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I come from Michigan, where I run my own company, Shadow Speak, LLC, working with individuals and with groups to provide programs aimed atencouraging appreciation of birds, inspiring people to learn more about them in the broadest sense , and, so, to give people a basis and desire to conserve birds and the larger biosphere. My programs take the form of interactive classes, field experiences, and presentations. I had attended an IAATE conference in the past; it strengthened my understanding of training practices, introduced new ones, and gave me the kind of insight into bird behavior to solve some of the problems I was having as well as to enable me to be more efficient shaping new behaviors. I had no idea what I was in for and I left compelled to implement a number of my own conference-generated ideas. I have now implemented the majority. I have come to realize just how capable and understanding I can be. To top it off, some fellow attendees were encouraging and constructive with my persistent questions pertaining to my keen interest in ethology. Even if it is a bit theoretical, these questions have come to pay dividends in practical applications. Many have generated even more questions, and, well, sadly, I did not have a chance to address them all before the conference came to a close. With the support of the Walter Crawford scholarship, it was with great excitement I had the opportunity to grow further.
Both times, there was a wealth of knowledge and experience present at the conference, and this provided for an exciting synthesis - where I had the opportunity to give input and to receive feedback. Most people at the conference were willing to take the time to help me advance as well as offer their input in the future. The conference is a wonderful networking opportunity whether you are looking for a job or not. I have been engaged for some three years in a funded research project concerning vocalizations, and I received kind invitations to expand the project database. This has been invaluable.
It is evident to me that the IAATE is a dynamic organization and has been striving to serve the membership on a personal level: there are opportunities to participate in the organization. I found there is no better way to learn about this than by attending a conference. Even as a small company, what I had to offer was valued by most. I could not find prejudice during my last conference thanks to steps taken by leadership.
I want to be brief, but I must add that I particularly benefited by the workshops at the conference - opportunities for fully interactive learning from one another. I hope to attend the next conference in Atlanta. I am already prepared!
Shadow Speak, LLC
My name is Leia Minch and I work at the American Bald Eagle Foundation (ABEF) in Haines, Alaska. The ABEF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to teaching guests about wildlife conservation in Alaska with the hopes that they take appreciation and love for animals across the globe with them. We are half a natural history museum and half a raptor center. We have 12 ambassador birds who help us run our programs.
My mentor, Kit Lacy, had been involved with IAATE when I first started volunteering at her facility in early 2011. When I left her facility and began working at the ABEF she always encouraged me to use the varied resources in the IAATE tool bag. I applied for the scholarship because I knew attending the conference would be a paramount learning and networking experience for me. However, finding funds to do this was difficult. I could not have afforded to attend out of my own pocket, and my facility did not have the funds set aside for me to attend. For the last two years, my organization has been moving away from the “grab jesses and go” paradigm and shifting into a “birds-choose” method of working with our animals. I cannot say enough how important this transition has been for the overall welfare of our birds. We see more comfort behaviors, more interaction with enrichment items and guests and… (here’s the best part) the birds regularly choose to work! I was eager to learn more and generate ideas with like-minded people. My goal was to bring these ideas back to Alaska so the ABEF human-team could continue to improve the welfare and increase the choices of our avian ambassadors.
I do feel it’s important to mention something about Walter Crawford here. Before applying for this scholarship, I had no idea who Walter Crawford was. I knew of the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, but I did not know this was his creation. I decided if I was potentially going to be receiving funds in his name that I should know of him and his life’s work. While researching I stumbled upon an International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council interview with him from 1998 and his words reinforced why I love working with wildlife and why educating the public is so important. I encourage everyone to look the interview up and read the article in its entirety. What struck a chord with me was his obvious devotion and passion for raptors and wild things. Days off, wages, hours worked were not even thought of; it appears from this interview Crawford and members of his staff had “given up everything to do this” (animal care work/creation of the World Bird Sanctuary). It moved me, because it seems rare that you meet someone who is this devoted to anything.
It was even more reinforcing for me to meet folks at the IAATE conference who worked with Crawford. I told them of how inspiring it was for me to have been able to attend this conference under his name. His life story reminds me why we do this work. We work long hours, don’t get a lot of time off and in many ways are always connected to the job. Animal care work takes more dedication and perseverance than your regular 9-5 job. But the chance to see a kid’s eyes light up when they see an eagle, or to have an adult to switch from rodenticide poisoning to snap-traps (or owl nest boxes) are moments, not only in my professional career, but my personal life that leave me feeling fulfilled and whole. Knowing that I was able to attend a conference and learn from people who felt this same way; people who could help me be a better educator and animal trainer; people who have “given up” their lives for this work—was an inspiring feeling. After expressing these feelings to Crawford’s co-workers at the conference some were literally moved to tears. “That was what Walt would have wanted,” was a phrase that was echoed consistently. Though I never met Crawford, it is blatant that his passion and his hard work have had a profound effect upon people.
This was my first conference and I am incredibly grateful for the IAATE Board for offering me the funds to get there. I left with notebooks full of notes and ideas and ways to solve problems. I left with new friends and peers and business cards of folks who were willing to go out of their way to help me in any possible way they could. I recommend the conference to anyone with a passion to learn more, to improve themselves and their facilities, and to share ideas and problems. I think what’s great about the conference is (at least for me) it is so much easier to chat with people when you are sitting at a table than over an e-mail or online forum. You’re able to ask questions immediately, pull senior trainers aside and discuss problems or thoughts. You’re able to make connections you might have been unable to otherwise.
