Project Dragonfly – an AZA Learning Partner

Miami University’s Project Dragonfly has partnered with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) to help expand AZA’s professional development opportunities. Project Dragonfly has been designated an official AZA Learning Partner, which means that some Dragonfly graduate courses qualify as electives for one or more concentrations in the AZA Professional Development Certificate Program. The AZA Certificate Program organizes training opportunities into concentrations, such as behavioral husbandry, conservation and research, and education and interpretation. 

Which Dragonfly courses count toward an AZA Professional Development Certificate?

A complete listing of all Dragonfly courses that count toward an AZA Certificate may be found below.  Please scroll down to view course descriptions.  To register for a course, please contact Connie Malone at malonecm@miamioh.edu.

For more information, to enroll in the program, or to have a Project Dragonfly graduate course count toward the AZA Certificate Program, visit https://www.aza.org/certificate-program. Email AZA’s Certificate Program at certificate@aza.org with any questions. 

Where are Project Dragonfly‘s AZA Certificate courses located?

Below is a complete listing of the Dragonfly graduate courses that count toward an AZA Certificate.  Please note that course participants may be degree-seeking students in the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) or the Global Field Program (GFP), or they may be students who are not pursuing a master’s degree but are interested in the topic. Enrollment is open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree regardless of academic major or profession. All courses are taken for university credit. The number of elective credits awarded for each course as part of the AZA certificate program will vary based on course length.

AIP Web+ courses combine work in a web-based learning community with face-to-face experiential learning and field study at premiere community learning institutions affiliated with Dragonfly’s Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) master’s degree.

Global Earth Expeditions courses combine work in a web-based learning community with coursework at conservation sites around the world. Students taking these courses may reside anywhere in the world.  All Earth Expeditions courses count toward an AZA certificate. The Earth Expeditions application is due annually on January 28th.

Core courses occur entirely on the web. Students taking these courses may reside anywhere in the world.

Advanced Inquiry Program Web+ Courses


Advanced Inquiry Program Web+ courses combine work in a web-based learning community with the excitement of experiential learning in person at AIP Master Institutions in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis and New York.  Students taking these courses should reside near one of the following AIP Master Institutions:

Chicago: Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield Zoo
Cincinnati: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Cleveland: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Denver: Denver Zoo
Jacksonville: Jacksonville Zoo and Botanical Garden
New York: Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo
San Diego: San Diego Zoo Global
Seattle: Woodland Park Zoo
St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden

Contact individual institutions for additional course details and specific start dates.

Foundations of Inquiry – 3 graduate credits

This course engages students in exploring the scientific method and inquiry-based learning and teaching. Through devising investigations to answer questions and communicating results, participants experience the full process of inquiry and learn how to guide this process with their own students and in their own communities.

Experiential learning offered at Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo.

Animal Behavior & Conservation – 3 graduate credits

This course provides a foundation for understanding ethological research methods that can be applied to promote animal welfare and wildlife conservation. The course involves a community -based research project and direct observation of diverse animal species in a variety of settings such as zoos, botanical gardens, parks, and more.

Experiential learning offered at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo.

Habitats, Adaptations, & Evolution – 3 graduate credits

This course explores the biology and conservation of species and habitats. Students implement a research project and investigate how local environmental conditions shape species’ adaptations.

Experiential learning offered at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and Woodland Park Zoo.

Primate Behavior & Conservation – 3 graduate credits

This course investigates primate behavior, research methods, and conservation. Through direct observations of prosimians, monkeys, and apes in zoological settings, students gain a comprehensive view of topics ranging from social structure to communication.

Experiential learning offered at Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo.

Plants & People – 3 graduate credits

This course explores the ecological roles of plants as well as the history of human-plant relationships (e.g., cultural context, ethnobotany, symbolism). Students implement a research project that engages their community in environmental action.

Experiential learning offered at Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo.

Environmental Stewardship in My Community – 3 graduate credits

Students in this course investigate environmental stewardship, research science and conservation opportunities and solutions in their local communities, practice inquiry-based learning, develop a conservation project to be used in their classroom or community, and reflect on ecological and carbon footprints. At the end of this course, students will have a solid understanding of community-based conservation, with a particular emphasis on current issues facing local habitats in the communities where they live. Students will also explore and begin to design stewardship strategies for empowering their own students or community members to generate solutions and take action.

