Melissa and I have just returned from the 2015 International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. What a trip it was! Between networking with other “bird people” and learning new animal training and program techniques, we had a full week. The Mission of IAATE is to promote the best practices in the field of avian care, training, and educational programming, and to inspire conservation of avian species and natural world. Through conferences, publications, personal interactions and its website, IAATE fosters the exchange of information and skills that support the highest standards of managing birds for public programs and exhibits.
Some of the fun things that we learned are as follows:
Mechanical Skills for Beginning Bird Trainers– I learned how to control my body and be more efficient when moving around with birds on a glove. When training a bird for a specific behavior, I practiced muscle-memory techniques to ensure that the bird received a reward for the behavior asked without fumbling around to get it. I also practiced using a falconry lure for the first time.
Career Development- Melissa was surprised to learn a lot in this half-day workshop. In addition to learning about proper resumes and cover letters, the group was shown techniques on how to hand out and ask for business cards and how to introduce yourself to “important people” as well as getting some tips on conversation ice breakers that don’t have to deal with the weather or traffic.
Feather Imping- We both learned and practiced how to imp, or replace a broken feather on a bird.
Enrichment- We both discussed and learned new animal enrichment ideas with everyone at the conference and created some new items to give to the birds in our programs back home.
In addition, we got to visit the Carolina Raptor Center and get a behind-the-scenes tour. The facility has 99 birds on exhibit in addition to all the wild birds that go through their rehabilitation center.
Melissa and I presented a paper we wrote about turning lemons into lemonade and making obstacles into assets for bird programs. It was very well received and in fact, we were awarded the “High Flyer” award for the best presentation at the conference. Now we have a nice plaque on our wall to show off!
There was also time to network, socialize, and get to know many of the people in our avian care field from facilities across the country, ranging from trainers from Disney’s Animal Kingdom to raptor rehabilitators and falconers from Wisconsin. All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience and we can’t wait to go back next year!