The WZAM initiative has produced a rich and growing set of resources. These include publications, presentations, and toolkits for professionals working in zoos and aquariums, as well as peer institutions. Many individuals and institutions have been a part of this work. Please contact us if there is something to add or correct.


Fraser, J. (2017), Thinking About Museum Type. Curator, 60: 263-265. doi:10.1111/cura.12228

This editorial explores how distinguishing between types of informal learning centers can help these institutions understand their contributions to learning. It poses the question: if the public distinguishes between a zoo, aquarium, arboretum, and a science center, what does that mean for how those institutions should operate?

Rank, Shelley J.; Voiklis, John; Gupta, Rupanwita; Fraser, John R.; and Flinner, Kate (2018). Understanding Organizational Trust of Zoos and Aquariums. Kathleen P. Hunt (Ed.), Understanding the Role of Trust and Credibility in Science Communication.

This paper reports on the first systematic survey of organizational trust of zoos and aquariums. It compares current performance of zoos and aquariums to people’s expectations for trusting these institutions.

Dwyer, J. T., Fraser, J., Voiklis, J., & Thomas, U. (2020, forthcoming). Individual-Level Variability Among Trust Criteria Relevant to Zoos and Aquariums.

This paper describes an analysis of the ethical dimensions of trust in zoos and aquariums, assessing how the public clusters around different conceptions of ethical behavior by these institutions.

Voiklis, J., Rank, S. J., Fraser, J. Gupta, R., & Flinner, K. (2020, forthcoming). Identifying the “trust gap” in public perceptions of zoos and aquariums. Society and Animals.

Gupta, R., Fraser, J., Rank, S.J., Brucker, J.L. & Flinner, K. (2019). Multi-Site Case Studies About Zoo and Aquarium Visitors’ Perceptions of the STEM Learning Ecology, Visitor Studies, 22:2, 127-146, DOI: 10.1080/10645578.2019.1661737

This paper describes a series of case studies designed to explore public perceptions of zoos and aquariums in particular, compared to other settings, for their potential to support STEM learning. The study found that the public differentiates STEM learning in zoos and aquariums, compared to other settings.

Gupta, R., Voiklis, J., Rank, S.J., Dwyer, J.T., Fraser, J., Flinner, K. & Nock, K. (2020). Public perceptions of the STEM learning ecology – perspectives from a national sample in the US, International Journal of Science Education, Part B, DOI: 10.1080/21548455.2020.1719291

This paper describes a national survey study of public perceptions of the STEM learning ecology – the range of places and activities in which people encounter learning about science, technology, engineering, and math. The survey data show that science centers are considered the gold standard for informal STEM learning, whereas zoos and aquariums are perceived to specialize in specific STEM topics.

Spitzer, W., & Fraser, J. (2020) Advancing Community Science Literacy.
Journal of Museum Education. 45:1, 5-15, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2020.1720403

This paper explores how museums are uniquely positioned to nurture science literacies at the community level. The authors assert that many resilience projects have focused on individual-level behavior change. Instead, they advocate for museums to explore how to cultivate science literacies in a small groups, which are the social places where people tend to develop their affiliations and social capital.

Misc. Resources from WZAM3

STEM Matters: Investigating the Confluence of Visitor and Institutional Learning Agendas, WZAM3 Fall Conference Presentation

This presentation provides an overview of several research initiatives taking place under the third wave of the Why Zoos & Aquariums Matter Initiative.

Reframing Conversations Through Signage: Using Video-Based Data Collection to Capture Visitor Talk at Zoo and Aquarium Exhibits
VSA Conference Poster

Collecting Demographic and Behavioral Data through Stationary and Hat-Mounted Cameras

2019 AISL PI Meeting Poster: Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter (WZAM3)

The three posters above present results from research conducted as part of the third wave of the Why zoos and Aquariums Matter initiative. They provide some early results from studies conducted at a zoo using go-pro cameras, as well as results from an assessment of the requirements for increasing public trust in zoos and aquariums.

A Webinar Series with Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter: Parts One and Two

In this two-part webinar series, the three research partners involved in the third wave of the Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter initiative describe their efforts to answer its overarching questions.

Conservation Momentum

Knology CEO John Fraser delivers a lecture at the Aquarium of the Pacific that synthesizes research conducted over the course of sixteen years under the banner of Why Zoos and Aquariums.


Fraser, J., & Sickler, J. (2008). Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter Handbook. Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

This publication summarizes research findings and results from several early years of the Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter initiative. It provides insights into different public perceptions of zoos and aquariums and the implications of these perceptions, and detailed data from quantitative surveys of national panels of the general public, parents, and educators.

Clayton, S., Fraser, J., & Burgess, C. (2011). The role of zoos in fostering environmental identity. Ecopsychology 3(2), 87-96.

This paper explores data from two field studies of zoo visitors that assessed two studies. One study assessed visitors’ concern for animals, predictors of that concern, and what behaviors might foster that concern. The second study assessed visitor group interactions during zoo visits, and how these provide an opportunity to create and nurture social identities.

