wellbeing and emotional health. As one of the leading mental health go-to experts, Dr. Varma has participated in over a thousand television interviews over the last 13 years including hour-long specials by Nightly News (Covid and families with Lester Holt), ABC World News Tonight, Dateline, 20/20 as well as numerous specials for NBC’s Today Show including specials on mass shootings (addressing a nation on mourning), state of women’s health (with Maria Shriver), longevity, climate grief. She was also a part of a four- hour ABC special on the Royal Family. She has also been an on-air expert for 20 stories, over two seasons of the National Geographic show Taboo and is a member of SAG-AFTRA. As a trusted voice on managing mental health and wellness, Dr. Varma is quoted weekly in print outlets including HuffPo, WSJ Magazine, New Yorker, Health, Shape, Women's Health Magazine, Oprah Magazine, New Beauty, New York Times, Washington Post etc.

Dr. Varma has played an integral role in guiding the nation through the emotional ravages of the coronavirus pandemic- on topics of anti-Asian racism, specials on women and frontline workers. Dr. Varma has also been on the forefront of mental health treatment for frontline worker. She has been the leading expert for corporate wellness during covid as work and home life blended and has given talks for journalists and media personnel covering the frontlines at CBS, NBC Universal (worldwide and on-demand for 50,000 employees), VIP Roundtable for Washington Post, Barron's and Marketplace. As part of an international benefit for coronavirus relief sponsored by Global Citizen in conjunction with the World Health Organization, Lady Gaga, and the United Nations, Dr. Varma appeared in a prime-time special aired across networks, streaming and globally alongside Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Oprah, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, John Legend, the Rolling Stones and all three late-night show hosts.  Her mental health tips were recognized amongst the “Top 7 Highlights” and she was honored as one of the “Top Five Health Experts” along with the WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Bill and Melinda Gates. Dr. Varma now engages with the public daily through lively, informative, and humorous original mental health content on her Instagram page @doctorsuevarma. Dr. Varma's book on optimism was bought by a major publishing house and will be available in 2022.

 

 

 

Invited speakers for the ABMA virtual conference will be doing a presentation each day for 60-90 minutes.  We are excited to share their knowledge and insight with you! 


Hillary Hankey (Thursday 29 April)

Less Stress With More Flex – What Are You Missing In Your Toolkit? 

With a singular focus on positive reinforcement as the driving force of empowerment, we can miss other choice-based opportunities for the animals in our care to communicate their needs and wants in the training relationship. This presentation explores scenarios in which a nuanced approach to reinforcement, combining positive and negative reinforcement, can help us look past more rigid uses of conditioning principles that can lead to stress and confusion for the animal. We will put our actions under a microscope and utilize timing and reinforcers in an intentional way. In turn, this helps us accurately assess what is actually at play in the training session and use these principles to each of our advantage, propelling forward our skills, understanding, and accountability as a trainer and learner of animal behavior.

Everyone who knew Hillary Hankey growing up is not surprised that she started Avian Behavior International. Located near San Diego California, ABI is a bird education and conservation organization focused on integrated conservation experiences and progressive training technology.  With ABI, she has stayed with the Waurá tribe in the backwaters of the Amazon, flown birds through the Rainbow Arch of Lake Powell, produced free flying bird programs for zoological parks, and explored new ways to help others contribute to conserving our planet through avian ambassadors. Through ABI and her online membership program, the Avian Behavior Lab, she continues to set goals to help animal trainers and companion animal caregivers in a deeper, more meaningful way and be part of a movement with high standards of ethical behavior management and presenting free-flying birds in educational programs in zoos and similar organizations globally.


Gary Wilson (Thursday 29 April)

Making Quality Connections at Moorpark College

The Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College has been teaching
aspiring animal trainers how to make quality connections with their animals for almost 50
years. Gary Wilson has been steering the animal training curriculum for 35 of those years. In
this live presentation from the college’s animal facility, America’s Teaching Zoo, Gary will share his thoughts on training trainers and his students will demonstrate what they have been able to achieve in training some of the college’s 110 animals.


Gary Wilson is the senior professor in the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College, Moorpark, California. He was hired at the college in 1985 to take over as program coordinator from retiring EATM founder William Brisby. He did the job of overseeing the program, keeping the curriculum up-to-date, and managing the college's Exotic Animal Compound. Starting in 1990, Gary managed the operation of America's Teaching Zoo, the college’s on-campus animal facility, which he helped design and build. In 2001, Gary returned to teaching full-time. Over his career, Gary has taught many of the courses offered by the EATM program but his favorites are Animal Diversity, Animal Behavior, and Animal Training. As the animal training professor, he has had the opportunity to work with a wide range of animals including monkeys, camels, big cats, large reptiles, and birds of prey.
Gary graduated from the EATM program in 1977 and then worked as a contractor to the US Navy, training bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, and belugas. In 1980, he returned to school to earn a B.A. in environmental and evolutionary biology (1982) and an M.A. in biological sciences (1985), both at UC Santa Barbara. He worked briefly as a relief keeper at the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens. From 1998 to 2000, Gary helped create the Animal Behavior Management Alliance, a membership organization comprised of animal care professionals and other individuals dedicated to advancing animal behavior management in order to enhance the husbandry and welfare of animals. After its formation, he served on its board of directors as the chief financial officer. Since 2003, he has been a member of the Director’s Advisory Committee on Humane Care and Treatment of Wild Animals for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Gary contributed two chapters to Zookeeping: An Introduction to the Science and Technology, published in 2013. In 2015, he was given the Hal Markowitz Wellness Award from the San Francisco Zoological Society and named the Distinguished Faculty Chair at Moorpark College for the 2015-2016 academic year.



Chirag Patel (Thursday, 29 April)

Developing Quality Connections Through Practical Applications Of Behaviour Science

Skinner said: “What is love except another name for the use of positive reinforcement? Or vice versa, but he Is also quotes as saying "The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.”  The science that's been derived from the work of B.F.Skinner and many people following him has provided a solid basis for our training and behaviour modification technology today. In this presentation Chirag will discuss ways that we can develop very strong relationships with our learners using practical examples to illustrate the science and practical examples. We will look at idea of providing our learners with control, on the fly functional assessment and look at examples from aggressive behaviours to general shaping principles in practice. 

