Advising AZA Species Survival Plans®
The Associations of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Population Management Center (PMC) and adjunct population biologists provide scientific guidance to AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium professionals across the country by advising more than 500 Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Programs.
SSPs guide the population management of zoo and aquarium populations and ensure the health and well-being of individuals within those populations. Each SSP is managed by an SSP coordinator; a studbook keeper; and, sometimes, an SSP vice coordinator and management committee. The population biologists at the PMC provide scientific advice to these program leaders to help support long-term viability of SSP populations.
AZA regional studbooks are the foundation of SSPs. A studbook is a database of all animal records for one population, including the pedigree and demographic history for each individual animal within AZA member facilities. Each studbook is maintained by a studbook keeper, and the PMC validates these studbook databases to help studbook keepers maintain the accuracy of the population data. Studbook keepers maintain AZA regional studbooks using specialized software (SPARKS, PopLink, ZIMS for Studbooks). Many group-living species’ studbooks are also maintained in Excel or Access.
Population biologists rely on the SSP coordinator, studbook keeper, and other species experts and advisors for their expertise on behavior, conservation, education, husbandry, molecular genetics, nutrition, reproductive biology, research, reintroduction, veterinary, welfare, and any other species-specific information. Breeding and Transfer Plan reports are created to summarize the current demographic and genetic status of the population, recommend breeding pairs/groups and transfers, inform management strategies for the long-term future, and accomplish any additional population-specific goals. Population biologists import studbook data into specialized software for demographic and genetic analyses (PMx, ZooRisk).
All breeding and transfer recommendations found in Breeding and Transfer Plans are uploaded into PMCTrack, a website that evaluates the outcomes of these recommendations. The results of these evaluations can help the SSPs and population biologists improve population planning strategies in zoos and aquariums.
Population biologists also calculate species survival statistics, which help to answer the question: “How long does this species live?” The Species Survival Statistics Library uses scientifically standardized median life expectancies based on studbook data. Median life expectancies have been generated for more than 450 species found at AZA facilities, and more continue to be calculated.
Consultants and Adjuncts
The PMC also collaborates with adjunct population biologists across the country who also advise SSPs:
- Asako Chaille, M.S. – San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
- Andrea Putnam, Ph.D.
- Colleen Lynch, M.S. – Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and AZA PMC
- Ed Spevak, Ph.D. – Saint Louis Zoo
- Gina Ferrie, Ph.D. – Disney’s Animal Kingdom®
- Jamie Ivy, Ph.D. – White Oak Conservation, International Crane Foundation, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
- Jennifer Mickelberg, Ph.D. – Zoo Atlanta
- Kate Rodriguez-Clark, Ph.D. – Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
- Katelyn Mucha, M.S. – Species360
- Sara Sullivan, M.S. – Brookfield Zoo
Population management is a team effort. Our combined expertise and resources help to advise the population management of SSPs and global programs, support research, and cooperate with international counterparts.
Lincoln Park Zoo’s Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology collaborates on numerous population management research projects, often using PMCTrack data.
The AZA Reproductive Management Center (RMC) aids the AZA community with contraception research, reproductive research, and population management.
AZA Scientific Advisory Groups (SAGs) collaborate on various ex situ animal care and management strategies.
The Molecular Data for Population Management Scientific Advisory Group (MSAG) promotes best practice applications of molecular data to the management of AZA’s animal programs.
The Small Population Management Advisory Group (SPMAG) provides technical population management advice for AZA animal programs. All PMC and adjunct population biologists are members of SPMAG.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) leads numerous reintroduction projects in collaboration with SSPs.
Other than the AZA PMC, the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) Population Management Centre (PMC) is the only other group of full-time population management staff in the world.
The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Committee on Population Management (CPM) collaborates on population management strategies as well as global population management for some species. The PMC director is a corresponding member of the CPM.