Bruni, C., Fraser, J., & Schultz, P. W. (2008). The value of zoo experiences for connecting people with nature. Visitor Studies, 11(2). 139-150.

This paper describes the results of a study that was designed to determine if visiting zoos had a measurable impact on visitors’ relationships with nature, and to test if the effect was moderated by the zoo setting and/or type of zoo experience.

Clayton, S., Fraser, J., & Saunders, C. D. (2009). Zoo experiences, conversations, connections and concern for animals. Zoo Biology 28(5) 377-397.

This paper describes a study that examines how visitors experience zoos. It does so through the lens of surveys, and through observations of how people watch animals during their visits and the conversations they have. They conclude that visiting the zoo seems to be a positive emotional experience for visitors and increases their interest in learning more about animals.

Fraser, J., (2009) The anticipated utility of zoos and aquariums for developing moral concern in children. Curator: The Museum Journal, 52(4) 349-361.

The paper describes a study that explores why families value zoo experiences. The research findings suggest that parents use these visits to, among other things, promote family values, encourage empathy in their children, and to extend children’s sense of justice to include natural systems.

Fraser, J. (2007). Thinking about the Social Diffusion of Ideas. Exhibitionist 20(1), 20-23.

This publication is based on a talk that explored ways of rethinking museum experience based on research into zoos. It highlights ways to identify cultural transformation agents, and ways to empower those agents to be effective culture workers.

Fraser, J., Bicknell, J., & Sickler, J. (2005). Understanding graphic maps at the Bronx Zoo. Visitor Studies Today, 8(3), 22-28.

This paper describes a study that explored the effectiveness of geographic maps that zoos use to educate visitors about animal habitats. It aimed to discover how easily adult visitors to the Bronx Zoo were able to identify continents and countries on maps. The results indicated a need to revise existing presentations of maps to improve visitor comprehension.

Fraser, J., Bicknell, J., & Sickler, J. (2006) Assessing the Connotative Meaning of Animals Using Semantic Differential Techniques to Aid in Zoo Exhibit Development. Visitor Studies Today, 9(3) 1-9.

This article presents results from testing a visitor survey tool that is designed to identify attributes that might influence audience bias toward an exhibit species. The piece discusses the benefits and limitations of using this methodology to get feedback as part of the exhibit design process.

Fraser, J., Bicknell, J., Sickler, J. & Taylor, A. (2009) What Information Do Zoo & Aquarium Visitors Want on Animal Identification Labels? Journal of Interpretation 14(2) 7-19.…-a0219824500

This paper describes two studies done at multiple zoos and aquariums to assess what sorts of information visitors want to see in the labels on animal exhibits. Results from these studies found, among other things, that some types of label information are popular with visitors. The research also showed that the type of zoo or aquarium and where it is situated may have some effect on what visitors want to see on exhibit labels.

Fraser, J., Clayton, S., Sickler, J., & Taylor, A. (2009). Belonging at the zoo: Retired volunteers, conservation activism, and collective identity. Ageing and Society 29(3), 351-368.

This study focuses on older volunteers working at zoos. It found that these volunteers see the zoo volunteer identity as important to their self-concept. It also found that identity as a zoo volunteer supports activism based on shared values.

Fraser, J., Condon, K., & Gruber, S., (2008). Exposing the tourist value proposition of zoos and aquariums, Tourism Review International, 11(3), 279-293.

This paper describes a study that explored how zoo visitors describe their engagement with wildlife, how zoos cause visitors to think about their personal ethical relationships to nature, and how zoos connect urban populations to the natural world.

Fraser, J. & Sickler, J. (2009). Measuring the Cultural Impact of Zoos and Aquariums. International Zoo Yearbook 43(1), 103-112.

This paper proposes a framework for studying and measuring how zoos and aquariums are valued by society. It is intended to provide zoo and aquarium professionals with tools for assessing and identifying opportunities for social impact. The paper also suggests ways that zoos and aquariums can leverage community perspectives in their program design to accomplish a conservation mission.

Fraser, J. & Sickler, J. (2008). Conservation psychology: Who cares about the biodiversity crisis? In Fearn, E. (ed) State of the Wild, 2008 – 2009, Washington DC: Island Press. pp. 206-212.

Fraser, J. & Sickler, J. (2008). Public perceptions about the value of zoos and aquariums. Current Trends in Audience Research and Evaluation 21.

Fraser, J., Taylor, A., Johnson, E. & Sickler, J. (2008). The relative credibility of zoo-affiliated spokespeople for delivering conservation messages. Curator: The Museum Journal, 51(4) 407-418.

This study examines whether the job titles of zoo representatives impact the credibility of their conservation messages. The researchers found evidence that some job titles do have greater credibility among visitors than others. They recommend additional research into the influence of source credibility on persuasiveness.

Fraser, J. & Wharton D. (2007). The Future of Zoos, Curator: The Museum Journal 50(1) 41-54.

