Get Involved

Join the AASAG

The AASAG issues an annual call for service to participate on the Steering Committee. Terms of service last 3 years and begin immediately following the AZA annual conference each year. If you are interested in serving on the Steering Committee, please contact Katie Manion, AASAG Chair, at for more information.

All zoo and aquarium professionals can support the work of the AASAG in the following ways:

Contribute to the Ambassador Animal Information and Resource Center

One important component of AASAG’s work occurs through the AARIC website. This site acts as a resource center for ambassador animal managers and collection planners.

The Species Pages on this website collect and stores information about program/ambassador animal species, including housing needs, handling guidelines and effective presentation tips.

Update one species information

While we do our best to keep these pages up to date, many still need updating. Use this Google Doc template to update a species you have experience with by completing as much of it as you can, while citing your institution (or institutions, if you’re referencing work done at multiple different places). Any information that is generalized about that species does not need a citation, but information specific to a facility (such as specific diets fed, examples of transportation or presentation guidelines, etc.) cite that facility. Then, email the completed template to Jacque Williamson.

Provide additional resource examples

If you have any additional resources you’d like to share (samples of fact sheets, handling sheets, handler exams, temperature guidelines, enrichment schedules, welfare evaluations, etc), email them to Jacque Williamson.

Become an AARIC Editor

AARIC editors are people with the interest and time to help us edit, organize, and update the more than 200 species on this resource!

The only prerequisites are 1) you must be an employee at an AZA institution, as this resource is paid for by the AZA; 2) you must have experience working with ambassador animals.

To become an editor, please contact Jacque Williamson.

Connect with Your Ambassador Animal Institutional Contacts

The AASAG aims to have an Institutional Contact, or Representative, at every AZA accredited institution. Institutional Contacts take responsibility for disseminating the work of the AASAG to the relevant staff members in their facility. They are also occasionally called upon for input into AASAG initiatives. Check the list of Ambassador Animal Institutional Contacts and ask yours to include you in communications. If your institution does not currently have a contact for the AASAG, you can volunteer for this position by contacting Jim Nemet at

Join or Search the AZA Network

Join the Ambassador Animal group on the AZA Network! This is an online space with discussion threads, resources, announcements, and mini-surveys. This group is an open forum and anyone may create an AZA login and join; membership is not required.

Use the search function in the AZA Network to find old conversations about species you’re interested in learning more about.

Other Ways to Get Involved

Participate in Professional Development

Register yourself or send staff to the Principles of Program Animal Management (PPAM) course. This six-day intensive course exposes students to the range of opportunities for animal use in education programs and provides students with the knowledge to effectively develop and manage formalized programs utilizing ambassador animals. If you have already completed PPAM, consider applying to serve as a course instructor and share your knowledge with others.

Attend AASAG Meetings

The AASAG meetings held at the AZA annual conference and mid-year meeting include a portion that is open to all attendees. Check the conference program guide prior to each event for schedule specifics.

Use the Sustainability Database

This AZA search portal will connect collection planners to SSP Sustainability Reports, which include summaries of husbandry information, exhibit design, and population management needs. Functionality will include a filter to search specifically for ambassador animals. You can access this database from the left menu after you login to your AZA account.

Conduct Research

Zoo/aquarium professionals and graduate students are invited to contribute to the body of scientific research on ambassador animals. The AASAG is particularly interested in answering the following research questions:

Animal Welfare Research Questions

  • Do program animals have different welfare when compared to exhibit animals (housing size, sleep cycles, etc)?
  • What is the effect of handling, transportation, presentation, etc. on program animal welfare?
  • Thresholds to handling, effects of handling during first year of life on welfare and sustainability (reproductive) outcomes?
  • What is the effect of training on program animal welfare?
  • Is there a difference in welfare if the presentation takes place inside or outside of the animal’s exhibit?

Visitor Outcome Research Questions

  • What messages are audiences taking away from experiences with program animals? (conservation messages vs. unintended messages about handling wildlife)
  • Does the way the animal is handled (type of program) affect the visitor outcomes of the experience? (off- vs. on-exhibit, touch vs. hold vs. on perch)
  • Does the type of animal presented make a difference in the outcomes of the experience? (charismatic megafauna vs. invertebrates)
  • Do program animal experiences result in different visitor outcomes than experiences with biofacts?

The Research and Technology Committee (RTC) has developed a Zoo and Aquarium Researcher Directory meant to facilitate communication among and with researchers working in AZA institutions. Search this directory to find others whose work intersects with your research focus.

Scientific Review Board

A scientific review board, comprised of members of the Research & Technology Committee (RTC), is available to assist with reviewing research proposals involving ambassador animals. To be connected with the scientific review board, please contact RTC Chair Katie Leighty.

Research projects involving human participants should also undergo proper review to ensure that the rights and welfare of the participants are protected. In most cases, you will need to work with the institutional review board at your zoo, aquarium, or an affiliated university. See also the Guidelines for Human Subject Protection in Informal Learning Research, provided by the Research and Technology Committee.

Research Proposal Endorsement

If you would like the AASAG to provide a letter of endorsement for a research proposal, submit a complete proposal using the AZA Research and Technology Committee (RTC) research form to Allow TWO WEEKS for review and endorsement by the scientific review board.  The board will vote to endorse the project or not based on the following criteria:

  • Does it help accomplish the research priorities identified by PASAG?
  • Does the study have scientific merit?
  • Is it feasible and well written?


Important resources that the AASAG has identified as valuable or developed in support of its mission:

AASAG Newsletter: A quarterly publication that highlights the work of the SAG and offers ideas for improving Ambassador Animal programs. Newsletters are available in the AZA Network Pages by visiting the Library section of the Ambassador Animal group.

Ambassador Animal Evaluation Tool: Developed by the AASAG, this tool lists common criteria that AZA accredited institutions evaluate a species or individual animal against to determine if it will be a good fit for use as an animal ambassador.