I love going to conferences. Well, to be a little more specific, I love going to animal conferences. I like to say I’m a zookeeper in my heart, always and forever. I haven’t been in the zookeeping field for 3 years (has it really been that long?), but it’s a special community I feel I will never separate from completely.

Being at the American Association of Zookeepers conference is like why we moved to Whidbey Island. It’s my tribe of people. Zookeepers are very supportive and encouraging of their own, or at least that’s what I’ve experienced this week so far. Whidbey Island is very supportive of its writing community and those who live a local lifestyle. I really feel at home, even after all my time away from the zoo professionally.

Tonight, I celebrated with my tribe their accomplishments and triumphs. Excellence in enrichment, animal care, and conservation were the superstars of AAZK, and why they are the cornerstones of ZooFit. But the big celebrities of the night were those who were awarded Lifetime achievement awards. It’s something I always wanted to achieve. I don’t know if it’s possible being outside the zoo field, but staying involved in AAZK makes it seem feasible.

I was so touched when I saw an old colleague’s face on the screen to receive the Lifetime Achievement award. Roz Sealy passed away last year, suddenly. The loss of such a caring, compassionate, and inspiring keeper will be felt for years to come. Tears came to my eyes as my old co-workers accepted her award in her honor.

I tried to honor Roz in my own way through ZooFit as well. I created Conservation Hero WODs for those who made a significant impact during their lives. Many of my heroes are celebrities, such as Steve Irwin, Dian Fossey, and Jacques Cousteau. But the quiet heroes who helped conservation at zoos have been great as well. Roz Sealy, Stephanie James, and Dawn Branchaeu are just a few I name in my book.

Here is the dedicated Conservation Hero WOD in honor of Roz Sealy

Roz was a zookeeper at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. To list all her accomplishments would take too long, but to say she was passionate about animals is a gross understatement. Roz developed many enrichment projects and helped dozens of zookeepers grow in their field. She also served as a coordinator for the Species Survival Plan for the common wallaroo.

Roz was also an avid photographer, using her photos to fund conservation projects such as Trumpeter Swan Society, Farming for Wildlife, and many local conservation groups. She was very active in the Puget Sound Chapter for the American Association of Zookeepers.

5 Rounds for Time
complete all the exercises and repeat for 5 rounds.

  • 10 Stork Walks (each side)
  • 20 Kangaroo jumps
  • 10 Peacock Jacks
  • 20 Flyaways
  • 10 Flamingo Squats (each side)

You can find her workout and many others in my ZooFit Exercise Guide, which I just recently published.

But my excitement didn’t end with the awards for zookeepers. After the ceremony, AAZK chapters presented their videos for the delegates about future conferences. I admit, I got a little pumped. This was my first conference as a ZooFit consultant, and again, maybe it’s because I’m among my people, but I felt very accepted and received a lot of interest in the subject.

Next year’s conference will be in Indianapolis. I’m excited because I’ve never been to Indy, but I’m even more pumped to talk to the organizers about how ZooFit can help them reach out to more keepers, either through Conservation Fitness, Zookeepers Keeping Fit program, or even Toastmasters.

I am stoked for the newest bid, the 2022 conference will be held in Omaha, Nebraska. Their zoo may be in the middle of nowhere, but they are highly considered among professional organizations and travel organizations to be one of the best zoos in the country. So I can’t wait.

I even got a little stoked to possibly head out to LA in 2020. This is huge considering I swore I’d never go to LA again in my life after visiting in 2011. But I have a sneaky suspicion I know who they are going to get for their Keynote speaker. It rhymes with Rhetty Kite. If it comes to pass, I would likely eat my words and head down there to help them take action for zookeepers.

A little earlier in the day, I discussed how excited I am to be a sponsor and attendee for the Animal Behavior and Management Alliance conference being held in Portland next April. I had the opportunity to talk to a couple organizers, and I know ZooFit will be a great fit for all the animal trainers coming from all over the world to learn and be inspired.

I am enjoying being around my tribe once again, and getting positive feedback about ZooFit and Conservation Fitness. I hope this momentum carries over when I get home so I can get going on all my projects I want and need to work on.

Who is your tribe, and how do they help you become the best version of yourself? Celebrate with them and tell them how much they mean to you.