Chirag entered the field professionally in 2004 and has since become a leading figure in the profession internationally. He consults on the behaviour management and training of all animals living under human care (including domestic and wild ones). He is highly sought after for work with high profile private clients, organisations as well as teaching workshops and presenting at conferences. Chirag has been an expert on a number of TV shows including on BBC 1’s TV Series Nightmare Pets SOS and more recently 5 Stars’ Cats and Dogs at War has given TV interviews worldwide. 
Chirag is passionate about the application of ethical behaviour change science to improve the life of animals living under human care by teaching animals to be active participants in their own daily and veterinary care in a low-stress manner. The goal is to empower all learners including the human ones.  
Chirag earned his BSc(Hons) in Veterinary Sciences from the Royal Veterinary College in London and a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Animal Behaviour from the University of Lincoln, UK. He also holds an Advanced diploma in practical aspects of companion animal behaviour and training from the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology. In 2005, Chirag completed an internship in dog behaviour and training with a focus on aggressive behaviour under the mentorship of Jean Donaldson at the San Francisco SPCA and developed his understanding and skills in puppy training under the mentorship of Ian Dunbar PhD, BVetMed, MRCVS. Chirag has taken various classes and courses in Applied Behaviour Analysis and currently continues to do so in the fields of Applied Behaviour Analysis and Clinical Animal Behaviour.  Chirag is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers UK (00923) and has previously served on their committee.  He has also been invited and accepted as a Certified Parrot Behaviour Consultant (CPBC), with the International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants (IAABC). And is registered as an Accredited Animal Behaviourist with The Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC). He was invited to join the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), Animal Training Focus group as the scientific officer and external consultant in 2015, which he did until 2021.  Chirag’s currents and previous clients include A-List celebrities, other high profile clients and leading organisations such as Guides Dogs for the Blind Association UK, The Kong Company, various police dog units, humane societies, research facilities, zoos and aquariums.  Previously Chirag has worked for Dogs Trust as Assistant Head of Canine Training & Behaviour.  Managed the Animal Behaviour Centre at Dr Roger Mugford's Company of Animals in Chertsey, Surrey. He has also held a post at the University of Lincoln, as a research technician responsible for the training of Rats and Degus in a sponsored odour discrimination and Indiction project. In addition to this Chirag worked in veterinary practices part-time for over 6 years.  Chirag also has an internationally selling DVD called 'From Brain to Bite: understanding, managing and modifying aggressive behaviour in dogs”. His YouTube Channel that has accumulated over a million views and provides free resources for pet owners and professionals. 


Dr. Susan Friedman and Rick Hester (Thursday 29 April)

Quality Connections in Zoo Consulting: Improving Outcomes and Creating a Legacy

Helen Keller said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." These wise words reflect our experience collaborating at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, first spearheaded by Bob Chastain and Steve Martin over a decade ago. The goal is improving animal welfare by extending the application of behavior-change science and technology to zoo training programs. In this session, Curator of Behavioral Husbandry Rick Hester, and applied behavior analyst Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D., invite you to observe their live behavior consultations with zookeepers teaching giraffes and penguins to be active participants in husbandry and medical care. 

Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Utah State University.  Susan has co-authored chapters on behavior change in five veterinary texts, and her popular articles have been translated into 15 languages.  She teaches seminars and courses on animal learning online (How Behavior Works: Living & Learning With Animals) and consults with zoos and animal organizations around the world.  Susan was appointed to the F&WS California Condor Recovery Team from 2002 – 2010, after which time the team was retired due to the success of the birds in the wild.  She is the Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee of American Humane Association (AHA) Film and TV Unit, and a member in good standing of ABAI, ABMA, IAATE and IAABC. See behaviorworks.org and facebook.com/behaviorworks.  









Rick Hester is the Curator of Behavioral Husbandry for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado.  He oversees all of the zoo’s behavioral programs; these include the zoo's animal training for husbandry, medical, and public show behaviors, enrichment, developing programs to improve problem behavior situations, and the zoo's formal animal welfare assessments.  He has worked at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo for 15 years.  The majority of that time he was an animal keeper caring for various species of primates, including many species of callitrichids, old and new world monkeys, and great apes.  In 2015, he started working with Dr. Susan Friedman and began to understand the importance of behavior analysis and its application for animals in human care.  In addition to his work at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, he is now a consultant and course co-instructor for Susan Friedman’s Behavior Works LLC. 











Barbara Heidenreich (Friday 30 April) 
Exotic Animal Training: The Constructional Approach to Addressing Extreme Fear Responses and Aggressive Behavior

In zoological settings we are training everything from snarling big cats to flighty herds of antelopes. Traditionally our first step has involved delivering preferred food items. But some animals present such extreme fear responses or aggressive behavior in the presence of humans, that food holds little value. Trying to use systematic desensitization and keeping animals below threshold can be challenging to apply for many reasons. Results are often slowly realized in these cases, if at all. The constructional approach empowers animals to replace fear or aggressive behavior with desired responses. Using this procedure, the animal is approaching to accept appetitives usually within one or two sessions. When applying the constructional approach in zoos, we have a number of different challenges to address such as enclosure design, limited visibility, needing to know the natural history of the species, and how to apply the protocol to a group of animals. This presentation will address questions such as what is maintaining undesired behavior, why the usual advice of superimposition of positively reinforced behavior is less successful, and why behavioral interventions are non-linear. It will also provide video examples of how the constructional approach is helping a variety of species of animals commonly cared for in zoos.

Barbara Heidenreich is an animal training consultant specializing in exotic animals. She consults worldwide working with zoos, universities, veterinary professionals, and conservation projects. She has worked with over 80 facilities in 27 countries. She is an adjunct instructor at Texas A & M University. She has produced seven DVDs, authored two books and contributed to four veterinary textbooks.  She is a co-author of the Fear Free® Avian Certification Course. Much of her work focuses on training exotic species to cooperate in medical care. She operates the online education program www.AnimalTrainingFundamentals.com. Barbara is an advisor for the Animal Training Working Group and the Parrot Taxon Advisory Group for the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She has provided her expertise to conservation projects The Kakapo Recovery Program and The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. Her goal is to leave behind a legacy of kindness to animals by sharing her expertise. 


 

Social Media Panel (Friday 30 April)- Corina Newsome, Erin McKinney, Clay Carabajal, Holly Richards, Becca Fabbri 

This presentation will cover all aspects about building community, including accessibility and engagement, and focus on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (@usfws) Instagram account. 


Corina Newsome is the Community Engagement Manager for Georgia Audubon and a biology Master’s student at Georgia Southern University. Corina, who began in the field of wildlife conservation as a zookeeper, currently conducts research to conserve the MacGillivray's Seaside Sparrow and connects people with birds across the state of Georgia. Having experienced the hurdles faced by Black, Indigenous, and people of color interested in wildlife careers, she has founded several programs to encourage high school students from underrepresented demographics to consider careers in wildlife sciences. Corina’s mission is to center the perspectives and leadership of historically marginalized communities in wildlife conservation, environmental education, and exploration of the natural world.

Erin McKinney spent her college years working on zoological industry social media projects, including Awesome Ocean and ZooNation, while pursuing her degree in animal behavior.  She is currently a social media coordinator for the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association, and presented on her work at the 2017 conference.  For her day job, she is a marine mammal trainer in Florida.  Erin is passionate about social media as a tool to drive the industry forward and thinks the intersection of animal training and digital content has endless potential.