Experiential learning offered at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Chicago Zoological Society- Brookfield Zoo, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, San Diego Zoo Global, and Woodland Park Zoo.

Climate Change – 3 graduate credits

Global warming is irrevocably altering our polar ice caps, our oceans, our forests, and the world’s plant and animal life. In this course, participants study the science of climate change, the diverse causes of climate change, and the impact of climate change at local, regional, and global scales. Topics include global warming’s effect on weather and climate, ice caps, deforestation, and species conservation. Because the public plays a central role in how the world responds to climate change, students also investigate the factors that guide public perception, ranging from media to social interaction. Students explore the effect of climate change specific to the biology of their local region and consider what actions they and their communities can take locally. Through project assignments and research, at the end of this course participants not only have a solid understanding of current issues surrounding climate change but will also have considered and developed strategies for taking action. 

Experiential learning offered at Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo.

Great Lakes Ecosystems – 3 graduate credits

The focus of this course is the study of the biology of the Great Lakes watershed, combining classroom work with field science inquiry and research. In addition to exploring the general function of watersheds, students become familiar with historical and contemporary human influences on ecosystems within the watershed basin, and they discuss and understand negative human impacts including point and non-point source pollution, multiple-stressors, “urban stream syndrome,” and local sewage treatment and its relationship to the basin. Students gain skills observing and describing biotic and abiotic characteristics of area watershed ecosystems and understand the status of threatened and endangered species in the watershed basin.

Experiential learning offered at Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo.

Regional Ecology – 3 graduate credits

Through both zoo-based and field-based experiences, this course explores regional wildlife conservation issues, as well as field investigation techniques that scientists and citizens can use to study and conserve local ecoregions and wildlife. Students will be exposed to observational and experimental approaches and will practice field investigation techniques that can provide rigorous, engaging inquiry experiences for students. Student-conducted investigations will be used to contribute to local ecological knowledge by describing natural systems, noting differences in habitats, and identifying environmental trends and issues. This course focuses on different ecoregions in the area and highlights different conservation issues or themes based on that ecoregion.

Experiential learning offered at Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo and San Diego Zoo Global.

Ecophysiology – 3 graduate credits

Students in this course will explore the ways in which humans can (and do) emulate systems and designs found in nature to create materials, medicines, social systems, computers and so much more. Students will fine tune their observation skills and complete a design challenge using nature as their guide. Through this course, students will develop their observation and collaboration skills and will acquire research experience in the life sciences on such topics as the principles of ecophysiology, form and function of organismal adaptations, phenotypic and behavioral plasticity, and maintenance of homeostasis. Students will think critically and scientifically about the ways in which nature can benefit humankind through technological inspiration and solutions to environmental problems. Students will apply what they have learned as they develop curricula and create design challenges for professional use.

Experiential learning offered at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Global Biomes – 3 graduate credits

A bioclimatic zone, or biome, is a region broadly defined by the relationship between and among an area’s temperature patterns, annual precipitation and living organisms. This course will introduce the biomes of the world through explorations of the characteristic vegetation and wildlife of biomes represented at this Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) Master Institution (MI) and current conservation issues relevant to each.

Experiential learning offered at Denver Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo.

Conservation Research at Living Collection Institutions – 3 graduate credits

This course provides students with an overview of conservation research conducted in zoological, reserve, aquaria and other ex situ settings. Students will explore key science concepts within the contexts of wildlife conservation, the imperative of in-situ conservation, the multi-disciplinary nature of science, and hands-on conservation research. Participants will learn about current research in the fields of genetics, reproductive physiology, disease diagnostics, ecology, and animal behavior. Course themes explore sustainable population maintenance, wildlife health, bioresource banking, restoration ecology, reintroduction biology, and the role of zoos, reserves and aquaria in conservation.

Experiential learning offered at San Diego Zoo Global and Woodland Park Zoo.

Project Design & Assessment – 3 graduate credits

This course addresses one of the most important scientific endeavors: evaluation to indicate whether their own work or the work of others is showing a trend and, thus, having an impact. The course is focused on two main sets of evaluation, natural science and social science studies. The course will review statistical thinking and discuss how to construct successful studies that will open students to accurate and effective evaluation. We will discuss how to choose between different statistical tests and the consequences for their experimental design. Students will be engaged in the different ways researchers and others apply statistics to natural science and social science studies. Students conducting social science research will determine whether to conduct qualitative or quantitative studies and will parse out the differences and values of each approach.

