S. Sunny Nelson, M.A.

Conservation & Science
Conservation, Research, Reducing Animal Trafficking
Vice President, Conservation & Science
  • M.A. – Biology, Miami University
  • B.A. – Psychology, Auburn University

Areas of Expertise

  • Avian husbandry and management
  • Avian conservation and reintroductions
  • Environment & Conservation
  • Wildlife Trafficking
  • Advocacy


Sunny began her career as a birds and small animals keeper at Zoo Atlanta. She has been at Lincoln Park Zoo since 2010, first as lead keeper of McCormick Bird House, then as zoological manager, Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds, and now as Vice President, Conservation & Science. In her current role, Sunny oversees the zoo’s science centers and continues her own work around global collaboration for the environment and ending wildlife trafficking.

In addition to daily curatorial duties, Sunny is the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) coordinator and studbook keeper for the Association of Zoo & Aquariums (AZA) Inca tern population and the vice-coordinator and studbook keeper for the Bali myna population. She also works closely with the AZA Population Management Center (PMC), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources on the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program.

Sunny currently works on the Bali Myna Recovery Program, is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Asian Songbird Trade specialist group, and serves on several avian steering committees and scientific advisory groups in AZA.


  • Shepherd, C., Leupen, B., Nelson, S., Gomez, L., Allcock, J., … Bruslund, S., Dingle, C., & Nijman, V. (2023). Global commercialisation, under-reported trade, and the need for increased international regulation of a non-CITES listed songbird. Journal of Asian Ornithology, 39, 71–77.
  • Squires, T. M., Kepakisan, A. N. K., Kusumanegara, H., Collar, N. J., Yuni, L. P. E. K., Owen, A., Nugroho, A., Sarmawi, M. U., Nelson, S. S., Winarni, N. L., & Marsden, S. J. (2023). The road to recovery: Conservation management for the critically endangered Bali myna shows signs of success. Oryx, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605323000777
  • Nelson, S. S., & Shepherd, C. R. (2023). Assessing the trade of Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus in the USA. Bird Conservation International, 33, e49. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0959270923000096.
  • Bruslund, S., Leupen, B., Shepherd, C. R., & Nelson, S. S. (2022). Online trade as a serious additional threat to the Critically Endangered silvery pigeon Columba argentina in Indonesia. Nature Conservation, 46, 41–48. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.46.80064.
  • Delaski, K. M., Nelson, S., Dronen, N. O., Craig, T. M., Pond, J., & Gamble, K. C. (2015). Detection and management of air sac trematodes (Szidatitrema species) in captive multispecies avian exhibits. Journal of avian medicine and surgery, 345-353.
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