Clay Carabajal is an international animal advocate and long time animal ambassador from San Antonio, Texas.  He has worked in the zoological field for more than fifteen years.  Spending the bulk of his career at SeaWorld in San Antonio.  Clay has worked with over 80 different species in various departments.  He has been featured on dozens of radio and television shows across the United States.  He has created and hosted animal presentations such Creepy Creatures, Amazing Animals, and SeaWorld Live! with Clay.  Clay has been a featured presenter alongside Jungle Jack Hanna, Bindi Irwin, Robert Irwin, and various conservation professionals.  After years of gaining experiences with reptiles, birds, mammals, insects, and marine mammals, Clay moved into a new role as Social Media Manager for SeaWorld San Antonio.  After a period of time, the animal field’s call was too loud to ignore and Clay returned to the zoological department.  Outside of SeaWorld, this father of three and husband of one, volunteers with a non-profit animal outreach called Zoomagination.  In late 2020, Clay launched a YouTube series called The Wild Side with Clay.  The series highlights species facts each week with an emphasis on the facilities and professionals that care for the creatures.  He is now beginning to tour to different locations and zoos presenting animal/conservation facts with his newly created “Live From The Wild Side with Clay” show. 

Holly Richards works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a "Fish Enthusiast" with the Fish and Aquatic Conservation program. Her background is in digital communications and outreach, specializing in public lands and conservation. Prior to joining the Fish and Aquatic Conservation program, she worked with External Affairs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Honolulu and spent many years as a park ranger for the National Park Service. She is passionate about building community and inspiring new generations for conservation.  

Becca Fabbri works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a public affairs specialist with the California-Great Basin Regional Office, based in Sacramento, California. Hailing from the Bay Area, Becca has a background in the entertainment industry, as well as degrees in communication and wildlife conservation biology from the University of California, Davis. She loves to find unique ways to engage with social media communities that help amplify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission. 




Thad & Angi Lacinak (Friday 30 April)

Targeting and Desensitization in Advanced Application 

Targeting and desensitization are often referred to as ‘foundation’ behaviors. There is good reason for this as they are stepping stones to virtually every complex behavior, particularly medical behaviors, that trainers request of animals in their care. The skillful application of these two ‘basic’ concepts, however, can yield impressively advanced results.  This presentation will provide video demonstrations with a variety of species including mammals, reptiles, birds and fish plus service dogs. 

At Precision Behavior, we have spent our careers living the positive reinforcement based principles that we teach while working with and learning from some of the world’s most amazing animals.  Established in 2009, PB consults with zoos, aquariums, service dog facilities, sanctuaries and shelters globally.  Prior to founding PB, Thad Lacinak retired from a 35-year career at Busch Entertainment Corporation as VP and Corporate Curator of Animal Training.  He is frequently sought by the media for his expertise and has been featured on Larry King Live, Fox News, and Good Morning America, among many other shows.  Thad is the author of three books: Whale Done and Whale Done Parenting with leadership guru, Ken Blanchard and The Whale Done School.  Angi Millwood Lacinak, also a founder of Precision Behavior, has worked in the zoological field for more than twenty-five years.  Her previous endeavors include being on the start-up team as Manager of Marine Mammals for the Atlantis Resort in Dubai, was on the opening team of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and was the Animal Training Coordinator of the Fort Worth Zoo, among other roles.  Angi holds a master’s degree in Anthrozoology and is currently completing her PhD from the University of Exeter.  In 2019, Thad and Angi's documentary, Elephant Trainer in the Room, became available for viewing on Amazon Prime.


Steve Martin (Saturday 1 May)


The Art of Training Animals

 

An artistic animal trainer goes beyond the basics of positive reinforcement training to fine tune antecedents and consequences and promote a level of learning that transcends basic animal training practices. The “Art” of animal training can be described as the intuitive application of scientific principles which have developed through practical experience working with animals and the people who care for them. The focus of this presentation is to describe animal training from this perspective, and provide video and live training demonstration.


Steve Martin is President/CEO of Natural Encounters, Inc. (NEI), a company of over 40 professional animal trainers who teach animal training strategies and produce inspirational and educational animal programs at zoological facilities around the world. Steve has consulted at over 120 zoological facilities in 16 countries helping them improve animal welfare through training and enrichment, and produce educational public programs. Though best known for his work with free-flight bird programs, most of his work involves teaching animal care professionals the art and science of behavior change principals focussing on positive reinforcement, and producing inspirational public programs designed to inspire caring that leads to conservation action. 

Steve teaches several animal-training workshops each year at zoological facilities and at the NEI Training and Education Center in Florida. He is an instructor at the AZA Animal Training School, an instructor at the Recon Elephant-training workshop, a member of the AZA Animal Behavior Advisory Group, he served on the AZA Animal Welfare Committee and is a Trustee with the World Parrot Trust. He is also President of Natural Encounters Conservation Fund, Inc. a non-profit company that has raised and donated over $1.3 million to insitu conservation programs. Steve Martin has a strong commitment to conservation and helping people understand their relationship with the living earth. The Mission Statement of NEI is “Connecting Humans With The Natural World” and Earth Day is an official holiday for all NEI employees. 

 

Anna Oblasser-Mirtl (Saturday 1 May)

 

Husbandry Training With Dogs Utilizing Cooperation Signals

Even though there has been an increase in positive reinforcement training in the dog training world, almost all medical and most husbandry procedures are still done without giving the dog a choice. Very often they are forced into stressful and painful situations, which compromises the dog’s welfare and can severely harm the individual human-dog relationship. 
We created a program utilizing a variety of easy-to-train cooperative behaviors that give dogs choices and control in scenarios where previously they had none. Our book (published in 2016) and our DVD (2018) have served as guides for many dog owners and trainers who want to improve their pet's welfare.  The live training demo includes training of cooperation signals as well as the presentation of up to 20 husbandry or medical procedures, covering everything from nail clipping to voluntary blood draws on stage.


Animal training has been Anna’s passion since her early childhood. After graduating from Moorpark College in the USA, she founded the AnimalTrainingCenter in Austria in 2006. Since then, Anna has created a team of experts that specialize in a wide range of applications of animal training, including: service dog training; pet dog training and behavior consulting; wildlife education; dog bite prevention programs; zoo animal training and consulting; and teaching seminars, including chicken training workshops as well as domestic and exotic animal training and behavior management workshops for professional animal trainers. In addition to the human team that Anna put together, the AnimalTrainingCenter is also home to approximately 60 animals, including 25 species, which all play invaluable roles in the company. Anna is not only a very skilled trainer and instructor, but also a state-certified judicial expert for dogs and the author of the book and DVD “Medical Training for Dogs.”

