Lectures & Presentation

Spring Lecture Series

CZS Associates are pleased to support and introduce the Spring Lecture series. To learn more about the CZS Associates, click here

Our exciting spring Lecture Series features an array of fascinating topics. The best part: you can tune in from the comfort of your own home! We hope you can join us on these virtual expeditions where we will learn from the experts about Brookfield Zoo's rich history, incredible animals, and innovative conservation programs. 

Wildlife Wellness: Conserving the Health of Free-ranging and Zoo Reptiles

Date and Time: April 14, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. CST
Price: Suggested donation of $10
Location: Online. We will be using Zoom to broadcast this lecture.
Speakers: Dr. Matt Allender, CZS Clinical Veterinarian

The global landscape across the globe has undergone unprecedented change in the last 100 years, and many environments no longer resemble the ecosystems that species evolved in. Declines of several species have been associated with these landscape changes, however the associated changes in pathogen presence and subsequent ability of habitats to support healthy populations remains largely unknown. With the emergence of pathogens spilling from wildlife to people (COVID), it has never been more important to study the health of wildlife. In Illinois, several reptiles are proposed as sentinels of ecosystem health. The presentation will cover research efforts in conservation, health, and disease and how those translate into improving conserving the natural world, but also the care of zoo species.

Though his involvement with Brookfield Zoo started nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Matt Allender joined the Chicago Zoological Society team as a clinical veterinarian in 2020.  He  joined CZS in a joint position with the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, where he is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the University’s Wildlife Epidemiology Lab.  Dr. Allender has a PhD in wildlife epidemiology, which is a field of veterinary medicine that studies the incidence, distribution, and control of disease and other factors that influence health. Dr. Allender is board-certified in zoological medicine and has a PhD in wildlife epidemiology.

Zoo Nutrition: The Art and Science of It!

download-(4).png  Date and Time: April 27, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. CST
 Price: Suggested donation of $10
 Location: Online. We will be using Zoom to broadcast this lecture.
 Speakers: Dr. Jennifer Watts, CZS Director of Nutrition
Director of Nutrition, Jennifer Watts PhD, discusses the work behind diet development for exotic animals. Only 10% of AZA-accredited zoos have a graduate level nutritionist on staff despite general knowledge that proper nutrition is essential for good health and welfare of our collection. Dr. Watts’ goals include achieving more natural diets (e.g. seasonality, feed items, and presentation), contributing to research projects, and providing constant diet reviews and problem solving for the collection.

Dr. Jennifer Watts, a lifelong animal lover, began her journey as a pre-vet student.  She was quickly swayed to zoo nutrition after an internship at the Bronx Zoo Nutrition Department during college.  Subsequently, she graduated with honors from Cornell University by completing an honors thesis examining an issue in zoo nutrition.  She joined the graduate program at Clemson University in the Animal and Veterinary Sciences department and completed her Ph.D.  Jennifer began working at Brookfield Zoo in 2007 and has loved every day.


The Conservation of the Guam Kingfisher: Past, Present, and Future


Date and Time: May 25, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. CST
Price: Suggested donation of $10
Location: Online. We will be using Zoom to broadcast this lecture.
Speakers: Tim Snyder, Curator of Birds

Come follow the history of the conservation of the Guam kingfisher. From the introduction of the brown tree snake that caused its near extinction to the current preparations for releases back to the wild. You’ll learn about the many challenges that have been encountered along the way and how they were overcome, as well as the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo’s contribution. You’ll also learn about some of the interesting approaches being taken to get these beautiful birds back out into the wild.

Tim Snyder grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago. His interest in birds started at an early age which led to him caring for a collection of birds that averaged between 100 and 125 individuals. This was of course only possible due to his very tolerant parents. After spending seven years to study plants and pursuing a career in greenhouse plant production, some years later, he decided to follow his passion and accepted a job at the San Antonio Zoo in the Bird Department. He later joined the staff at the Saint Louis Zoo Bird Department as the Zoological Manager and after eight years in Saint Louis he accepted the job as Curator of Birds and Reptiles at the Birmingham Zoo. After almost eight years at Birmingham, he took on a bigger challenge and accepted the position of Curator of Birds at the Chicago Zoological Society where he has been since 2008.

The Role of CZS Veterinary Technicians in Animal Health and Conservation

Date and Time: June 2, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. CST
Price: Suggested donation of $10
Location: Online. We will be using Zoom to broadcast this lecture.
Speakers: Kate Sladek, CZS Veterinary Technician
Veterinary technicians play a central role in the zoo’s animal health care team.  During this talk, one of the zoo’s “Vet techs” will provide a behind the scenes look into the zoo’s hospital operations and the support provided by our incredible team of techs.  Beyond their roles as veterinary nurses who provide care to patients, vet techs also provide support for anesthesia, diagnostic imaging, dentistry, laboratory analyses, and many other functions.  They also play a role in supporting conservation projects and research.

Kate Sladek began her career in veterinary medicine during high school, as a vet assistant at Worth Animal Hospital in Worth, IL. She graduated from Colorado State University in 2001 with a BS degree in Wildlife Biology. Kate worked abroad as a zookeeper at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, Australia, for 6 months before attending Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology in Denver, CO. Kate returned home with her husband and cat, in 2010 for her current CVT position at Brookfield Zoo. After having twins in 2014, Kate transitioned to part-time and always looks forward to coming to work, as she can count on learning something new every day!

Mr. Gadget:  An Overview of Brookfield Zoo’s Environmental Quality Program


Date and Time: June 8, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. CST
Price: Suggested donation of $10
Location: Online. We will be using Zoom to broadcast this lecture.
Speakers: John Kanzia, CZS Environmental Quality Manager

Learn about the zoo’s comprehensive environmental monitoring program and how he came into his position at the zoo.  Utilizing a combination of over thirty different pieces of equipment, John is able to analyze water, light, air, and sound to ensure that environmental conditions are appropriate.  He also manages a network of aquaculture monitors that provide around-the-clock surveillance and alarming for the zoo’s most critical aquatic systems.

John Kanzia is the Environmental Quality Manager at the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo.  He has been with the Chicago Zoological Society since February 2006 but began his career at the John G. Shedd Aquarium as a Water Quality Volunteer and Technologist.  John earned a BAS in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has over two decades of experience in analytical water quality monitoring.  His current Environmental Quality Program at the Brookfield Zoo takes a comprehensive look at the zoo’s exhibitry, including water quality, indoor air quality, exhibit lighting, sound monitoring, and how animals thermoregulate within their exhibits.  With an arsenal of over thirty different instruments, John is a regular “gadget guy”. 


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Have questions? Contact the Education Department at adultlearning@czs.org

Cancellation and Refund Policy


Brookfield Zoo has developed many tools to assist educators in sharing information about animals, science, and caring - the things that form the basis of conservation at the zoo and in the wild. We encourage educators to use the information gathered by the zoo to share concepts about data gathering and scientific research, and to use the zoo's charismatic animals to help inspire excitement for learning. Be informed, entertained, and engaged by special classes just for teachers. Plus you can earn PDCHs and optional graduate credit through Dominican University.



The Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) is a conservation-focused, inquiry-driven learning experience that combines web-based graduate courses through Miami University with exciting face-to-face experiential and field study at Brookfield Zoo. Students in this national degree program contribute to social and ecological change in their communities. The opportunity to earn credits from international travel is another exciting part of the program. And the best news of all – it’s affordable!