"I have galaxy brain right now. This is just opening up so much for me.”

AvOCET 2024 is a virtual gathering space for bird behavior, training, education, and conservation enthusiasts. With internationally featured renowned speakers, paper submissions, panel discussions, and breakout rooms, the conference is designed to foster challenging ideas and thoughtful discussion, give attendees access to incredible minds in academia and animal care, and keep our community engaged with and feeling inspired by the latest work in the field and laboratory

Stephanie Rosenbloom inspired me to take a more in depth look at my companion parrots' diets. Several speakers emphasized the importance of data collection and analysis (which I need to improve at doing). "When we know the function of the behavior, we know the reinforcer to use for the behavior." Our animals are lucky to have us, because we are trying our best to do the best for them.

Getting to know other professionals that are dealing with the same situations I am dealing with and knowing I can contact them and that everyone is communicating is the most inspiring. My career has shifted from ambassador animals doing shows, outreach, special events and training focused around that in a zoo setting to now running my own small ambassador education collection for a governmental agency that has a different focus but we are still training, teaching and educating has been an interesting shift. I love to see the cross over of knowledge and facilitating that it is a safe space to learn and grow.

Hillary, I have to thank you personally for putting it together. Will be strongarming several people into attending the next. Can’t wait!

A lot of great information shared. More than I had anticipated.


Hillary Hankey

Owner and founder of Avian Behavior International & the Avian Behavior Lab 

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Hillary Hankey is a bird behavior and training expert based in Southern California. With a strong background in free flight training and companion parrot behavior consulting, she combines her love of adventure and understanding of animal behavior with a strong desire to connect humans and animals with complex topics such as nuanced education programs. Hillary has worked for and consulted with zoos, education organizations, and leadership programs and continues to educate through her podcast and online eduction program, The Avian Behavior Lab.

Barbara Heidenreich 

Animal Training Consultant Specializing in Exotic Animals

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Barbara Heidenreich is an animal training consultant specializing in exotic animals. She consults worldwide working with zoos, universities, veterinary professionals, and conservation projects. She has worked onsite with over 80 facilities in 27 countries. She is an adjunct instructor at Texas A&M University. She has authored two books and contributed to four veterinary textbooks. She is a co-author of two Fear Free Avian Certification Courses. Much of her work focuses on training exotic species to cooperate in medical care. She operates the online education program Animal Training Fundamentals. 

Lee Stone

Operations Manager and the South East Queensland Avian Behaviour and Training consultant for Parrot Life Behaviour and Training

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Lee comes from a background in dog training and behaviour consulting. She started her behaviour journey in 2010, working with her mentors for 4 years before moving to the Pilbara region of Western Australia and starting her own small dog training business offering group classes, behaviour consults and educational programs.

In 2016 Lee added an Eclectus parrot to her growing menagerie of animals, and quickly became hooked. This naturally led her down a path to researching and learning all she could about parrot behaviour, training and enrichment. During this time of nerding out on all things parrot she met the team at Parrot Life and has not looked back since!

Joe Whitehead

Klingsburg Aviary Coordinator at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center (Penn State University)

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Joe Whitehead is the Klingsburg Aviary Coordinator at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center (Penn State University), where he cares for the resident wildlife, supports and coaches their emerging professionals, and helps create meaningful experiences for the many guests who visit the center. A lifelong lover of birds, Joe has spent most of his career studying and working alongside a variety of species both in the wild and in his care.

Annette Pedersen

Copenhagen Zoo

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Annette started her 4-year education as a Zookeeper in 1988 & in 1989 she was hired as a trainee at Copenhagen Zoo where she completed the practical part of her education. During this time, Annette got the opportunity to work with all kinds of species in the Zoo.

When Annette finished her education in 1992, she then got a position at the marine mammal section working with Harbour Seals and California Sea lions and additionally alongside animals like penguins, Malayan tapirs and babirusa … to name a few.

From 1993-2008 Annette attended all seminars, courses, and conferences regarding training that she could possibly find and/or get financial support for. Including a field trip in 1998 to the US visiting Brookfield Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, and Sea World Orlando. That trip changed Annette’s life!

In 2008 Annette moved to the Elephant section working with Elephants that had just moved from free contact into PC. At the same time, she got the position as Husbandry Training Coordinator.

Since 2008 Annette’s job has been to develop slash expand the training skills of the keepers at Copenhagen Zoo, as well as daily problem solving and behavior management with a variety of species and challenges.

