Association of Zoos and Aquariums Grant Challenge


Supported By

A remarkable amount of science happens in zoos and aquariums -- much of it right in front of peoples' eyes. Zoo and aquarium practice itself is science-based, and the zoo world is one where research findings are converted to practice surprisingly fast.

The Projects

Browse the participating projects

The role of facilitation in sparking curiosity and conservation intentions during up-close animal encounters

Many zoos offer opportunities for visitors to have up-close encounters with ambassador animals. These encounters...

Does increasing enrichment complexity for bears encourage them to work harder for their food?

Food abundance, delivery schedules, and other external factors affect animal behavior in zoos, especially...

More About This Challenge

The sciency details

Challenge Amount:
Submission Deadline:
Jan 25, 2019
Campaign Launch:
Feb 05, 2019

Frequently Asked Questions

How do challenge grants work?

This grant is for projects that submit crowdfunding campaigns by December January 25th, 2019. The project that ends with the most backers will receive an additional $1,000 grant, two runners up will receive an additional $500 grant, and the next ten funded projects will receive an additional $100 grant. Eligible projects must be approved before the launch deadline -- extended to February 5th. This challenge is sponsored by Zoo Biology and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

When will the grant be awarded?

On February 26th at 5PM PT, the prizes will be awarded according to the posted schedule.

Can I still submit a project?

We are no longer accepting projects for this grant, however we will be launching many more challenge grant opportunities. Sign up for our mailing list for up-to-date community news.

Please Note:

If we see suspicious acitivity of researchers or backers potentially cheating during the challenge, the project will be completely disqualified from winning the grant.

Challenge Aims

A remarkable amount of science happens in zoos and aquariums – much of it right in front of peoples’ eyes. In 2017, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums participated in nearly 1,300 different research projects, studying more than 450 species and subspecies. These projects resulted in more than 170 peer-reviewed publications, articles, and reports.  Zoo and aquarium practice itself is science-based, and this world is one where research findings are converted to practice surprisingly fast. Many of these results can be found in Zoo Biology.

Zoo and aquarium science occurs in an open forum, where people can be easily engaged in the process and results, and converts to changes in management or animal care rapidly.  Zoo and aquarium science tries to answer big picture questions often with limited resources, with goals as wide-ranging as bolstering endangered populations and understanding why species struggle to reproduce in the wild.    

In collaboration with Experiment, the AZA Research and Technology Committee and Zoo Biology are calling for proposals for zoo and aquarium research grant challenge. Projects need to meet the AZA Research Priorities for mission-focused research.

Mission-focused research includes any project undertaken by or at an AZA-accredited institution or certified related facility that:

  • Involves application of the scientific method: it is hypothesis- or question-driven, includes systematic data collection and analysis, and draws conclusions from the research process
  • Is primarily focused on studying questions relevant to the conservation, animal care and welfare, science, or education missions of institutions
  • Includes any of the following and occurs in the wild and/or in an individual institutional collection or across zoological facilities:
    - Systematically-conducted surveys related to the above areas that are qualitatively or quantitatively analyzed
    - Applied research that informs our understanding and management of animals, including reproduction, nutrition, epidemiology, sensory biology, physiology, population biology, behavior, welfare, etc.
    - Basic research that focuses on increasing understanding of fundamental biological principles, including evolutionary biology, physiology, behavior, etc.
    - Systematic analysis of studbook data or other zoological records to answer research questions (but not to prepare annual management plans)
    - Research in conservation education, public engagement, or how guests use and view institutions

We will review proposals  and plan to launch qualifying projects in the second week of January. Projects will have 30 days to fund-raise for set “all or nothing” goals. After three weeks of campaigning, the projects with the most backers will receive a bonus amount donated to their campaigns on top of their raised funds, runner-up campaigns will also receive additional funds. The AZA Research and Technology Committee will review all campaigns to make sure they meet their criteria, and will have final say over campaigns that join the challenge.

What to expect:

  • Don't worry about the short call time as crowdfunding campaigns are quick and easy to prepare. It typically takes researchers about 2 hours from start to finish to get their campaign submitted. Experiment reviewers will then work with you to make your page as crowdfunding-friendly as possible.
  • Crowdfunding works best with a strong outreach plan run by the researcher. Experiment staff will help you develop an outreach strategy that will meet your goals and get the world excited about your research.
  • Not sure about this crowdfunding thing? Have a look at our crowdfunding basics and learn generally how Experiment works.

Learn more about the 2017 AZA research highlights here.

This challenge is generously sponsored by the Wiley journal, Zoo Biology, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Project Eligilibity

Any mission-focused research project conducted by or at an AZA accredited institution (or certified related facility) is invited , whether it is exploring animal behavior, genetics, endocrinology, or zoo patrons. Please get in touch if you aren’t sure about your idea, by emailing us at Interdisciplinary projects are more than welcome, but a significant portion of your project must be conducted at an AZA-accredited institution

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