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, Scott Trauger.
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 2020-2023 term.
Voting members (Professional, Active, Emeritus & Lifetime members) will receive an email with an embedded link which will allow you to vote for ABMA Board of Directors. This year will have two types of votes in the election- a slate to approve two (2) executive board positions and a direct election to elect five (5) directors at large.
Per the ABMA bylaws, Members of the Board of Directors of the Corporation shall be elected via slate with a simple majority of the votes cast, and/or by direct election by the highest number of votes cast. Furthermore, failure to respond to any notice provided herein will be treated as an affirmative vote for all purposes in any voting matter and will be duly recorded as an affirmative vote by the Secretary of the Corporation and kept in the applicable minutes.
ABMA Board of Director Nominees for the 2020 - 2023 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 of each of the candidates below. Once votes are tallied, the results of the election will be announced at this year's annual conference in Holland.
Agi Sapi is a Behavior and Enrichment Specialist at Zoo Miami since 2017. I am responsible for making sure the Zoo’s training program is run professionally, effectively, and smoothly, and previously set up goals are met (and very last minute assigned goals as well…). Our team provides continuous education on basic and advanced training concepts of operant conditioning via positive reinforcement through formal presentations and daily hands-on experience with a wide range of species from reptiles through birds to mammals. We are there to start training animals from zero, trouble shoot, help and support the keepers all along to achieve their goals. We make sure that best practices are met when designing and training new behaviors as well as approaching behavioral challenges.
Coming from the marine mammal field, where I spent well over 10 years, I am a firm believer of positive reinforcement and choice and control based training approach. I had worked in various marine mammal facilities all over the world getting experience in shows, educational presentations, interactive swim programs, animal assisted therapy programs, and rehabilitation of sick and injured marine animals. I started to implement the same training philosophy in Hungarian zoos first (my native country) before joining the newly formed Behavior and Enrichment Team at Zoo Miami.
I graduated from Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Fl with honors majoring Marine Biology and Psychology. I have attended several training seminars and workshops and I am always looking for more. Besides ABMA, I am also a long time member of IMATA.
My passion is to teach and share the theory and practical use of positive reinforcement and choice and control based training philosophy regardless of the species, background, and the reason of training. Over the years I have worked in international facilities (Conny Land, Switzerland, Dolphin Discovery, Mexico, Dolphin Bay, Dubai, Onmega, Turkey, Budapest Zoo and Sosto Zoo, Hungary, Zoo Miami, USA) I learnt that positive reinforcement is a common language that connects animals, animal professionals, and the public.
I have worked at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden for 15 years in the Cat Ambassador Program. Through my time in the cat show I have gained experience working with multiple different species of animals. Cheetahs are our main focus animal however we have ocelots, fishing cats, red river hog, cape porcupine, warthog, etc. My time here at the zoo I have learned so much about training, enrichment, and animal care, but I always feel like I could be growing and learning more to make not only myself a better person but to make a better life for the animals that I care for. . If you ask me I will tell you that I have the best job ever, and what makes it the best is that the animals allow me to be a part of their life. We ask so much of our animals and they ask very little from us. Being able to attend ABMA over the years I have grown as a person and a trainer. I have served on the board before and hope to be reinstated for another term.
Becky grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and graduated with a degree in Biology from Saint Joseph’s University. Her career as a zookeeper started when she was an intern in the education department at the Philadelphia Zoo during college. Over the course of her three years there, she assisted with caring for reptiles, small mammals and birds. She then spent 11 years as a keeper/trainer at the Dallas Zoo, working with birds, small primates, hoofstock, and carnivores. Currently a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo, Becky works with a large variety of species, with some her favorites being the zoo’s polar bears. She became involved with ABMA when she attended and presented at the Denver conference in 2011. 2014 brought about an exciting opportunity when the Dallas Zoo hosted the annual ABMA conference and Becky acted as the conference chair. Most recently, she was named to the ABMA Board as a Director at Large in 2019. She loves being a part of such an amazing organization whose dedicated members work so hard to better the lives of the animals in their care.