 

Peter Giljam and Nicki Boyd (Saturday 1 May)

Emergency recall is an important tool in any zoo's training toolbox. Zoospensefull and San Diego Zoo have trained this behavior with a variety of species. Being able to recall an animal quickly during an emergency situation is critical for the health and well-being of our animals and possibly guests that visit our facilities. In this course you will learn techniques for successful training and maintenance of this behavior. This joint presentation from two organizations half way around the world from each other will demonstrate that the behavior is universal for all zoo's or aquariums. Focusing on the safety of animals and guests can prevent a tragedy and allow better management of our populations while ensuring the public feels secure in our management abilities of rare and dangerous species. Whether you work with carnivores, apes, hoofstock, birds of prey or other taxa this presentation will advise you on how to successfully train and emergency recall and improve the overall welfare and safety at your facility.
 

Growing up in the Netherlands, Peter was always curious about the natural world.  After completing two successful internships at Waterpark Neeltje Jans, where he had his first taste of the marine mammal world, Peter landed a job at Ouwehands Zoo in early 2005, working with California sea lions.  Attending the 2008 International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA) conference was a game-changer for Peter; meeting trainers from all over the world inspired him to set higher standards for himself and his career development.  His animal training journey took him from working with walruses and bottle-nosed dolphins in Canada to training killer whales in Tenerife.  His work with a young deaf killer whale named Morgan, secured him the People’s Choice Award at the 2013 IMATA conference.  After a brief stint working with killer whales in France, Peter relocated to Sweden to work as a senior marine mammal trainer at Kolmården Wildlife Park.  Followed up as the animal training coordinator, he has taken on the challenge to change the culture of animal training across the organisation.  Serving on the board of IMATA as Vice President between 2016 and 2018 was a dream come true for Peter.  As the creator of Zoospensefull, Peter delivers thought-provoking presentations and workshops about training strategies and systems, applicable to all species and encourages animal professionals to ‘think outside the zoo’.  A passionate animal training and behaviour consultant, Peter is proficient in operant conditioning methodology and through his teaching you are bound to feel motivated and inspired to take on your next training project challenge.  Since March 2020 Peter focusses solely on bringing Zoospensefull to the next level to help share his knowledge through webinars and courses.  Zoospensefull is an international animal training and behaviour consultancy, for more information or to book Zoospensefull, please contact us at info@zoospensefull.com or visit our website zoospensefull.com.

Nicki Boyd is the Associate Curator of Behavioral Husbandry at the San Diego Zoo.  Her educational background includes graduating from Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program, Mesa College’s Animal Health Technician Program, with an Associate in Science Degree, and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.  
She has worked at the San Diego Zoo for 28 years in various departments and roles such as zookeeper, team area lead, Animal Care Supervisor, Animal Care Manager and is currently Associate Curator of Behavioral Husbandry.  Her role as Associate is to set up training programs all over the San Diego Zoo.  Nicki is also in charge of Animal Connections Division at the zoo, which includes all four of the animal ambassador teams. These teams include around 150 animal ambassadors and 45 staff.
She has held board positions for ABMA such as CFO for 8 years and president and is currently the Chief Information Officer.  She a founding board member and past president of the Red Panda Network. She is on the board of directors for the International Avian Certification Board, International Animal Training Certification Board and is a certified animal and bird trainer knowledge assessed (CPAT-KA, CPBT-KA)  She is on the steering committee for AZA’s red panda master planning, AZA’s Behavior Advisory Group and AZA’s Animal Ambassador Species Advisory Group (AASAG).

Annette Pedersen (Saturday, 1 May)

What Does Science Have To Do With Animal Training?


In our daily training, especially in the Zoo animal community, we often use concepts and terms like “Positive reinforcement trainer”, “Variable Ratio Schedules of Reinforcement” and “Choice & Control” … Most of these concepts and principles stem from the scientific fields of ethology, behaviourism and analysis of behavior and then applied into the work with our animals. Even so, the welfare outcome of these concepts, and the way they are applied seems to vary from trainer to trainer, and so does even the way trainers are defining the concepts and the perception of the “truth”. In this presentation, I will share my journey trying to find my way back to the science behind these concepts we use and determine, if we are actually applying them according to the science; if they do promote better welfare for our animals, or if they are connected to other factors that also needs to be considered.

Annette Pedersen started working in Copenhagen Zoo in 1989 as a part of the Danish keepers’ education. After finishing her education in 1992, she was hired for the marine mammal section (harbor seals and California sea lions), which also housed other animals like penguins, Malayan tapirs, barbirusa, etc. Here she helped developing the marine mammal training program until 2008, where she moved to the elephant section working on transferring the elephants from free contact to protected contact (PC). Later that same year she was given the position as Animal Training Coordinator of Copenhagen Zoo. Since 2008 her job has been to develop/expand the training skills of the keepers at Copenhagen Zoo, as well as managing animal behavior and training within a variety of species and challenges. Since 2009 she has helped develop the Danish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (DAZA) animal training course, which is still held once a year in Denmark. She serves the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) as Chair the EAZA animal training courses under the EAZA Academy. 2014-2016 she served on the board of the Animal Behavior Management Alliance (ABMA).

To be green, the ABMA does not hand out printed programs. We will not have an app for the 2021 virtual conference.  The conference will begin daily at 10am Eastern/7am Pacific; Overseas times- 4pm London/6pm Tel Aviv/2am Sydney (the next day).

ABMA Conference Program- times listed are Eastern (EST).

THURSDAY, 29 APRIL

10:00- Welcome & Opening Remarks

10:30- Connections (keynote presentation)

11:30- Guest Speaker- Gary Wilson

Making Quality Connections at Moorpark College


The Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College has been teaching aspiring animal trainers how to make quality connections with their animals for almost 50 years. Gary Wilson has been steering the animal training curriculum for 35 of those years. In this live presentation from the college’s animal facility, America’s Teaching Zoo, Gary will share his thoughts on training trainers and his students will demonstrate what they have been able to achieve in training some of the college’s 110 animals.

