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ASAG emerged from shared goals of achieving joint excellence in avian management, providing focus on conservation, and responding to common challenges facing bird programs within AZA institutions. We pride ourselves on providing a forum where new people, ideas and visions are welcome and mentoring is valued. We work in a cooperative and mutually supportive fashion to achieve our long-term goals.

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The Avian Scientific Advisory Group (ASAG) embraces the following shared goals: achieving joint excellence in avian management; promoting focus on conservation; and responding to common challenges facing bird programs within AZA institutions. The group provides a forum where new people, new ideas and visions are welcome and where mentoring is valued. Members work in a cooperative and mutually supportive fashion to achieve long-term objectives.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Avian Scientific Advisory Group is to support Zoo and Aquarium avian programs, conservation of bird species and to serve as a resource on avicultural knowledge.

Membership in ASAG

Any interested employee of an AZA accredited zoo or aquarium (primarily bird curators, bird collection managers, and bird keepers) can be a member of ASAG. There are no formal requirements for general membership; attending ASAG meetings or ASAG sponsored workshops. For the purposes of conducting business, each accredited facility has one designated staff member who is the official institutional representative (IR) to ASAG and as such, is on the ASAG e-mail list serve.

What ASAG Does

ASAG helps organize and assist bird curators, collection managers, and keepers to meet their husbandry, population management, conservation and education responsibilities by:

  • Organizing workshops on topics of particular interest to zoo or aquarium bird managers at one AZA regional conference each year. Facilitates selection of workshop topics and regional conference site.
  • Acting as a liaison with: the AZA Board of Directors; WCMC; the AZA office of Legislative and Government affairs; the AZA Animal Welfare Committee; AAZK; SPMAG; IDMAG; Zoo Veterinarians; Zoo Registrars; the Ornithological Council of North America and others.
  • Organizing ASAG meetings at all AZA National conferences and at one AZA Mid-Year each year.
  • Convening strategic planning workshops every 3 5 years for long-range planning.
  • Managing a listserv for timely and efficient information exchange.

ASAG History

ASAG started as an informal group of bird curators, keepers and other interested animal managers that gathered at AZA conferences to discuss avian issues. In 1988, the group put together two avian workshops at the AZA Central Regional conference. The goal of the workshops was to encourage dialogue between bird curators and field researchers on captive management practices. Workshops have been part of an AZA regional conference annually since 1988.

A workshop fund raising committee was established in 1988. This committee is currently the Finance committee and was created to generate revenue to sponsor guest speakers for the workshops from outside the North American zoo community.

At the 1991 AZA annual conference, AZA President-elect, Steve Wylie offered to guide the group through the process of strategic planning in order to focus the group’s activities to meet future challenges. In April, 1992, Wylie and 16 bird curators from small and large institutions developed the “North American Zoo and Aquarium Bird Curators 1992-1996 Strategic Plan”. Five “key result areas” were identified and strategies within those were nominated for workshop topics. A second strategic plan was developed and implemented for the years 1996-2000.

The group was formally designated as the Avian Interest Group (AIG) in 1992 to emphasize that the activities of the group were open to all. In 1992, the AIG steering committee was formed. The purpose of the steering committee was to coordinate meetings and other collaborative business. This committee has evolved several times to suit the needs of the group.

The AIG was granted scientific advisory group status in 1999. At that time the name of the group was changed to the Avian Scientific Advisory Group (ASAG).

As a result of the original strategic plan, a newsletter was created. This newsletter now resides on the ASAG web page. The ASAG web page contains information about avian programs and ASAG activities. A list serve was also created to increase communication between avian managers.

Steering Committee Administration

Steering Committee Structure and Procedures:

The Avian Scientific Advisory Group (ASAG) steering committee is composed of 15 elected members and 4 non-voting, appointed members. Liaisons and other appointed positions can be added at the discretion of the steering committee to address emerging avian issues. All elected members must be the designated Institutional representatives to ASAG for their zoo. The appointed positions are: Treasurer, Super Bird TAG Chair and AZA office liaison and American Ornithological Union (AOU) liaison, American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK) liaison, Veterinary advisor and Registrar advisor.

