The ABMA has annual elections for various board positions.  Our nomination process starts in the fall and voting occurs in the spring.  If you have any questions about our election process, please contact the Nominations and Elections chair, Nicki Boyd, at nboyd@sandiegozoo.org.

The following ABMA election information is provided to assist voting members in determining who will fill the open board of director positions for the upcoming 2017-2020 term.

These nominees are willing to serve the ABMA for the next three years.  In order to know your nominees better, please be sure to read the following biographies for each of the candidates below.  A candidate must receive a "yes" vote from 51% of the votes cast in order to be elected to the Board of Directors.  Once votes are tallied, the results of the election will be announced at this year's annual conference in Cincinnati.

Voting members (Professional, Active, Emeritus & Lifetime members) will receive an email in early 2017 with a link which will allow you to vote to approve or deny the slate of nominees to the ABMA Board of Directors 2017 - 2020 term.

ABMA Board of Director Nominees for the 2017 - 2020 term:

christina-burgessCHRISTINA BURGES
San Antonio Zoo

Christina has developed and implemented introductory and advanced training courses designed to engage and provide professional development opportunities, a database for keeping accurate and insightful records for each animal, and an evaluation system for monitoring and supporting successes and challenges.  She also coordinates with Enrichment Representatives from each department to discuss and brainstorm not only unique and successful enrichment for the zoo animals.  Christina as also played an intricate part in zoo events such as theme days and media promotions, and is currently working to help plan an amazing 2018 ABMA Conference.

Christina would like to be a part of the ABMA board to continue advancing our knowledge of excellent animal welfare as well and getting that information out to the public.


susie-ekardSUSIE EKARD
San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Susie graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology.  She started working at the San Diego Zoo shortly thereafter.  While at the zoo, she worked in several departments, including the Children’s Zoo before settling down in the Behavior Management department at the Hunte Amphitheater’s Animals in Action show.  In 2001, Susie was hired as an Animal Training Manager to start the Behavior Management department at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, now the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Since the inception of that department with just three trainers working for her, Susie is now the department head in charge of Wildlife Discoveries encounters, Cheetah Run and the Frequent Flyers bird show.

Susie was a charter member of ABMA and hasn’t missed a conference since 2003.  She joined the Board of Directors in 2004 and served two terms.  During the first term, she was Vice President and coordinated the 2006 conference in San Diego.  During her second term, Susie served as President elect, President and Past President.  In 2014, she joined the Board once more as the Chief Financial Officer.


julie-groveJULIE GROVE
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

I am honored to be a nominee for the ABMA Board of Directors.  I received a BS degree in Animal Behavior and I have been in the animal field for over 20 years now.  I began working and volunteering at The National Aquarium in Baltimore where I truly found my passion for animal training.  I was fortunate to assist with daily training programs of pinnipeds and cetaceans, help with the marine mammal stranding program and gain experience to guide me into my next role.  I started at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore in 2000 and I am proud to still work there today.  I have worked with a large variety of animals from small mammals, great apes, birds, reptiles, carnivores and mega-vertebrates as well.  Though I have held a variety of positions from keeper to manager, I am most passionate about my current position as the Animal Behavior and Training Specialist.  In this role I oversee all training and environmental enrichment programs, mentor our animal keeper staff, manage a volunteer enrichment team and work closely with many departments to ensure the success of our behavioral management goals.  I truly enjoy teaching both people and animals and being there to assist with challenges and celebrate successes.  In my free time I manage my own business as a birth doula assisting couples during the most important time in their life.  I am also a wife and mom to three amazing children who certainly add a new level to the fun of behavior modification.


traci-schneeklothTRACI SCHNEEKLOTH
San Antonio Zoo

Traci graduated from Moorpark college in 2013 with a degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management. She interned at Caldwell Zoo in the bird and reptile departments after graduating. Traci was hired at the San Antonio Zoo in the bird department in 2014 and has since become the Enrichment representative for the department helping to educate coworkers and the public about safe and stimulating enrichment for birds. She has been an ABMA member since 2012 and wants to continue her involvement by being on the Board of Directors and helping to plan the 2018 conference in San Antonio.


wouter-stellaardWOUTER STELLAARD
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Wouter has been in the animal field for 26 years. His passion and career began in the Netherlands while working in a wildlife rehabilitation center. He created his own animal ambulance while finishing his animal care studies. In search for further education he came to the US where he graduated from the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College. After an internship he was hired at Natural Encounters Inc. As a senior trainer he helped create, set up, train, and present bird shows at zoos and aquariums across the country. As the Director of Behavioral Programs he consulted both nationally and internationally to create zoo wide animal training programs with keepers to grow their training and presentation skills.

Currently Wouter is the Animal Programs Training Director at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He is responsible for the training of staff and animals in a variety of areas with a variety of taxa. He and his team produce natural behavior mixed species shows, run an immersive close encounters guest area, as well as an African exhibit experience. The African exhibit focuses on life around an African watering hole featuring cheetah runs, bird flights, hoofstock, and a variety of mammal talks. Wouter's passion is to teach people how to train animals using the science of behavior change and further the industry standards.


Natural Encounters, Inc.

Scott has been in the field of animal training since 2006.  Over this time, he has had the opportunity to work for Busch Gardens Tampa, Sea World Orlando, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, and his current employer, Natural Encounters, Inc.  This wide variety of work experiences has allowed him to experience the care, training, and behavior management of a variety of taxa in both profit and non-profit sectors.  He has been a member of ABMA since the beginning of 2012 and currently serves as the Honors and Awards Committee Co-Chair, as well as a Director at Large on the Board.  In 2016, in the role of 1st Vice President, he helped to lead up the conference that was hosted in Tampa, Florida.  Because sharing the knowledge is so vital to an organization like ABMA, he feels that the more we all contribute, the stronger our organization can become.  That is why he has presented papers at conferences, including the Behavior Management Innovation Award winning paper “Flying with a Flock: A Macaw Tale” at the Toronto 2013 conference, and has been a consistent contributor to our ABMA magazine “ENGAGE”.  He appreciates the consideration to continue as a leader for paving the way to our very promising future.