Our 2021 Board of Directors election is coming up. This year, we have open positions for President Elect, International Board Member, and three General Board Members.

Take a moment to get to know the candidates here so you can make an informed decision when voting time comes around. Tune in to our webinar on October 6, 2020 at 7PM EST to meet the candidates in person and ask questions. Then keep an eye on your inbox for the ballot and be sure to vote for the individuals you would like to see represent and serve on the IAATE Board. 

PRESIDENT-ELECT (running unopposed)

 Kit Lacy

Bird Curator, Cascades Raptor Center

Kit completed a master's degree in biology from the University of Oregon, publishing papers on social behavior and communication in Caribbean Iguanas. Kit began volunteering at Cascades Raptor Center while also teaching college biology. After a major career shift and many years at the center, she now oversees both the ambassador animal collection and rehabilitation cases at Cascades. Kit is passionate about improving the quality of life for all raptors in human care through positive reinforcement training. She has been a board member of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE) since 2013. She has presented papers on training, led workshops and webinars, acts as a mentor to other trainers, and presented on the Cascades’ criteria for selection of non-releasable raptors for ambassadors. She has also presented at International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) conferences and the Raptor Research Foundation (RRF) on age-appropriate education; and presented on the Cascades’ resident wellness program for the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA). Mostly recently, she shared information with Washington rehabilitators on Cascades’ reunification protocol for young raptors.


INTERNATIONAL BOARD MEMBER (one open position, two candidates)

 Nicky Plaskitt, CPBT-KA

Years of Service/Experience: Eight years in my current role, a total of 20 years in the animal care field with 15 working with birds.

Employer/Job Title: Paradise Wildlife Park - Section Leader - Birds and Animal Training Coordinator

Current Goals/Objectives: Over the last few years we have transitioned all our birds to a free-lofted environment, without the use of anklets or jesses. This year we acquired a young Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus)  and we are employing the same training strategy with him. My main objective is to get him flying free in a show, successfully, without the need for traditional falconry methods. In addition to this, I am constantly trying to improve the welfare of my animal and human team, and ensure consistent staff development throughout the zoo.

For my own personal development I am auditing Dr. Susan Friedman's LLA  course this year, five years after studying it originally, to keep myself updated on current best practice.

Special skill sets that would benefit IAATE: Paradise Wildlife Park has a great marketing team who have offered to teach me and show me things which would be useful to the promotion of the organization. I am especially keen to build the UK and European membership base.



 Miguel Santos, CPBT-KA

Years of Service/Experience: 18 years.

Employer/Job Title: Bird Curator - Zoomarine Algarve, Portugal

Current Goals/Objectives:

  • To continue to improve the welfare of birds not only under my team’s care, but also across the global zoological field by developing, improving, and sharing protocols.
  • To create meaningful, innovative, and inspiring connections between animals and guests.

 Special skill sets that would benefit IAATE:

  • Web development.
  • Multi language.
  • Connections with bird training professionals across the world.

Your Message to IAATE Members: Being involved with IAATE has been a big part of my life and there is no other organization that has been so important for me, personally and professionally. Being on the Board has allowed me to not only work with a great group of people (from whom I learn so much) but also to give back to our field.

I want to continue to support IAATE and our community - especially the international members - by accepting this nomination for International Board Member.

GENERAL BOARD MEMBER (three open positions, seven candidates)

 Kristin Dean, CPBT-KA 

Years of Service/Experience: I discovered my passion for wildlife medicine and conservation through an early career as a wildlife rehabilitator. Sixteen years later, my expertise has centered around birds, primarily raptors.  While I am still responsible for the primary medical care of raptors, my focus has shifted to bird behavior, training and promoting conservation through education.

Employer/Job Title: I am the Bird Curator at Carolina Raptor Center and serve as a member of the leadership team. As the Bird Curator, I am responsible for the care and management of 100 bird of prey ambassadors and lead the Animal Training and Husbandry Department.

Current Goals/Objectives: I am seeking the most effective ways to connect people with animals to inspire human behavior change and conservation of the natural world.  At Carolina Raptor Center, we strive to create defining moments for visitors by showcasing our birds’ natural behaviors.  We are accomplishing these goals while also providing high quality of life for our ambassadors through training and exceptional welfare.


Special skill sets that would benefit IAATE:

  • Seminar planning, organizing, and hosting.
  • Animal Care Policies and Procedure development.
  • Raptor training and husbandry consulting.
  • Medical management, welfare evaluations, collection planning.
  • Interpersonal skills including communication, analytical problem solving, servant leadership, and mentorship.

Your Message to IAATE Members: The first ambassador raptors I managed were “traditionally” trained. At the time, I didn’t have the resources, experience, or support to make significant changes to the program. Discovering IAATE was a pivotal point in my career and provided me with resources and guidance to improve myself. The organization has connected me to a community of dedicated and passionate individuals that have truly made an impact on my life. It has now become a lifelong passion to share my knowledge and experience with others to help improve the welfare of animals in human care through exceptional husbandry and training. I would love the opportunity to give back to the community by serving on the IAATE Board of Directors.



