Upcoming Topics

VSA offers opportunities for professionals and students to further hone their skills through webinars, web chats, book clubs, and virtual networking. Virtual learning offerings address a variety of topics in our field and provide helpful resources and strategies relevant to a wide range of practitioners. These offerings provide opportunities for audience engagement, and provide time for participants to ask questions. Members of VSA receive discounted registration to these events, so consider joining!

If you would like to make suggestions for future Professional Development topics, please contact [email protected]. For technical assistance accessing the hangout, please contact [email protected].

** All fee-based web chats will be recorded. Those recordings will be sent out to registered participants after the session (both those who joined live and those who did not). The slide decks and chat messages shared during the live session will not be made available since they should be interpreted within the context of the speakers’ presentations. Participants during the live session do have the ability to save the chat to their devices.

New!  We plan to record reading group sessions. Register and the recording will be emailed to you after the conversation.
We have not recorded reading group conversations in the past to promote participation.  We hope the increased access outweighs the benefits of non-recorded communal space.


Tea with VSG: Joint VSG-VSA event
Wednesday, February 1 | 12 pm ET (9 am PT)

Join us for an exclusive opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas with colleagues across the pond. Guided by Jen DeWitt from the Visitor Studies Group this session is open to Members of the Visitor Studies Group and the Visitor Studies Association.

REGISTER HERE


ZAFIG MINI-CONFERENCE
Friday, February 17 | 3 - 5 pm ET (12 - 3 pm PT)

REGISTER HERE
This event is free to all!

Presentations:

  • Developing A Conservation Action Campaign
    Nichole Nageotte PhD, Community Research & Evaluation Manager, Denver Zoo
    Marley Steele-Inama, Director of Community Engagement, Denver Zoo
    • For the past year, Denver Zoo has been working to create a conservation action campaign to engage our community in authentic actions that will make a difference for wildlife. Our goal was to promote actions that were both relevant to our community members and would align with our field conservation projects. We used several evaluation and social science research techniques in the development of our campaigns to gather staff, volunteers, and community voices in choosing the actions. In this presentation, we will describe the processes we used and share how we used our results to inform our practice.
  • How Effective are Self-Sufficient Data Collection Methods?
    Brian Slattery, Manager of Audience Research & Evaluation, Lincoln Park Zoo
    • Due to the pandemic, Lincoln Park Zoo’s audience research team lost its data collectors, and is down to a single evaluator—but the zoo’s needs for guest feedback data haven’t changed. Since Lincoln Park Zoo is free to enter, guests don’t make reservations, so there is no regular collection of guest email addresses that can be used for recruitment. Because of these circumstances, the zoo’s audience researcher tested a variety of self-sufficient, hands-off approaches to recruiting participants and collecting data, including signs, business cards, and interactive kiosks. This presentation will outline the relative effectiveness of these methods, compared to each other and to pre-pandemic, in-person data collection. The goal is to provide help to zoos and aquariums that are facing similar reductions in staffing and capacity, so they know where to invest their efforts.
  • Understanding Visitor Preferences, Perception, and Motivations to Improve the Guest Experience
    Nette Pletcher, Conservation Education Leadership Consultant, Beez Kneez Creative
    • In 2022, Tanganyika Wildlife Park (TWP) identified the need for constructing a “dream client” profile in order to serve better their existing and potential guests. In particular, they desired insights into how to attract a new set of clientele for premier experiences. Beez Kneez Creative designed and conducted a psychographic analysis that assessed potential visitor preferences, perceptions, and motivations for visiting the park, in order to provide recommendations for improving the guest experience. Evaluation methods included an online survey and focus groups; both methods included respondents who were frequent TWP visitors and respondents who had never visited TWP. Interpretation of the results of the online survey considered three sets of analyses regarding respondents’ sense of pricing on two different experience package options: (1) psychographics around visitation preferences; (2) psychographics on beliefs about zoos; and (3) demographics. Findings from the focus groups also informed TWP’s unique offerings and marketing strategies.
  • Impacts of Accessibility Features on Zoo Experiences For Visitors With and Without Disabilities
    Maia Werner-Avidon, Principal, MWA Insights
    • Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Access from the Ground Up project at the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ) seeks to better serve children with disabilities through a combination of partnerships with the community, staff professional development and training, and the development of accessible STEM-focused exhibits and resources at the new JMZ facility, which opened in November 2021. This presentation will focus on the impact of the new accessibility features on the experience of visitors both with and without disabilities, looking at the following evaluation questions: 1) To what extent does the Access from the Ground Up project build or strengthen relationships with families with disabilities? 2) How are accessibility elements used and understood? 3) To what extent are people without disabilities aware of accommodations for families with disabilities? What are their reactions to the presence of these accommodations? The full summative evaluation report for Access from the Ground Up is available here.
  • Uncovering Empathy For Species Through Art And Participatory Evaluation
    Lauren Terwilliger Cashman, Evaluation and Learning Research Coordinator, Lincoln Park Zoo
    Erin Shoffstall, Evaluation and Learning Research Coordinator, Lincoln Park Zoo
    • As zoos and aquariums continue to navigate how to foster empathy for animals in their audiences, Lincoln Park Zoo has developed a program aimed at connecting high school students to wildlife through art. This program, Canvas for Conservation, teaches students about a species facing conservation threats and actively works to allow students to express their understanding of and effect towards this species through artwork. To understand if and how empathy is demonstrated, the evaluation reviews students’ art submissions and associated artist statements using inductive and deductive coding, and importantly, all of this work takes place through a participatory process with program staff. This presentation will share the evolution of this program over 5 years, highlighting the story of how the participatory evaluation informed multiple program cycles while also bringing along the narrative of how empathy varied across different focal species.
  • Statistical Evaluation of Exhibit Label Content to Inform Interpretive Planning
    Tom Beatman, PhD, Visitor Experience Research and Evaluation Manager, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
    • We usually have a good sense of what a zoo exhibit is about, but what is it actually saying? This mini-session presents a sneak peek of a method to statistically assess zoo and aquarium interpretive materials by content domain. As AZA institutions have mission-driven imperatives to generate conservation behavior change through their educational offerings, examining the passive exhibit content is crucial. By exploring the distributions of major subjects found in exhibit labels, one can contrast the content that everyday visitors will actually encounter with intended mission-aligned learning outcomes. This sort of data can be used to provide a statistical framework for future interpretive planning. This method is part of a larger multi-institutional project exploring the relationship of exhibit label content with learning outcomes.
  • Evaluating Prioritized Community Special Events
    Erin Tate, Conservation Audience Research & Evaluation (CARE) Associate, Saint Louis Zoo
    • The Saint Louis Zoo has prioritized working with other organizations in the St. Louis region to build a community with specific historically excluded and underrepresented populations. Since 2018 the Zoo has worked in partnership with social work and outreach nonprofits to provide a welcoming, inclusive event for Latino families in the region. Many of these families are new Americans who are predominantly only Spanish speaking. This year, the event was held in conjunction with an annual Boo at the Zoo Halloween lights special event, where families were hosted in VIP spaces with Spanish fluent staff on hand to facilitate their experience. The Saint Louis Zoo has also typically reserved one night during the Wild Lights holiday lights event in December for families with individuals with sensory sensitivities. Deliberately designed to be less crowded, and less noisy, with more ambient lighting and trained education staff on hand to assist families, the event fills a need for families who otherwise are unable or hesitant to attend typical event nights. This session will highlight the importance of evaluating these targeted outreach events; the outcomes they inform, the event successes, and areas of needed improvement as described by our audiences with which we intend to nurture relationships. Additionally, this session will summarize evaluation successes and lessons learned by the Saint Louis Zoo’s Conservation Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE) team as the events have evolved.