12:30- BMF Scholarship Presentation: Environmental Enrichment Induces Positive Changes In Black Sea Bottlenose Dolphins’ Attitude And Increases Their Willingness To Participate During Public Presentations by Ruta Vaicekauskaite, Klaipeda University and Fox Consulting

Zoological institutions use a variety of environmental enrichments (EE) to improve welfare of the animals under their care and to encourage them to display their behavioral diversity. Enrichment protocols, related to the biology and physiology of particular species or groups of species, need to be further studied to understand how they affect animal welfare. To our knowledge the impact of EE before public presentations has not yet been studied in bottlenose dolphins. The aim of our study was to assess how interactions with familiar humans impacted Black Sea bottlenose dolphins’ (Tursiops truncatus ponticus) behaviors while using EE before public presentations and to consider for the first time dolphins’ attitude. We used a Likert scale to score dolphins’ attitude during public presentations in six bottlenose dolphins in Attica Zoological Park, Greece. An attitude assessment method was created to be easily and thoroughly used by professional care staff during each presentation and was implemented during a three-month period. Results showed significant changes in dolphins’ attitude and greater willingness to participate during public presentation after EE sessions highlighting the crucial role of interactions with familiar humans for dolphins under professional care. Ultimately animals’ attitude scoring could be a potential tool to develop EE strategies and could improve animal welfare assessments for marine mammals under professional care. In conclusion, we discuss different ways to assess the effectiveness of EE on dolphins and the potential of using this approach for other animal species kept in zoological settings.

13:00- Break (1 hour)

14:00- How Much Can You Remember? Operative Memory Capacity As Mental Stimulation In Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) by Ricardo Ruiz, Welfare and Husbandry Innovative Training

In recent years with the research in the cognitive behavioral training we know that short-term retention is present in marine mammals.  But can our animals remember past events and tasks and reconstruct them in future scenarios, or is it something that only humans can do?  Our animals can´t verbalize the memory, so it is difficult to test this hypothesis.  The last three years we chose Maya the dolphin to create a cognitive stimulation program, the goal was memory and perception.  The choice was not random, Maya repeats aberrant behaviors after training (regurgitation).  The first stage of the program was to examine the operational memory and the behavioral retention capacity.  The second stage included presenting the different color boards, the dolphin could retain in memory shaped task’s.  The third, Maya had to retain on memory all this information until a future training session 48 hours later.  Methods to address the question of memory retention: The attention as basic for memory exercises.  The redirection in case of wrong answers.  Diminished the use of secondary reinforcement to condition memory tasks by using exclusively primary reinforcement, reducing the anxiety involved in the mid-term tasks.  Maya remembered 18 different tasks which are elicited two days before, and the aberrant behaviors decreased to 95%.  In conclusion, the stimulation of the operational memory is very useful for the mental stimulation of our animals.  Also we believe that this type of programs can help to extinguish aberrant behaviors typical of areas with a history of low mental stimulation.

14:30- Training A Rescued Seal Pup.  New Insights For An Experienced Training Team by Gabrielle Harris, South African Association For Marine Biological Research

Recently at uShaka Sea World we introduced a rescued non-releasable young seal pup called Nala into our resident South African Fur seal group.  While working with this naïve animal, our pinniped team adopted a novel strategy with the objective of ensuring generalised confidence with the entire group of trainers.  The hope was that this would ensure long term confidence that will generalise to other areas in her life. To achieve this, a collaborative plan was put into place. The plan included very careful and detailed communication between all parties.  There are 11 trainers in the team, and the decision taken was that all would work with Nala from the outset.  Each trainer was working on a particular goal behaviour.  Behaviours chosen all contributed to form her foundation training.   Trainers were encouraged to watch each other’s sessions.  Particular attention was given to ensuring that the training plans always included a safe behaviour with the objective of providing her choice and control in her training. Training progressed really well, and as a result her integration into the resident group went very smoothly.  She remains a confident animal in the established group.  Just 9 days after entering the presentation area, trainers were able to present her in our formal guest experience.  A bonus of this entire process is that Nala has inspired some great team building skills to the pinniped team.This paper will highlight the strategies used in our team training plan and the insights we gained during this journey with Nala.

15:00- Guest Speakers- Dr. Susan Friedman and Rick Hester 

Quality Connections In Zoo Consulting: Improving Outcomes And Creating A Legacy

Helen Keller said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."  These wise words reflect our experience collaborating at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, first spearheaded by Bob Chastain and Steve Martin over a decade ago.  The goal is improving animal welfare by extending the application of behavior-change science and technology to zoo training programs.  In this session, Curator of Behavioral Husbandry Rick Hester, and applied behavior analyst Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D., invite you to observe their live behavior consultations with zookeepers teaching giraffes and penguins to be active participants in husbandry and medical care.

16:00- Break (15 min)

16:15- Guest Speaker- Chirag Patel

Developing Quality Connections Through Practical Applications Of Behaviour Science

Skinner said: “What is love except another name for the use of positive reinforcement? Or vice versa, but he Is also quotes as saying "The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.”  The science that's been derived from the work of B.F.Skinner and many people following him has provided a solid basis for our training and behaviour modification technology today. In this presentation Chirag will discuss ways that we can develop very strong relationships with our learners using practical examples to illustrate the science and practical examples. We will look at idea of providing our learners with control, on the fly functional assessment and look at examples from aggressive behaviours to general shaping principles in practice. 

17:15- When A Seal Teaches Us About Our Life Support System by Jose Miguel Pereira Gomes, Melbourne Zoo, Zoos Victoria

A female, long-nosed fur seal developed corneal disease shortly after arrival at Melbourne Zoo in March of 2015.  The condition was characterised by left eye pain caused by multiple pin point ulcers in the cornea.  In addition, the corneas of both the left and right eyes were determined to be unhealthy when examined under anaesthesia.  Identifying the main causal factor for her decline in eye health was extremely challenging, but after consulting with water management consultants, it was hypothesised that the production and presence of disinfection by-products resulting from ozone dosing could be a contributing factor.  A life support system review was undertaken and the resulting implemented changes (particularly the organic matter reduction and the adjustment in oxidant dosing) resulted in remarkable improvements in the fur seal's eye heath.  These improvements also allowed the keepers to train the seal to receive eye drops voluntarily.

17:45- Positive Reinforcement In A Pinch by Timothy Van Loan, ABQ BioPark

When working with our animals, we often include a variety of proactive behaviors for if the worst ever happens.  What happens when that situation arises though, and we have to be reactive in our training?  In the last year at the ABQ BioPark, our team dealt with several urgent medical situations that resulted in the need for new behaviors not already in the animals’ repertoires.  By retrospectively examining three case studies, several key techniques emerged that allowed us to be successful with animals who were not motivated to participate, due to their ongoing issues.  Using examining a hippo’s eye, training voluntary eye drops in a Golden Eagle with vision impairment, and training voluntary injection in an older giraffe as examples, I will discuss the high level antecedent arrangement, team communication, and advanced reinforcement techniques necessary to succeed in all three projects.  By sharing these experiences, and the tumultuous process it took to achieve them, I hope other facilities will take home ways to work more closely with their animals, especially in moments like these when it matters most.