Steering Committee Membership = 15 elected members. Terms are three-year terms and are staggered to allow for consistency and smooth transition during election years.
There are four officer positions within the steering committee: Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Finance Chair. These positions are elected by the steering committee and the terms = the term of the person elected.
Responsibilities of the four offices are as follows:

Chair: Provide leadership and direction to the ASAG membership and steering committee. Initiate updates to the strategic plan when necessary. Provide forward movement to achieve ASAG goals. Coordinate ASAG general and steering committee meetings, develop agendas for such meetings and lead discussions. Communicate clearly and effectively with membership and steering committee. Maintain cooperative relationships with related organizations and act as a liaison to these groups. Delegate tasks to the steering committee when necessary and keep track of member participation.

Vice-Chair: Assist Chair with above stated duties. Lead meetings in Chair’s absence and maintain professional relationships with related organizations. Oversee all advisory and appointed steering committee positions. Initiate search for vacant appointed positions and submit nominees to steering committee for approval.

Secretary: Record minutes for both ASAG General meetings and ASAG steering committee meetings and post to appropriate list serves. Conduct officer and steering committee member elections. Solicit workshop topics for upcoming conferences and coordinate votes by ASAG membership. Keep track of proposed workshop topics for future reference. Maintain steering committee list serve.

Finance Chair: Coordinate ASAG fund raising activities. Propose ideas for future fund raisers and coordinate the annual wine and cheese party. Assist with procedures to disseminate ASAG funds and work closely with the Treasurer.

Steering Committee member responsibilities:
  • Dedicate sufficient time to carry out ASAG duties
  • Respond and contribute to ASAG business a minimum of 80% of the time.
  • Be prepared to chair ASAG subcommittees and task forces
  • Contribute, review and vote on strategic plan updates.
  • Review and vote on ASAG policies.
  • Have Internet and e-mail access.

Responsibilities of appointed positions: To advise ASAG leadership on pertinent issues and participate in discussions. Appointed positions will not have voting privileges.

Treasurer: Maintain ASAG financial accounts; advise steering committee on financial transactions and plans.

Avian TAG Chair: Act as a liaison between TAG Chairs and ASAG.

AZA office liaison: Act as an advisor and point of contact on AZA issues.

Veterinary Advisor: Advise ASAG on medical issues and assist in review of scientific projects, data and proposals.

AOU liaison: Attend AOU meetings on a regular basis. Report back to the ASAG membership on activities in AOU. Act as a liaison and contact person between ASAG and the AOU.

Registrar Advisor: Assist ASAG with data quality and permitting issues that affect the avian scientific and Zoo and Aquarium communities.

AAZK liaison: Act as a liaison between ASAG and AAZK. Assist ASAG in
communicating to AAZK membership the goals and objectives of the strategic plan. Promote the exchange of ideas on how to accomplish ASAG goals. Provide an avenue for keepers to have input and involvement in ASAG activities. The AAZK liaison will be a member of the ASAG SC listserv and will be invited to attend steering committee meetings. Term will = 2 years. At the end of the term, the ASAG steering committee will appoint a new liaison.

ASAG Meeting Format

ASAG meetings will be scheduled at the AZA National Conference and at one of the AZA Regional Conferences each year. Open to all registered conference delegates, the purpose of ASAG general meetings is to inform the attendees about activities within ASAG and bring pertinent avian issues to the attention of the membership. ASAG meetings are intended to be an open forum for all and discussion is encouraged.

The meeting agenda will be set by the ASAG steering committee with input from the general membership. Speakers may be scheduled to speak on specific issues affecting avian managers, such as USDA regulations.

Agendas will be posted on the ASAG list serve prior to the conferences with a call for input from the membership.