Amy Fennell, CPBT-KA

Years of Service/Experience: Ten with IAATE, 17 in the field

Employer/Job Title: Supervisor - Natural Encounters, Inc.

Special skill sets that would benefit IAATE :

  • Graphic Design
  • Traditional and Digital Illustration
  • Web Design
  • Copy Editing
  • General Tech Support

Your Message to IAATE Members: Becoming a member of IAATE changed the path of my career, and permanently altered my outlook on training and professional development for the better. The community has brought me in touch with people who have become incredible mentors, dear life-long friends, and the amazing folks I get to call coworkers. Giving back to the organization by serving on the Board won’t come close to repaying the debt I owe IAATE, but it’s at least a start!


If elected to the Board, I’d love to help us continue to reach out and gain new members. Too many people in our field are missing out on a community resource just because they aren’t aware of how accessible it is. I’m passionate about professional development and have enjoyed being a part of the Mentorship Program, which I will continue to support in any way I can. As a graphic artist with a few IAATE conference shirts in my portfolio, I would also love to help us develop more ‘swag’ available for purchase, especially if it helps us raise funds towards vulture conservation and other wildlife projects! Looking forward to virtually seeing all of you soon—at the next Happy Hour or beyond!



Erin Katzner

Years of Service/Experience: I attended my first IAATE conference in 2002 and I have been on the Board of Directors since 2014. As a Board member I have served as the Conservation Committee Chair, President Elect, President, and Past President. In those roles I have been responsible for developing tee shirts to raise money for IAATE’s vulture conservation initiative, collecting conservation grant applications, working with the Conservation Committee to award grants, maintaining and updating the organization’s bylaws, co-leading the Board’s budgeting and strategic planning process, assisting with the development of and leading IAATE’s webinar series, assisting with the writing and updating of position statements, and building a relationship between IAATE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I also serve on the Avian Care and Management Committee, Conference Committee, Conservation Committee, Marketing and Promotions Committee, and Professional Development Committee.


Outside of IAATE, I have been a professional bird trainer for 24 years. In that time have worked as a trainer and educator at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the National Aviary, the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, and The Peregrine Fund. I have also held positions at Leadership Pittsburgh and West Virginia University’s Department of Public Administration. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Natural Resources focused in Wildlife Management from The Ohio State University and a Master’s in Public Policy Management focused in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.Employer/Job Title: The Peregrine Fund, Director of Global Engagement

Current Goals/Objectives:

  1. Working with the Conference Committee to implement our first virtual conference in March 2021. I am primarily focused on ensuring the technical components of the conference run smoothly and enable us to provide a high-quality learning and networking experience for attendees. I am also assisting with the online marketing of the conference in an effort to make this the largest conference we’ve ever hosted.
  2. Leading the Board through a new strategic planning process. Our previous strategic plan is approximately five years old and we have achieved all of the goals we had set at that time. We began developing a new strategic plan at the 2020 Annual Board Meeting and will finish the process at the 2021 Annual Board Meeting. In addition to developing a new strategic plan, I am working with the CFO to review our budget and ensure that we continue to maintain a fiscally healthy organization.
  3. Grow our webinar attendance and continue to provide high-quality webinars to our membership.
  4. Develop an online IAATE shop with tee shirts and other branded items. Sales of which will help to promote our organization and help to fund various programs of IAATE.
  5. Continue to work with the Board to develop a new legislative committee to grow our developing relationship with USFWS. This includes providing IAATE memberships to all regional offices to encourage permit officer participation in IAATE activities.

Special skill sets that would benefit IAATE if any (such as marketing skills/web development/finance experience, etc.)  I am an experienced trainer, educator, conservation administrator, and nonprofit administrator. Over the years, I have developed many skills that I hope benefit IAATE. Some of these skills include writing, marketing (online and traditional), public relations, finance, project development and management, and networking.

Your Message to IAATE Members: I would like to be elected to IAATE’s Board of Directors because I am passionate about the work that IAATE does for our members and our field of work, and I believe that I can contribute to the achievement of this work in a meaningful way. We challenge one another to provide the best possible care to our animals while also delivering educational messages designed to inspire the next generation of nature enthusiasts and conservationists. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time, than supporting this effort and serving our IAATE members.  I would like to continue working toward the goals listed above and do my part to help this organization continue on the trajectory to reaching its full potential.  I am proud to serve IAATE’s membership and hope that I can continue to be a positive force in helping to achieve our organizational objectives



Francie Krawke

Years of Service/Experience: 22 years working in the field. Ten years as member of IAATE/.

Employer/Job Title: Michigan Avian Experience, Executive Director

Current Goals/Objectives:  My main goal professionally and personally is to be the best bird trainer, caregiver, and educator I can be.

