Ever since its inception in 1980, the Association of Zoological Horticulture (AZH) has been dedicated to the advancement of zoo horticulture in zoological parks and aquariums. This dedication can be seen in AZH’s creation of its Zoo Horticulturist Certification Program. The program produced its first class of graduates in 2011. The program is offering its membership training that emphasizes the best practices in horticulture from the specific perspective of how these are utilized in the zoo and aquarium environments. Among the program’s goals are to provide an integrated and comprehensive training program on the unique aspects of zoo and aquarium horticulture that will ensure the highest level of excellence, technical expertise and professionalism among AZH members. These professional development courses also promote the exchange of ideas and networking opportunities among zoo horticulture colleagues.
Certification consists of four two-credit core courses and two elective courses at one credit each. Horticulturists who participate in a course and who successfully pass the in-class examinations will earn credits towards the 10 credits required for certification. The core courses, as determined by the AZH Board, are: Integrated Pest Management, Soils, Exhibit Design I, and Browse and Toxic Plants. Elective courses will include Water Management, Plant Conservation/Education, Record-keeping, and Design II. Initially, the training was part of the schedule of the AZH Annual Conference. The first full-day training course on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was offered in conjunction with the 2007 AZH Annual Conference in Tulsa.
Creating the courses and administering them has been a full out endeavor and one of the primary areas of work for AZH. The development of each course begins with the assignment of a course administrator who works closely with the outside consultant AZH has hired to facilitate course development and management. This team first defines the course goals and outcomes, and determines pertinent topics that need to be covered in the course. Instructors with relevant expertise are then selected from within the AZH membership and from universities, businesses, agencies and other organizations.
AZH’s mission is to promote excellence in zoo horticulture. The Zoo Horticulturist Certification Program supports this mission by providing its graduates with the tools they need to apply new skills and practice quality horticulture in a zoo or aquarium environment. Certification will advance the profession of horticulture within the zoo and aquarium industry and enhance the ability of horticulturists to contribute to the success of their organization’s mission..