18:15- Break (15 min)

18:30- It Takes A Village: A Unique Approach To Desensitization Of Wolf To Human Presence by Darren Minier, Conservation Society of California, Oakland Zoo

In July 2018 Oakland Zoo opened its new 51-acre zoo expansion, 'California Trail'. During the preceding six months as construction was ongoing, keepers were actively desensitizing new pair of 6 year old Gray Wolf to a boardwalk which winds above and through their 1.5-acre exhibit.  Within the year, the pair would need to be comfortable with the large crowds of guests anticipated with the opening of California Trail.  Both wolves had been previously managed in a ‘hands-off’ style with two to three carcass feedings each week, and as such were not accustomed to interacting with caretakers in a zoo-like environment, which limited our ability to utilize now-standard reinforcement techniques.  We employed a program of counter conditioning (training an animal to display a behavior that is different than its current reaction to a stimulus) and desensitization (the process of exposing the animal to a stimulus beginning at a very low intensity) utilizing Zoo donors, docents, and eventually members to incrementally increase human presence.  This presentation will describe our process, our need to communicate and work with other departments not skilled in animal training, and the lessons learned in non-aversive training with limited to no reinforcers to increase resilience and comfort, and ultimately wolf welfare. 

19:00- Confidently Training Dolphins For Cooperative Gastroscopy – Equipment and Training Solutions by Gabrielle Harris, South African Association For Marine Biological Research

To monitor the health of our bottlenose dolphins, we have trained them to participate in cooperative gastroscopy procedures.  This has assisted us in many health interventions and assisted vets to monitor health concerns and adjust treatment more proactively where required.  Furthermore, information gathered has provided scientific evidence for a master’s project that investigates social impact on this health indicators.  Ensuring that the animals were safe and also that expensive equipment is not damaged during the procedure was a primary concern when training for this procedure.  Initially, staff anxiety around this issue, compromised successful training.  To protect the equipment and provide staff with the confidence required to train more successfully, a special bit was designed.  There were also requirements from the veterinary staff such as using air and keeping the animal in a specific position for the procedure.  This poster will describe the equipment used and outline how the behaviour was successfully trained with all ten of the bottlenose dolphins. 

19:30- Guest Speaker-  Hillary Hankey

Less Stress With More Flex – What Are You Missing In Your Toolkit? 

With a singular focus on positive reinforcement as the driving force of empowerment, we can miss other choice-based opportunities for the animals in our care to communicate their needs and wants in the training relationship. This presentation explores scenarios in which a nuanced approach to reinforcement, combining positive and negative reinforcement, can help us look past more rigid uses of conditioning principles that can lead to stress and confusion for the animal. We will put our actions under a microscope and utilize timing and reinforcers in an intentional way. In turn, this helps us accurately assess what is actually at play in the training session and use these principles to each of our advantage, propelling forward our skills, understanding, and accountability as a trainer and learner of animal behavior.

20:30- Closing Remarks

 

FRIDAY, 30 APRIL

10:00- Welcome & Opening Remarks

10:15- Guest Speaker- Barbara Heidenreich

Exotic Animal Training: The Constructional Approach to Addressing Extreme Fear Responses and Aggressive Behavior

In zoological settings we are training everything from snarling big cats to flighty herds of antelopes. Traditionally our first step has involved delivering preferred food items. But some animals present such extreme fear responses or aggressive behavior in the presence of humans, that food holds little value. Trying to use systematic desensitization and keeping animals below threshold can be challenging to apply for many reasons. Results are often slowly realized in these cases, if at all. The constructional approach empowers animals to replace fear or aggressive behavior with desired responses. Using this procedure, the animal is approaching to accept appetitives usually within one or two sessions. When applying the constructional approach in zoos, we have a number of different challenges to address such as enclosure design, limited visibility, needing to know the natural history of the species, and how to apply the protocol to a group of animals. This presentation will address questions such as what is maintaining undesired behavior, why the usual advice of superimposition of positively reinforced behavior is less successful, and why behavioral interventions are non-linear. It will also provide video examples of how the constructional approach is helping a variety of species of animals commonly cared for in zoos.


11:45- BMF Scholarship Presentation:  Using The Premack Principle And Control To Establish A New Behavior Without Food Reinforcement by Lyndsay Newton, Zoo Atlanta

In zoos today, food reinforcement is often used to train new behaviors in animals. Food is a primary reinforcer that is easy for keepers to utilize for positive reinforcement training. In training a behavior for cognitive bias research with our Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, LC, we faced the challenge of training two simple behaviors (touch a card vs touch a target) in response to presented cues. The first behavior, touch the card, could be trained with food as normal, but the second behavior, touch a target object, could not have food as a reinforcer. This was necessary to establish the consequence of touching the target as less reinforcing than touching the card. We decided to use the Premack principle to train the second behavior. After training the card touch behavior, we used the presentation of that cue as a reinforcer for performing the target touch behavior. Performance of the target touch also gave the animal control over the environment by causing removal of the target cue and immediate presentation of a new cue. These reinforcers allowed us to establish the target touch behavior without the direct use of food. Using this method, we were able to establish high accuracy for both behaviors and conduct trials to help us evaluate cognitive bias in this individual.

12:15- The Importance Of Training For Enhancing The Animal Welfare For The Birds Of Prey At Landgoed Hoenderdaell, The Netherlands by Saskia Verbruggen, Landgoed Hoenderdaell

The main goal of animal trainers and caretakers should be to make sure the welfare of the animals under their care is as great as possible.  Training is an important tool to accomplish this.  Training provides physical and mental stimulus and often makes taking care of the animals a lot easier.  For the birds of prey at Landgoed Hoenderdaell, which are used in educational demonstrations, training has made sure that the animals can be housed in a more natural way then before. They were housed in the traditional falkery way.  Which means perched on blocks.  Now they are housed in large aviaries, without the use of jesses.  The birds have gained a lot of freedom to move around and make their own decisions. But we still can use them as ambassador birds.  In this presentation we show you how we have accomplished this change through training.  And how the welfare of our birds has been improved.

12:45- Building Confidence Through "Free Choice-Training” In Companion Parrots and Parakeets by Hildegard Niemann, Parrot Behaviour Consulting

Parrots and Parakeets represent most of the birds that are kept as pets in human-animal households.  Although most owners do not intent to restrict their birds or keep them in a way where they feel uncomfortable, a lot of parrots and parakeets suffer from learned helplessness, neophobia and anxiety.  Depressions, learned aggression, screaming and FDB are common problems that lead to abuse and neglect of those birds.  Owners suffer from guilty conscience and the delivery of the bird into a shelter often seems to be the only solution for these birds.  Free Choice-Training can offer those birds and their owners a new way of communication.  During this training owners and birds develop, based on positive reinforcement technics, a way to express their desires and their feelings.  After the first learning skills are implemented the birds choose how long they want to train, what they want to learn and when they want to finish the training sessions. Parrots, that were trained with free choice were able to communicate their feelings and desires, showed less aggression and stopped FDB.  Birds with neophobia were more confident when confronted with new objects that were explained and correctly introduced to the animal.  Owners report that the relationship with their birds improved and was put on a new level.  Free-Choice-Training therefore should be introduced to a greater community to improve the welfare of companion birds in our care. 