This paper makes a case for zoos taking an activist approach with regard to promoting conservation values.

Sickler, J. & Fraser, J., (2012). Evaluating success: The why, what, and how of the evaluation in the language of conservation. In L. Briccetti, S. Alcosser, D. Wharton, J. Fraser & J. Preston (Eds.). (2012). The language of conservation. New York: Poets House.

This chapter provides the context for understanding the role of evaluation in the Language of Conservation, a project that was designed to assess how humanities programming can impact visits to the zoo, how conservation poetry programs resonate with library users, and to assess the impact of museum/library collaborations in the cultural community.

Sickler, J. & Fraser, J. (2012). Creating a community of practice: zoo, library, and poet collaborations in the language of conservation. In L. Briccetti, S. Alcosser, D. Wharton, J. Fraser & J. Preston (Eds.). (2012). The language of conservation. New York: Poets House.

This chapter presents key themes, lessons, and strategies from the Language of Conservation project that are useful for creating and negotiating partnerships, and offer guidance on creating communities of practice.

Sickler, J. & Fraser, J., (2009). Enjoyment in zoos. Leisure Studies 28(3). 313-331.

This paper describes results from a study that investigated how adult visitors define enjoyment in zoo experiences. The findings offer new information to zoo professionals which they can use to assess their program offerings and satisfaction measures.

Sickler, J., Fraser, J., & Reiss, D. (2012). Popular beliefs and understanding of the dolphin mind. In J. A. Smith and R. W. Mitchell (Eds.), Experiencing animals: Encounters between animal and human minds. Columbia University Press: New York, 301-316.

This paper describes a 2.5-year research program that was undertaken to understand public perceptions of dolphin cognition in order to guide the design of a new exhibition at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium.

Sickler, J., Fraser, J., Webler, T., Reiss, D., Boyle, P., Lyn, H., Lemcke, K., & Gruber, S. (2006) Social narratives surrounding dolphins, Q-method study, Society and Animals 14(4) 351-382.

This paper describes a study that assessed that assessed aquarium visitors’ social perspectives about dolphin intelligence, and how those beliefs might influence their acceptance of scientific information. The study was done as part of efforts to design a new dolphin exhibition at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium.


Falk, J.H. & Adelman, L.M. (2003) Investigating the impact of prior knowledge, experience and interest on aquarium visitor learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40(2), 163-176.

This study proposes a way to assess the extent to which free-choice science learning institutions – science centers, zoos, aquariums, and natural history museums – accomplish their educational missions for visitors.

Falk, John & Storksdieck, Martin. (2005). Using the Contextual Model of Learning to understand visitor learning from a science center exhibition. Science Education. 89. 744 – 778. 10.1002/sce.20078.

This study explores how specific variables fundamental to free-choice science learning environments contribute to learning outcomes when studied in context. It explores the question in the context of an exhibit at a science center with an eye towards applying this contextual model of learning can be applied to museums.

Falk, J.H.; Reinhard, E.M.; Vernon, C.L.; Bronnenkant, K.; Deans, N.L.; Heimlich, J.E., (2007). Why Zoos & Aquariums Matter: Assessing the Impact of a Visit. Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Silver Spring, MD.

This paper documents findings from the first phase of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums-led nationwide study of the impacts of zoo and aquarium visits on conservation attitudes and understanding of adult visitors.

Falk, J.H., Bronnenkant, Vernon, C.L., & Heimlich, J.E., (2007). Visitor Evaluation Toolbox for Zoos and Aquariums. Silver Spring, MD: Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

This handbook provides suggestions and resources to help zoos and aquariums that want to conduct visitor research.

Ogden, J. and Heimlich, J.E. (2009), Why focus on zoo and aquarium education? Zoo Biol., 28: 357-360. doi:10.1002/zoo.20271

The editorial traces the history of education in the context of zoos and aquariums, its rise to prominence in recent years, and makes a case for why it deserves attention.

Falk, J. H., Heimlich, J., & Bronnenkant, K. (2010). Using Identity‐Related Visit Motivations as a Tool for Understanding Adult Zoo and Aquarium Visitors’ Meaning‐Making. Curator: The Museum Journal. 51. 55 – 79. 10.1111/j.2151-6952.2008.tb00294.x.

This study provides an identity-based framework for thinking about the motivations of zoo and aquarium visitors, based on previous research into museum visitor motivations.

WZAM 1 & 2

Fraser, J., Heimlich, J.E., Ogden, J., Atkins, A., McReynolds, S., Chen, C. Searles, V., Sloan, P., Pletcher, N. & Boyle, P. (2010). The AZA’s Framework for Zoo and Aquarium Social Science Research. Silver Spring, MD: Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

This publication offers a framework for AZA-accredited institutions and independent researchers to participate in a social science research that is aimed at enhancing the impact of zoos and aquariums and the broader conservation field. It also provides a structure for interpreting individual institution and multi-institutional studies in the context of what is known about zoos and aquariums, their visitors, and their community relationships.