ASAG Workshops

The ASAG hosts annual workshops that address issues that relate to the captive management of chosen taxonomic groups as well as topics that address broader issues that effect the management and display of birds in zoos and aquariums. The goals of these workshops are:

  • To encourage zoo and aquarium professionals as well as field researchers to share information for the benefit of improving the captive management and conservation goals of chosen taxa.
  • Develop workshops that disseminate information and promote new ideas that benefit the exhibition and management of avian collections.
  • To provide training for avian managers in emerging disciplines and new technology.
  • To use the information gathered in annual workshops to create action items and priorities for the successful enhancement of avian captive management and conservation programs.
Each year ASAG designates an AZA regional to host two workshops as well as avian TAG and SSP meetings. All workshop locations will be chosen in advance to allow the host institution the opportunity to plan effectively. The ASAG Steering committee will work closely with AZA to identify suitable workshop location sites that meet the needs of the ASAG membership. The location, ability to host ASAG workshops, and the willingness of the institution to act as host will be taken into consideration. As soon as locations are chosen the ASAG membership will be notified along with AZA and the host institution. The choices will be made several years in advance.

Workshop topics will be chosen in advance of the workshop to allow for effective planning and coordination. Topics will be solicited from the membership for two workshops. One workshop will be TAG-based and the participating TAG will present the topic. The second workshop will be focused on issues affecting the avian community. The ASAG steering committee will review proposed topics and submit a list to the membership for a vote. ASAG members will chair the individual workshops and will be responsible for soliciting and organizing the presentations.

Workshop fees: The ASAG Finance Chair will schedule the posting of workshop fees with AZA conference registration materials. Workshop fees will be set by the ASAG finance committee and approved by the ASAG steering committee. All workshop fees are used to defray costs for speakers at ASAG workshops and for other steering committee-approved ASAG projects.

ASAG Goals

Provide support and encouragement to all Avian Taxonomic Advisory Groups.
  • Encourage completion and regular updating of TAG Regional Collection Plans
  • Assist TAGs having difficulty meeting goals and RCP deadlines.
  • Encourage avian TAGs and SSPs to provide position statements and husbandry /exhibit guidelines for their species.
  • Encourage TAGs and SSPs to propose workshop topics and paper session topics at AZA and other avian-oriented conferences.
  • Encourage Avian TAGs to participate in TAG Fair at the AZA National Conference.
  • Assist Avian TAGs with identifying appropriate CAPs that affect their taxa and establishing a dialog with those CAPs.
  • Develop alternative methods of acquiring specimens for zoo collections due to reduced availability and desirability of obtaining birds from wild sources.
Encourage and facilitate communication within the avian community. This community includes zoos and aquariums (national and international), private avian managers, biologists and pertinent governmental agencies, as well as related conservation and academic organizations.
  • Maintain a membership listserv for avian managers.
  • Encourage membership participation in avian programs and conferences outside the AZA community such as EAZA conferences, USFWS meetings, AFA conferences etc.
  • Support ASAG web site and encourage membership contribution to content of the site.
  • Publish articles in designated journals that promote ASAG goals and activities as well as encourage participation by zoo and aquarium personnel.
  • Encourage TAGs, SSPs and PMPs to post appropriate plans on the AZA website.
  • Create opportunities for involvement in ASAG and AZA for interested zoo/aquarium personnel to cultivate future involvement and leadership in avian programs.
  • Organize, disseminate and archive avian husbandry and management information.
Provide technical assistance and advise on ornithological issues to the AZA Board, AZA Conservation and Science Office, WCMC and other appropriate AZA committees.
  • Work closely with AZA advisor to provide needed assistance
  • Chair of ASAG maintains direct communication to WCMC and the ASAG steering committee will work closely with WCMC to provide technical assistance on avian programs.
  • Establish contact with various AZA committees and offer technical assistance when needed
  • Provide position statements on issues that affect the avian zoo community and submit to the appropriate audiences.
Support conservation and research projects that affect avian populations in the wild and provide long-term goals and solutions the the zoological community can support.
  • Encourage avian TAGs to develop long-term conservation projects benefiting wild populations.
  • Initiate a research proposal-funding program to supports original research that benefits avian species both captive and wild.
  • Track trends of wild populations and alert the appropriate groups.
Encourage and promote avian programs in zoos and aquariums
  • Promote avian programs and activities to non-bird audiences
  • Encourage institutions to participate in educational events and activities that focus on avian issues.
  • Support the use and development of off exhibit space for avian propagation programs
  • Recognize the potential impact of emerging ethical issues, changing societal value, regulations and technologies on the way we manage our collections and develop proactive approaches to these issues.