Experiential learning offered at San Diego Zoo Global

Human Dimensions of Conservation – 3 graduate credits

Conserving wildlife is a complex endeavor that requires the integration of sound science from both the social and natural sciences. This course explores how social sciences can inform conservation. Students consider how current conservation issues can be addressed through an understanding of human thought and action.

Experiential learning offered at San Diego Zoo Global and Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo.

Graduate Research

Barrow’s Lecture Series Seminar – 1 graduate credit

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. This graduate seminar centers around a series of talks given at the zoo by internationally renowned conservationists, explorers, and scientists. This series focuses on presenting current conservation and wildlife issues to diverse Tri-State audiences, and uses stories of global proportion to inspire local action. This seminar course borrows from the inspiration and expertise of these dedicated individuals to help graduate students develop the skills they need to read and critically interpret primary scientific literature, and to evaluate how professionals in the conservation field turn the content of these readings into inspirational public lectures. Specifically, this course will focus on the Communicate component of the scientific method, notably public discourse. Students develop the ability to locate, read and critically review primary scientific literature, including methods, results, and data interpretations. Through guided and peer discussion, students will learn techniques for researching pertinent scientific topics that complement the content in their own classrooms. Lastly, students will leave knowing how to develop their own scientifically rigorous presentations that are both exciting and inspirational to their students and the general public.

Book Discussion: Global Connections – 1 graduate credit

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  This seminar brings to light current global environmental issues and addresses the way in which human activity effects the earth. The driving force for this course will be peer discussion of a selected book as well as peer-reviewed articles relative to changing discussion topics.  Five two-week discussions will take place focusing on the assigned readings and covering the following topics:
• Preserving Our Past and Our Future
• Global Consequences
• Impacts on Land
• Impacts on Water
• Being a Catalyst for Change

Conservation Innovation – 1 graduate credit

San Diego Zoo Global.

Global Biomes – 1 graduate credit

Woodland Park Zoo. Bioclimatic zones, or biomes, are regions broadly defined by the relationship of an area’s temperature patterns to its annual precipitation and living organisms. This course will introduce the biomes of the world through zoo-based explorations of the characteristic vegetation and wildlife of biomes represented at the zoo and the current conservation issues relevant to each.

Earth Expeditions Courses


Earth Expedition courses combine work in a web-based learning community and face-to-face coursework at key conservation sites in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.  All Earth Expeditions courses count toward an AZA certificate. The Earth Expeditions application is due annually on January 28th.

Amazon: Avian & Tropical Ecology

Australia: Great Barrier Reefhttps://projectdragonfly.miamioh.edu/earth-expeditions/courses/australia/

Baja: Field Methods

Belize: Approaches to Environmental Stewardship

Borneo: Primate Conservation

Brazil: Saving Golden Lion Tamarins

Costa Rica: Neotropical Ecology

Galápagos: Islands of Change

Guyana: Local Wisdom & Conservation

Hawai’i: Saving Species

India: Species, Deities & Communities

Kenya: Wildlife & People in Integrated Landscapes

Mongolia: Steppe Ecology & Civic Media

Namibia: Great Cat Conservation

Paraguay: Eco-Leadership

Thailand: Buddhism & Conservation

Core Courses


Web-based courses occur entirely on the web and can be taken from any computer with internet access.

Issues in Biodiversity – 2 graduate credits

Issues in Biodiversity (IBD) is a graduate seminar covering current and foundational issues in biodiversity. The seminar will focus on the forces that create and sustain biodiversity, patterns of biodiversity of time and space, and human impacts on biodiversity, with specific topics suited to the current state of the field. Here, AIP and GFP students have a chance to discuss and learn new ideas and information about current and foundational issues in biodiversity. Students gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of issues affecting biodiversity while discussing novel and classical concepts in the field of biodiversity conservation. Students become familiar with scientific readings while participating in active group discussion, and in small groups will lead discussion surrounding a theme.  Additionally, students will produce a well-researched lesson plan, synthesis paper, or community engagement lab that addresses one of the themes of this course.

Offered entirely on the web.

For information about Dragonfly’s Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) master’s degree, see http://aip.miamioh.edu/.

Zoo and aquarium professionals looking for additional training opportunities may visit the AZA’s website to learn more about additional courses, webinars, and conferences at https://www.aza.org/professional-development.