Lectures & Presentations

Spring Lecture Series

Our Spring 2023 Lecture Series features an exciting array of experts sharing their strategies for creating enriching and educational opportunities designed to connect children and families to conservation issues, wildlife, and nature at Brookfield Zoo and around the world. The best part: you can tune in from the comfort of your own home! We hope you can join us for these once-in-a-lifetime, virtual learning opportunities where we will hear from world renowned climate change, animal, and nature play experts. You won’t want to miss your chance to learn from our extraordinary speakers so, sign up today!

Connecting Children and Families with Dolphin Conservation at Sarasota Bay

March 21, 2023, 7 p.m.

ASnider-(4).jpg Speaker: Dr. Katherine McHugh, Deputy Program Director, Senior Scientist, Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

As a part of our broader CZS mission to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people with wildlife and nature, Katie from the CZS-SDRP will discuss some of the programs, strategies, and partnerships the world's longest running study of a wild dolphin population uses to connect children and families with dolphins and their underwater habitats in Sarasota Bay as well as opportunities engage with dolphin conservation.

Dr. Katherine (Katie) McHugh is a Senior Scientist and Deputy Program Director employed by the Chicago Zoological Society and based at Mote Marine Laboratory as part of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), a partnership to engage in dolphin research, education, and conservation action. Katie began studying wild dolphins with the SDRP as a Mote intern in 2000 while completing B.S. and M.S. degrees in Earth Systems at Stanford University. After assisting with small cetacean research in the Bahamas and New Zealand and completing a fellowship working on marine protected area and fisheries management at Environmental Defense, Katie returned to the SDRP as a graduate student researcher in 2004, completing her Ph.D. in animal behavior at the University of California Davis in 2010, focused on juvenile dolphin behavior and the effects of harmful algal blooms on dolphins. Katie has remained with the SDRP working on research aimed at understanding and mitigating adverse human-dolphin interactions, and she is also responsible for overseeing behavioral research as well as coordinating training programs for undergraduate interns and international trainees. Katie also served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at New College of Florida for several years.


Zoo Animal Ambassadors- Creating Memorable Moments through Animal Training

April 4, 2023, 7 p.m.

BTurtle.jpgSpeaker: Tim Sullivan, Director of Behavioral Husbandry for the Chicago Zoological Society

Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Ambassador program is an integral part of Chicago Zoological Society’s mission to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. Our Animal Care Professionals work closely with a select group of zoo animals to create memorable experiences for those who have the opportunity to attend these programs. This presentation will bring you behind the scenes to learn how the animal care staff use positive reinforcement training techniques to prepare our animals for their roles as wildlife ambassadors.

Tim Sullivan Tim has worked for the Chicago Zoological Society at Brookfield Zoo for the last 42 years. He spent the first half of his career as a keeper/trainer in the marine mammal department and later as a supervisor in the pachyderm department. It was here that he helped develop an elephant protected-contact behavior management program and began teaching training to zoo staff. This experience led to his current role as the Zoo's Director of Behavioral Husbandry. Tim's primary responsibilities are to manage the Zoo’s animal training and environmental enrichment programs developing the knowledge and skill of over 100 animal keepers. Tim also consults on behavioral husbandry at other zoological institutions and conducts international training workshops. Tim is currently on the instructor teams of the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA) annual Animal Training Applications and Environmental Enrichment in Zoos and Aquariums courses. He is active in international training organizations and has been an officer on the board of directors of both the International Marine Animal Trainers Association and the Animal Behavior Management Alliance; an organization he cofounded.


Connecting Children to Nature and Building Constructive Hope
April 18, 2023, 7 p.m. 

Speaker: Louise Chawla, Professor Emeritus at University of Colorado Boulder

Connecting children to nature brings many benefits for children and the natural world: greater health and happiness for young people, and a legacy of experiences that inspire active care for nature. Yet young people who feel connected to nature can fall into fear and despair in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss. Learn how to promote connection to nature and at the same time support constructive hope, the ability to acknowledge threats while finding meaning in taking action.

Louise Chawla is Professor Emeritus in the Environmental Design Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, and an active member of the university’s Community Engagement, Design and Research Center. She serves on the Scientific Advisory Council of the Children and Nature Network, and the Steering Committee of Growing Up Boulder, a program that involves children and teens in city planning and designing. Her research and publications focus on children and nature, children in cities, and the development of committed action for the environment.


Learning and Growing Through Nature Play: Past, Present, and Future

May 16, 2023, 7 p.m.


Speaker: Dave Becker, Senior Manager of Learning Experiences for the Chicago Zoological Society

Chicago Zoological Society opened the Hamill Family Play Zoo with what was a ground-breaking approach, building relationships with young children and their families with the natural world through nature play and exploration.  Why was this approach so vital then and why does it remain so today? Why has nature play become part of global movement both for childhood and for nature?  This presentation will consider the importance and impact of the children and nature field both inside and outside of CZS, highlighting, past, present, and future trends and directions. 

David Becker is the Senior Manager of Learning Experiences for the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo. He has been with CZS since 2001 and has provided strategic leadership with the children and family programs in our Education and Community Engagement Department. Throughout his career, he has specialized in children and family learning and development.



Register Now!

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


Advanced Inquiry Program


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!