I learned so much and networked with so many people, but there are a handful of things I left with I’d like to share. The first big light bulb/take home message for me was Steve Martin’s workshop about being better co-workers, supervisors, and peers in general. I know that while I have infinite patience for animals, I frequently find myself with a short-fuse for humans. His workshop showed me that hey, guess what, humans are animals too and we learn in a very similar fashion. Since this workshop, I’ve been extra conscious about positively reinforcing for good and great work done by my peers. I try to be an extra clear communicator with my co-workers, my family, and my friends. I think that by looking at my human relationships from this perspective it has greatly enhanced them.
My second large idea I took home from the conference was Kate Olukalns’ presentation on “The Evolution of Broken Bird Sob Stories to Empowering Ambassadors for Species Conservation “. It had always bothered me when I heard guests at my facility say something to the tune of “Oh, poor bird, I feel sorry for them,” after discussing a birds’ injuries. This was not the story I had been trying to convey. I wanted our guests to walk away with a take home message of “wow, raptors are really fascinating birds,” and a desire to participate in some form of conservation in the future. I think Olukalns brought this problem out into the spotlight for the rehab-education facilities across the country that have been experiencing the same problem, but may not have realized it. This is a great example of was the best part of the IAATE conference for me. The conference serves as an information and idea sharing place for facilities across the country—it brings us together as a team so that we can all do good work for the animals in our own sections of the globe.
Finally, while I met many like-minded people and made friends, one of the best parts of the IAATE conference was my roommate, Miryam, who was also awarded funds from the Walter Crawford Memorial Scholarship to attend the conference. It can be unsettling not knowing who you’re sharing a room with for about a week, but almost instantly Miryam and I connected. She offered good advice, was always upbeat, and we shared similar interests. I know I’ve made a life-long friend in Miryam and I wouldn’t have this friendship without attending the conference!
First of all, I want to introduce myself, my name is Miryam and I am from Girona, Catalonia in Spain, but currently living and working in Puebla, Mexico. I work at Africam Safari as a Trainer and Show Presenter of the Animal Presentation Area, part of the Conservation Education Department. When I started bird training, I never imagined that I would like to do it for the rest of my life. Today, I’m certain I found my passion, as training animals gives me great pleasure and satisfaction. IAATE helped me get started in the bird trainer and educators world. From the beginning, I noticed the camaraderie of its members, which is so admirable and motivating. For this reason, I didn’t have any doubts about joining and wanting to participate in the annual conference. I wanted to get to know, discuss with, and learn from my trainer peers, not only to improve my training skills but to expand my avian universe. I decided I wanted to go to the annual conference so I started looking for some help as it was a long and expensive trip from Puebla, Mexico to Billings, Montana, and that’s when I found the Walter Crawford Memorial Conference Scholarship. Inspired by the story of Walter Crawford and how he always fought for animals, I applied. I was very lucky to be one of the applicants to receive the scholarship, making my trip possible.
The annual conference in Billings was an incredible experience. I got to share a room with another person that received the scholarship, which was an excellent choice as Leia Minch was a huge support for me during the entire conference. She was very nice and helped me with the language barrier. She also helped me practice my English. Even today we are still in touch, and I would highly recommend sharing rooms with other participants. The Board Members were also very nice, they wanted to meet me from the beginning and congratulate me for the scholarship, this is a very kind gesture that made me feel welcomed and boosted my confidence. The days I spent at the conference were very productive and amusing. The workshops helped to put in practice our training skills and to better understand the training principles. They also let you share knowledge with people with similar thinking and that share your passion, which is always great.
This opportunity gave me the chance to improve my training techniques and to enhance our show experience. It helped me network with amazing people and also broaden my training and educating horizons. That’s why I highly recommend going to the IAATE’s Annual Conference. Don’t hesitate to apply for scholarships as it could open new opportunities. I’m already looking forward to February 2017 to see you all in Atlanta!
What is your Name, where are you from, facility you work at, and position?
My name is Joel Romero, I´m from Mexico, I work at my own company Medicine Clinic of Animal Behavior, and I am a Vet and a Bird Trainer.
Why did you apply for the scholarship?
In Mexico many times we don´t believe you can get travel benefits from USA, but yes we can! And my main intention to apply for the scholarship was to prove this, another reason was economic aspect, right now, is very expensive a journey to United States from any place of Mexico, the scholarship was the perfect choice.
What interested you about attending the IAATE annual conference?
I was completely interested in all Conference activities, and I was looking for take the Certification Test.
Was this your first conference? How was your experience? Would you reccommend attending the conference to others?
This isn´t my first conference, my first IAATE Conference was on 2008, then I was every year since 2010 to this last 2015 Conference. My experience was amazing, this conference was the best of all past conferences!
I highly recommend attend to this singular Conference, as a Vet, I have participated in other conferences, and has no comparison with the IAATE Conference.
What did you get out of attending? Would you attend another conference?
I got great moments in beautiful Montana State, learned much from the papers and workshops, marveling with Montana Zoo, and especially the Certification!
For sure I will attend all following IAATE Conference.