Chris’ work with animals began with a summer job at SeaWorld in his hometown of San Diego, California. With the encouragement of the trainers he met there, he attended the University of California, Davis, where he obtained a degree in Psychology to learn more about the ins and outs of animal behavior. After graduation, Chris volunteered as a keeper aide at the Sacramento Zoo until he decided to pursue a career with animals full time.
In May of 2002, Chris was accepted into the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College outside Los Angeles. Upon graduation, he began working for The Animal Guys, a wildlife education company specializing in the use of wild and exotic animals as live visual aids for biology lessons, where he gave hundreds of presentations to students at inner city schools across the greater L.A. area.
Chris came to work for Natural Encounters Inc. in May of 2005. Chris is a member of ABMA (Animal Behavior Management Alliance), AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and member of the Professional Development Committee of IAATE (International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators). Chris has been certified as a professional bird trainer (CPBT-KA) by the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. As Chief Operating Officer, Chris acts as an NEI training and behavior consultant in addition to overseeing the company’s show operations in Central Florida.
My name is Elly Neumann and I am a Senior Keeper/Trainer in the Animal Presentations Precinct at Taronga Zoo in Sydney Australia. I am also a Trainer at the Taronga Training Institute where I teach animal studies to a range of students in zoos all over the country.
Having worked in the zoo industry for over 20 years, and having a background in zoology and education, I am passionate about increasing keeper skills through educational development in animal training, enrichment, welfare and conservation.
I am also currently the chair of the ASZK (Australasian Society of Zoo keeping) Animal Training Community, which helps develop keeper skills in our region and runs courses in animal training and enrichment for zookeepers around Australia.
Through my work at Taronga Zoo and the ASZK I have been involved in meeting their animal welfare, conservation and educational outcomes by developing educational presentations and staff development programmes within the Zoo and also through the Taronga Training Institute.
I am hoping to join the Board of Directors for the Animal Behavior Management Alliance, so that I may contribute to the development and knowledge of ABMA members and to help meet the goals of the organization.
Being a part of the ABMA Board of directors would be an amazing opportunity to use my skills and passion to contribute to the wider animal community. I have a willingness to be more involved and a sincere commitment to the organization.
I believe that serving as a director at large for the ABMA is a natural extension of my want to contribute to the animal care community. I have a lot to contribute in terms of ideas for educational and skill building programs that will aid in the development of keeper skills and knowledge. I would also like to encourage ABMA membership to the Australian zoo community and hope to grow the membership there. I see this opportunity as an ability for personal and professional growth as well as an ideal way to give back to the community and as a means to be engaged in an impactful and meaningful way.
For the last eighteen years, I have been fortunate to live my passion of working for animals globally. I have had the benefit of learning from incredible mentors at facilities that are making a global difference and use this knowledge to help teach and inspire others. I have worked at amazing facilities like Disney’s The Living Seas, SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo Global, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and North Carolina Zoo where I am currently Curator of Mammals.
In 2012, my career veered to encompass a more global scope when I moved to New Zealand to close down a zoo that had experienced tragedy when the Zoo Director/Veterinarian was killed. I was hired to find homes for all the animals including Mila, an ex-circus elephant. In less than one year, I relocated various birds, primates, and hoofstock to other facilities in Australia and New Zealand. Mila was loaded onto a 747 Jumbo jet and taken to San Diego Zoo to live with other elephants for the first time in forty years. After Mila was settled, I moved to Vietnam to improve animal care and welfare in zoological and government rescue facilities. During that time I was asked to help build an elephant conservation center in Dak Lak Province. For the next five years, I traveled between the North Carolina Zoo and Vietnam, to advise on the care of two rescued wild elephants and zoological facilities across Vietnam.