Since 2009 she has additionally helped develop the Danish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (DAZA) animal training course and serves on the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) as Chair for the Animal Training Working Group and a member of the Animal Welfare Working group. Annette is also an instructor for the EAZA animal training courses under the EAZA Academy.

Further commitments include serving on the board of the Animal Behavior Management Alliance (ABMA) between 2014-2016 & today representing ABMA as an EU liaison working towards other European ABMA conference in 2020!

Lauren McGough

Specializes in the unique branch of eagle falconry, particularly with golden eagles

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Lauren McGough, a licensed falconer since age 14, specializes in the unique branch of eagle falconry, particularly with golden eagles. Graduating from the University of Oklahoma with dual degrees in Zoology and International Studies, she immersed herself in the European tradition of eagle falconry during a two-year exchange program in the United Kingdom.

As a 2009 Fulbright Scholar to Mongolia, Lauren apprenticed with local eagle masters, training eagles for fox hunting off horseback. Her passion for Kazakh eagle culture led her to earn a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Returning to the United States, Lauren applies eagle training techniques to rehabilitate golden eagles, especially those on the great plains. In the last two years, she extended her expertise to rehabilitate eagles in South Africa. Beyond her work with birds, Lauren is an enthusiastic skydiver and is actively pursuing her private pilot’s certificate.

Gail Buhl

Partnership Coordinator for the Partners for Wildlife program at The Raptor Center at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

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Gail Buhl earned her Bachelor of Science of Biology degree from the College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota. She has worked and volunteered in wildlife rehabilitation and the Ambassador Animal world for over 30 years. Her professional career has focused on presenting and training Animal Ambassadors for on the glove and in-flight programs. Her goal of that Environmental Education is to help the public become environmentally literate in an engaging way.
In 2016 Lee added an Eclectus parrot to her growing menagerie of animals, and quickly became hooked. This naturally led her down a path to researching and learning all she could about parrot behaviour, training and enrichment. During this time of nerding out on all things parrot she met the team at Parrot Life and has not looked back since!

Emily Davenport

Rocky Mountain Wildlife Alliance

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After nearly two decades devoted to providing care to both companion animals and wildlife, Emily M. Davenport, CWR, RVT founded the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Alliance in 2017. She has been a veterinary professional for 2 decades, serving in multiple small animal and exotic practices. She is a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator with the state of Colorado and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. She is also internationally certified in wildlife rehabilitation by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council—making her one of only 4 people in the state of Colorado with this designation.

Emily’s area of interest and expertise is raptors, with a background in the veterinary field and sound ecological practices, she has worked with raptors as small as Flammulated Owls and as large as California Condors.

Stephanie Rosenbloom

Co-founder of Nerdy Bird Collective

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Stephanie received her B.S. in Chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University (2016) and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Cornell University (2021). A lifelong parrot enthusiast, Stephanie aims to explore the intersection of organic chemistry and avian sciences and is thus particularly interested in psittacine nutrition. She is co-founder of Nerdy Bird Collective, where she applies her skills as a trained researcher to curate evidence-based resources for companion parrot owners and maintains her practice as a parrot behavior and nutrition consultant.

Sean Will & Maasa Nishimuta

Founders of the Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare and Training (CAAWT)

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Sean and Maasa, both with graduate degrees from Jesús Rosales-Ruiz’s Behavior Analysis program at the University of North Texas, are the founders of the Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare and Training (CAAWT). They have a membership, ( caawt.com ), a non-profit to provide educational content on animal behavior, care, and ways to solve behavioral problems, a podcast, and an annual conference.

Stephanie Ashley

Curator of Birds at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey

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Stephanie Ashley has been working with birds for over 20 years. She has been a member of many different neotribes in the avian care and training community: companion parrot keeper, bird trainer, student, Animal Control Officer, zookeeper, environmental educator, and falconer. She is currently engaged as both the Curator of Birds at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey and as Inti’s (Aplomado Falcon) personal hunting companion in Boise, Idaho.


The conference is great way to get exposed to behaviors and psychology of parrots. There is still the lack of scientific guided learning and behaviors on domesticated parrot companions. I look forward to more data and findings from other people in the community. :). I look forward to seeing more presenters more specific to parrot behaviors.

I very much appreciated the atmosphere of welcome, listening, and support. What an extraordinary group of people!

There were so many! I think the most insights came from Sean and Maasa's presentation and Barbara's I have learned about those concepts in the past but it helped me understand them more and be able to better utilize them better.

This conference exceeded my expectations.


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