13:15- Break (1 hour)

14:15-  Social Media Panel Discussion- Corina Newsome, Erin McKinney, Clay Carabajal, Holly Richards, Becca Fabbri 

This presentation will cover all aspects about building community, including accessibility and engagement, and focus on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (@usfws) Instagram account. 

15:45- Training Free Flight Parrots--A Different Perspective by Chris Shank, Cockatoo Downs

I was by the creek among the trees with my free flight companion, Tyke, a hand-raised Bare-eyed cockatoo.  Ritzie, a parent-reared Bare-eyed, was off on one of his flight adventures when I heard him give repetitive contact calls.  It was clear he didn’t know where we were. I had him in my sights and yelled out our recall cue.  Immediately, he made a beeline towards the direction of my call.  He swerved through the trees and made a soft landing on the creek bridge next to Tyke and me.  I marveled, though wasn’t surprised, at this parent-raised cockatoo’s willingness to respond to my call.  Prevailing wisdom recommends that parrots destined for free flight, whether as companion birds or as free flight show parrots, be hand-raised making it easier to create a bond with their caretakers and trainers.  This human-parrot bond, so the theory goes, is the foundation for achieving training success with flying parrots outdoors.  Countering that theory is the success I have had training and flying parent-raised cockatoos for almost thirty years. Hand raising parrots comes with a plethora of ethical and welfare concerns for the chicks and their parents.  I will address those concerns as well as describe the methods and forms of motivation I provide in my training program that result in successful, well-adapted, confident, and trusting free flying, parent-reared parrots.

16:15- Ready, Set, Train...To Save A Species by Wouter Stellaard, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

In February of 2020, 2 cheetah cubs were born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.  They were the first cubs born at the Columbus Zoo in years, as well as the first cubs to ever be born, in any facility, using IVF transfer in cheetahs.  The benefit of these cheetahs training program was vital to the success.  All the procedures beside the implantation of the fetus were done voluntarily.  The hormone injections, injection for anesthetization, blood collection, x-ray, ultrasounds and milk collection were all done voluntarily.  The relationship the staff had with the animal involved was paramount.  This was a huge accomplishment and a great example of how zoos can work together and training is important to save a species.  Adriene Crosier and Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, were the science behind the success.  The sire, from Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and the Dam, Kabibi from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in the same area as the surrogate mother Isabel.  The vet staff at both Columbus Zoo and the National Zoo worked closely together with the trainers to make this a success.  This paper will focus on how the training of the cheetahs was vital to the success and makes the science possible to save a species.

16:45- Break (15 min)

17:00- Guest Speakers- Thad and Angi Lacinak

Targeting and Desensitization in Advanced Application 

Targeting and desensitization are often referred to as ‘foundation’ behaviors. There is good reason for this as they are stepping stones to virtually every complex behavior, particularly medical behaviors, that trainers request of animals in their care.  The skillful application of these two ‘basic’ concepts, however, can yield impressively advanced results.  This presentation will provide video demonstrations with a variety of species including mammals, reptiles, birds and fish plus service dogs. 


18:00- Rodents Of Unending Surprises by Katie Stevens, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium acquired three baby capybara, River, Delta, and Marsh, in 2019.  I had ambitious goals for them, and even with some unexpected 2020 hiccups, the three capybara have become successful, challenging, and charismatic additions to the Animal Encounters Village.  My goal for the capybara was to shift out into an outdoor habitat, this would prove to be challenging as the outdoor habitat was very far from their indoor holding and without containment, meaning they would have to walk freely among the Animal Encounters Village guests, free contact.  I decided to train them to shift on their own and make it part of the guest experience.  These “walks” became referred to as “capybara parades.”  That isn’t the only experience guests can have with our capybara: Delta is participating in a “touching” behavior for behind-the-scenes tours during which he is trained to walk under the hands of the guests providing them an opportunity to touch a capybara.  Meanwhile, Marsh began training for stage shows.  River has ongoing medical issues and is busy with medical and husbandry behaviors.  These behaviors, both husbandry and guest experience based, allow us to provide them with quality care and welfare.  And in a wider scope, River, Delta, and Marsh are working with us to provide our guests with unique and fun experiences that will hopefully, in turn, provide those guests with a stronger connection with wildlife.

18:30- Early Morning Cheetah Experience by Charmaine Davis, San Diego Zoo

As animal caregivers and educators we are constantly working to create innovative, mission- aligned educational experiences for our guests, to show  species specific behavior and to not make our animals look like pets.  This is a challenge!!  Cheetah need to be double leashed when in the public, which restricts the ability to show a variety of natural behavior.  Together the educators and animal ambassador staff, formulated and created a premium tour, which has proved highly successful, and is meeting all the needs.  A specialized "safety enclosure" was especially constructed  for the guests, who can safely view cheetah running off leash after lures and giggle balls interacting with their care givers,  demonstrating natural behaviors.  After running the cheetah are leashed up and guests escorted to a seating area where the cheetah is given its whole prey item (rabbit or shank bone).  As the animal eats the prey, trainers introduce themselves and their qualifications and experiences, we discuss: conservation facts, pet trade concerns, Operant Conditioning and the many benefits of offering whole prey to our carnivores at the zoo.  After the cheetah experience guests continue with the tour to other animals areas.  In this presentation we will demonstrate; how we trained the animals and staff, facility modifications, educational/conservation messaging and how the final tour looks.

19:00- Members Business Meeting and Happy Hour 

 

SATURDAY, 1 MAY

10:00- Welcome & Opening Remarks 

10:15- Guest Speaker- Anna Oblasser-Mirtl

Husbandry Training With Dogs Utilizing Cooperation Signals

Even though there has been an increase in positive reinforcement training in the dog training world, almost all medical and most husbandry procedures are still done without giving the dog a choice. Very often they are forced into stressful and painful situations, which compromises the dog’s welfare and can severely harm the individual human-dog relationship. 
We created a program utilizing a variety of easy-to-train cooperative behaviors that give dogs choices and control in scenarios where previously they had none. Our book (published in 2016) and our DVD (2018) have served as guides for many dog owners and trainers who want to improve their pet's welfare.  The live training demo includes training of cooperation signals as well as the presentation of up to 20 husbandry or medical procedures, covering everything from nail clipping to voluntary blood draws on stage.