In 2018, I was selected to be a member of the IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group and co-founded, with other zoological professionals, Next Generation Elephant Management (NextGEM). I worked with veterinary colleagues to create and present the first ever progressive behavior management and veterinary care workshop, AsiaCare, as a part of our elephant wellness project. We hosted veterinarians and facility managers from thirteen Asian range countries for a one week intensive course covering elephant behavior, welfare, positive reinforcement training, veterinary care and assessment, and field lab work at Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Myanmar, home to retired logging elephants.
In 2019, I was invited to Thailand to participate in a meeting of behavior consultants working across Asia to create a working group to better address the needs of captive elephants in Asia. I then travelled to Surin, Thailand where over 2,000 captive elephants are registered to assess the welfare of elephants in the largest human-elephant village in Thailand.
In December of 2019, I graduated with a Master’s in Anthrozoology from the University of Exeter in the UK with Distinction and my dissertation earned an award from the University for the greatest potential impact on elephant welfare. I am currently working with professionals globally to apply welfare and behavior management strategies in not only captive populations, but also to mitigate human-animal conflict and develop greater coexistence strategies in China, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. I would like to continue to progress behavior management globally and feel working with the Animal Behavior Management Alliance is a great way to connect with individuals across the globe to learn and continue to inspire others to do more with the knowledge and skills gained working with animals that shape our lives. I think my experiences and perspective add to the amazing group of professionals already leading ABMA and I would be honored to work alongside them to challenge ourselves to be more, do more and inspire more.
At a very early age, my mother taught me to love, respect and conserve our wildlife and I have pursued this goal in many ways throughout my career. I started out with the common childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian, but that quickly changed when I realized vets mostly work with sick animals. The biology program at the University of Massachusetts was an easy choice since I had a full scholarship and their softball team was #2 in the country. I excelled in science, but not so much in softball after I tore my shoulder diving for a ball. During my undergraduate years, I was involved in caring for the reptile collection which eventually led to my thesis focused on the morphology of varanid lizards. Continuing on the track for a PHD in animal behavior, I became the lab manager of an animal biomechanics lab at the university and learned one life changing thing; watching multiple hours of video waiting for an animal to display a certain behavior was pretty painful. Why couldn’t I just train the animal to do the behavior on cue which would enable me collect the data more quickly and reliably? Little did I know that this epiphany would become my passion of using operant conditioning to better animals lives.
I left the PHD program to attend Moorpark College and the Exotic Animal training and Management program in sunny California. I wasn’t the typical student since I wasn’t concerned with getting assigned to Schmu the sea lion or aspire to work in Hollywood. I fell in love with animal training, observing animal behavior, and teaching people about animal conservation. I was fortunate enough to participate in a week long project at the San Diego Zoo and charmed my way onto the behavior team where I spent 7 years as a senior trainer. During my time there, I was responsible for the care and training of a wide variety of species including, birds of prey, large and small cats, rhinos, hyenas, pigs, wolves, opossums, sea lions, dogs, macaws and the list continues. I had an affinity for the more difficult animals and loved working on any behavioral challenge using operant conditioning. I loved my time educating guests at the zoo, but there was always a little voice in my head that wanted me to utilize operant conditioning in a research setting.
In 2012 , I moved to Reno, NV to work for Charles River Laboratories where I am currently the Behavioral Management Specialist. I assist in overseeing the behavioral care of almost 3000 primates and rats. I have a passion for using the skills I learned as an animal trainer to create innovative behavioral programs for animals in research. Developing ways to enrich, appropriately desensitize, and care for the behavioral wellbeing of so many animals, while maintaining the integrity of the lifesaving science, is a rewarding challenge.