Objectives to accomplish goal includes:

  • Stay current with changes in both fields, training and interpretation. by attending conferences, workshops, and journals.
  • Seek advice/help when needed from qualified peers.
  • Give back to professional organizations by presenting new ideas at conferences and by writing journal articles. 
  • Participate in the board of directors by working on sub committees and as an active board member.
  • Be available to support fellow trainers and educators. 



Special skill sets that would benefit IAATE: 

  • In my past three positions I have gained experience in marketing, social media, interpretative content creation for website, and graphic design.
  • Bachelor's degree in environmental education and interpretation, with over 24 years of experience teaching and coaching new interpreters.
  • Certified Interpretive Guide, National Association of Interpretation.
  • Curriculum and program development.
  • Large event planning and fundraising.

Your Message to IAATE Members: IAATE has changed my life. When I began working with non releasable wild raptors I remember thinking I would not be able to do it long term. Having wild birds in captivity was emotionally difficult. The value of public education is invaluable but seeing a wild eagle living its life tethered or having an owl so stressed it would leave bruises on my arm when handled was and is wrong. There had to be better ways. As I changed jobs, I learned new skills and my work became more in line with my ethics. However, it was IAATE and its members that solidified what acceptable quality of life can mean for a wild bird. That includes everything from housing and enrichment to training.

Kim Caldwell, then President, sat next to me at my first conference. She made me feel welcomed into a group of professional bird trainers when internally I felt completely out of place and frankly not worthy. Every conference after I continued to meet the most amazing people. They have mentored and encouraged me to be a better trainer. Just standing next to someone like Gareth Morgan gives me confidence to increase my skills and try new things. I have soaked up training techniques and reveled in philosophy during Steve Martin’s pre-conference workshop several times. Because of IAATE and these wonderful people,  every year the birds in my care live a better life.



Jon Spero

Years of Service/Experience: 12.

Employer/Job Title: Lead Keeper of Birds at the Toronto Zoo

Current Goals/Objectives:  Learning new ways of engaging guests to have meaningful experiences with animals and wildlife conservation.

Special skill sets that would benefit IAATE: I have been the Chair of the Marketing Committee for the past two years.

Your Message to IAATE Members: Being a part of IAATE has had a huge impact on my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to give back to this community as a Board member. Since joining the Board, I have taken on the responsibility of the Marketing Committee Chair. Although it has been challenging, it has also been very rewarding. I believe that I will continue to be an asset and would be thrilled to continue my work as a Board member.



Megan Stankiewicz

Years of Service/Experience: 10

Employer/Job Title: Animal Ambassador Manager, Brevard Zoo

Current Goals/Objectives: As a newer manager in our field, a current objective of mine is to take everything I’ve learned from working with and training non-human animals, and use those experiences to work with the humans around me in the most positive, least intrusive way. My goal is to have the happiest team of humans (and animals) in the zoo.

Your Message to IAATE Members: I have had the great pleasure of working with the bird show teams at Tracy Aviary and Zoo Tampa, and most recently moved into a new position merging the Petting Zone and Ambassador teams at Brevard Zoo. Here, my team has established BZ’s first free-flighted bird show! It’s just one bird for now – but hey, it’s a start. While birds will always be my biggest love, a main focus for me at this moment is working on husbandry behaviors with domestic livestock (hoof trims, voluntary shearing, blood draws) and voluntary program participation with ambassador reptiles.

I have been an IAATE member and served on the Enrichment Committee for seven years. I have helped facilitate enrichment workshops at conferences past, and maintain the enrichment portion of our Facebook page. IAATE has developed me and countless others as professionals. I look to IAATE to always push the limit and raise the bar, defining best practices for all of us in training, enriching, educating, conserving, and overall promoting great welfare for the animals around us. I would be honored to serve on the Board and continue to grow and learn alongside some of the best people I know.



Lacey Zeno

Years of Service/Experience: 12

Employer/Job Title: San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Lead Animal Trainer

Current Goals/Objectives: I would love to get re-elected to the Board so I can continue to help teach more of our membership about enrichment and training. I have learned so much about this organization these past two years and I am more passionate than ever to continue to learn and grow as a Board member.

Special skill sets that would benefit IAATE:  I have been serving as the Enrichment Committee Chair for the past two years on the IAATE Board. I have a great group of people I work with to help bring you Facebook and Flyer content that helps inspire our members to enrich the birds in their lives.

Your Message to IAATE Members: I have been serving on the Board for the past two years. I hope to be able to continue bringing content and knowledge to our membership to help support our organization's goals to teach and support bird trainers and educators in the zoo field.

Please feel free to contact us using the contact form. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.



The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators

is an organization for individuals who are active in the field of avian training and who are involved in environmental education programs.

IAATE was founded to foster communication, professionalism and cooperation among those individuals who serve Avian Science through training, public display, research, husbandry, conservation, and education.



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