11:15- Guest Speakers- Peter Giljam and Nicki Boyd

Emergency recall is an important tool in any zoo's training toolbox. Zoospensefull and San Diego Zoo have trained this behavior with a variety of species. Being able to recall an animal quickly during an emergency situation is critical for the health and well-being of our animals and possibly guests that visit our facilities. In this course you will learn techniques for successful training and maintenance of this behavior. This joint presentation from two organizations half way around the world from each other will demonstrate that the behavior is universal for all zoo's or aquariums. Focusing on the safety of animals and guests can prevent a tragedy and allow better management of our populations while ensuring the public feels secure in our management abilities of rare and dangerous species. Whether you work with carnivores, apes, hoofstock, birds of prey or other taxa this presentation will advise you on how to successfully train and emergency recall and improve the overall welfare and safety at your facility.

12:15- Benefits Of Seesaw-Training by Nina Steigerwald, Steigerwald.T

The wide range of training options when using seesaws to get animals in good physiological state leads to more and more interest for this method.  Our four-legged training partners learn to master instable surfaces and to use their body in a defined way.  The benefits to reap: Coordination ability improves through training of proprioception and slow, concient movements.  The whole musculature is strengthened, especially the muscles in the deeper layers.  All fasciae are strechted and relaxed by doing what we call “wipp-wapps“ and the body awareness gets better and better.  Of course there are some special features and drawbacks in training.  The presentation is about how to apply the knowlegde of positive reinforcement training in order to get correct and useful movements.  We will also point out their vary effects on the locomotor system of horses.

12:45- Show Me How You Train My Goat And I Will Tell You Who You Are by František Šusta, Trainingisdialogue.com

One of the events I offer dog trainers in the Czech Republic is a "Goat Camp" (inspired by the Chicken Camp).  Dog trainers have an opportunity to practise R+ training procedures with "pre-trained" goats and then they train again with their own dogs.  Each goat is pretrained different way, one does only freeshaping, another one targeting, next one only luring.  By contrast to dogs the goats do react to every methodical error in training immediately and so their training gives the trainer a valuable feedback.  This practice showed, that trainers often realise during the work that mistakes they have done with goats, are also the cause of their problems with the dogs.  We all have our own personal belief system and limits hidden in our subconscious mind, that impacts our attitude to the training and life itself without us realising it.  And these subconscious belief systems aren't easily altered.  As each animal is an individual, so is each trainer.  If we learn our subconsciouss personal framework and we are aware of it during the training session, each of us can get to the goal more easily.  I will talk about different types of trainers with different personal setting and how this influences their training with goats as well as dogs.

13:15- Break (1 hour)

14:15- Guest Speaker- Annette Pedersen

What Does Science Have To Do With Animal Training?

In our daily training, especially in the Zoo animal community, we often use concepts and terms like “Positive reinforcement trainer”, “Variable Ratio Schedules of Reinforcement” and “Choice & Control” … Most of these concepts and principles stem from the scientific fields of ethology, behaviourism and analysis of behavior and then applied into the work with our animals. Even so, the welfare outcome of these concepts, and the way they are applied seems to vary from trainer to trainer, and so does even the way trainers are defining the concepts and the perception of the “truth”. In this presentation, I will share my journey trying to find my way back to the science behind these concepts we use and determine, if we are actually applying them according to the science; if they do promote better welfare for our animals, or if they are connected to other factors that also needs to be considered.

15:15- Space Utilisation And Social Proxmity Pre- & Post Enclosure move in 3.2 Diana Monkeys (Cercopithecus diana) by Heather Thompson, Twycross Zoo

In zoological collections it is important to establish and maintain natural behaviours as this can influence many factors of animal management.  Within zoological collections, internal transfers of individual animals between enclosures may occur and have the potential to impact animal behaviour and social structures, either negatively or positively.  In 2019 Twycross Zoo’s Diana Monkey group were crate trained and transferred between enclosures within the zoo.  ‘X’ hours of enclosure usage and social behaviour were observed pre- and post-enclosure transfer for all individuals using camera traps to investigate any differences in these variables.  There were no significant differences in canopy level usage, enclosure area preference or proximity to another individual between the two enclosures for all individuals.  Results showed that the adult male spent significantly more time alone than other members of the group in both enclosures (p<0.001), which is consistent with wild-type social structure.  Social proximity and enclosure use observed across both enclosures suggested that group structure and wild-type behaviour was maintained from the old to new enclosure.

15:45- What The Smell? by Amy Owens, Birmingham Zoo

Traditionally verbal or visual cues have been used in training to prompt a specific behavior, however, these two senses are not always the strongest in a species.  In the Birmingham Zoo’s Ambassador Department we house several different species that fall under this circumstance.  After a young Virginia opossum in our department was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and was prescribed physical therapy, we had to be creative in order to generate a behavioral management plan that best accounted for the species’ visual deficit.  In order to accomplish the physical therapy prescribed, the opossum would have to walk to a station and remain on that surface while Animal Care Professional (ACP) could have him control his hips to sit up and lower himself back to the ground.  ACPs attempted visual and auditory cues for him with no avail.  However, because of the acute sense of smell opossums possess, we created an olfactory cue for him.  Using a spice (cumin) and water mixture between two trays, ACPs were able to successfully train him to station and hold.  To ensure he was being cued by the cumin smell, several experiments with different scents were placed between trays- each time the opossum would station only to the tray with cumin.  This cue was so successful that we have started training a stage routine with our three banded armadillo in a similar fashion using an olfactory cue to move to different areas of the stage.

16:15- How to Keep Behavior Modification FUNctional by Sandy McPadden, Sandy McPadden Animal Behavior Consulting

The fields of animal training and applied behavior analysis have been growing parallel to each other for decades.  Studies showing that behavior is predictable and directly related to environmental events were being published just as SeaWorld trainers began training their first Bottle Nose Dolphins over 50 years ago.  While operant conditioning is readily welcomed in animal husbandry now, the rest of the field of Applied Behavior Analysis has been slower to trickle in.  One of the greater advancements in ABA has been the development and use of the Functional Behavioral Assessment to identify the functions of behavior.  The functional behavioral assessment is a systematic process for understanding problem behavior and what environmental factors play a role in its occurrence.  Training a new behavior is fun, decreasing or eliminating an unwanted behavior is FUNctional.  Let’s break down how to create a Functional Behavioral Assessment for an animal in your care.

16:45- Break (15 min)

17:00- Guest Speaker- Steve Martin

The Art of Training Animals

An artistic animal trainer goes beyond the basics of positive reinforcement training to fine tune antecedents and consequences and promote a level of learning that transcends basic animal training practices.  The “Art” of animal training can be described as the intuitive application of scientific principles which have developed through practical experience working with animals and the people who care for them.  The focus of this presentation is to describe animal training from this perspective, and provide video and live training demonstration.

18:30- Closing Remarks

Thank you for attending the 2021 virtual conference!



Details will be posted as they are finalized. If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact us. We look forward to seeing you virtually!