I grew up in the great city of Akron, Ohio, and that’s where I got my start in the zoo field. I began as a volunteer at the Akron Zoo when I was 13, going on to hold various unpaid and paid positions within the education department for about 7 years. While in college working towards my degree in Zoo and Wildlife Biology I volunteered at Quail Hollow State Park with their animal collection. I also helped build an ambassador animal collection for the college, while continuing my work with the Akron Zoo. During this time, I gained a lot of experience training and caring for a wide variety of ambassador animals. Between school years, I worked seasonally at the Columbus Zoo, where I was fortunate to be a part of the Animal Programs team, presenting shows and encounters on grounds. It was awesome working for such a huge zoo and an expansive collection of animals. My final summer during college, I worked in California at Conservation Ambassadors, Inc. There, I was able to gain experience with large carnivores and primates, in addition to a wide variety of other species, and really hone my training skills. In my senior year, I passed the IATCB’s Bird Training Certification, which was a helpful addition to my resume. Upon graduating from college, I landed a job at the Nashville Zoo as an Ambassador Animal Keeper. Currently, I’m an Ambassador Animal Keeper II at the Nashville Zoo, and I am loving my time at this rapidly-expanding zoo. In just the 4.5 years that I’ve worked here, we’ve added 6+ new exhibits, which has been such a cool experience to be a part of. Our ambassador animal collection has also grown like crazy--we have grown by 28 species since 2015. I love working with ambassador animals because the training opportunities are endless, the species are diverse, and because one of my big passions in life is connecting people to wildlife. The mission and vision of ABMA align with my personal outlook on animal care and training, and I am excited for the opportunity of helping the organization continue to flourish.
Sandy was born and raised in the winter tundra of Minnesota. She left the snow to serve 4 years in the United States Navy and spent her spare time volunteering at facilities close to her duty stations including the National Aquarium in D.C., the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla, CA and Scripps’ whale watch tours out of San Diego. She attended Moorpark college’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program and graduated class of 2013. She has spent the last 6 years working at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage in Las Vegas. She currently holds the title of Dolphin Care Specialist 2 and is in charge of facilitating their dolphins’ participation in research projects. “Watching the animals find reinforcement in research participation as well as seeing the excitement in trainers’ faces after a successful trial, is very reinforcing to me,” she stated. During her 6 years in Las Vegas, she went back to school and graduated with a BA in Psychology from the University of Las Vegas, and she earned her SCUBA Rescue Diver certification. She has been a member of ABMA and IMATA for 6 years, and she is currently the ABMA Co Chair of the Government Affairs Committee.
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 is a Certified Professional Bird Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPBT-KA) by the International Animal Training Certification Board. He has been a member of ABMA since the beginning of 2012 and has served 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. Over the past three years in the roles of President-Elect, President, and Past President, he has had the opportunity to help steer this organization into the future. 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.
Steve Martin is President/CEO of Natural Encounters, Inc. (NEI), a company of over 50 professional animal trainers who teach animal training strategies and produce inspirational and educational animal programs at zoological facilities around the world. Though best known for his work with free-flight bird programs, most of his work involves teaching mammal trainers the art and science of behavior change principals. He teaches several animal-training workshops each year and is an instructor at the AZA Animal Training School, an instructor at the Recon Elephant-training workshop, a member of the AZA Animal Behavior Advisory Group, and a Trustee with the World Parrot Trust. He is also President of Natural Encounters Conservation Fund, Inc. a non-profit company that has raised and donated over $1.3 million to insitu conservation programs. Steve Martin has a strong commitment to conservation and helping people understand their relationship with the living earth. The Mission Statement of NEI is “Connecting Humans With The Natural World” and Earth Day is an official holiday for all NEI employees. Steve has been a member, and strong supporter, of ABMA since the group’s inception and looks forward to taking a more active role in helping ABMA achieve its goals.
Serving as Director at Large for the past 3 years, Traci has assisted with the 2018 ABMA conference in San Antonio and has recently taken on the role of Merchandise Chair. She graduated from Moorpark College in 2013 and has since worked and volunteered with several species at various facilities and has landed as an Aviculturist at the San Antonio Zoo. She hopes to continue her growth on the ABMA board of directors and assist with future conferences, board proceedings and membership networking.