2024 AvOCET Speakers

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About AvOCET

Held by Avian Behavior International, AvOCET 2024 will be 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









Hillary Hankey

Owner and founder of Avian Behavior International and the Avian Behavior Lab, 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. For more about Hillary, you can read her story here.



Barbara Heidenreich

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  AnimalTrainingFundamentals.com. This virtual learning program features award winning courses, tracks to guide professional development, verifiable badges to share and prove course completion, community, and more. Barbara is an advisor for the Animal Training Working Group and the Parrot Taxon Advisory Group for the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She has provided her expertise to conservation projects The Kakapo Recovery Program and The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. She has a Bachelor of Science in zoology and has begun the journey towards a Master of Science in applied behavior analysis. Her goal is to leave behind a legacy of kindness to animals by sharing her expertise.



Sean Will & Maasa Nishimuta

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.



Expanding Degrees of Freedom is Through Assessment and Function Based Interventions

Lee Stone

Lee is the Operations Manager and the South East Queensland Avian Behaviour and Training consultant for Parrot Life Behaviour and Training, a parrot-specific behaviour consultancy based in Australia and New Zealand.
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!

In 2018 Lee packed up and left Western Australia and moved home to Brisbane where she primarily works with parrots.

In the past 4 years, Lee’s flock has grown from one to five parrots (although two are only temporary residents), her flock now includes her Eclectus, three Macaws and one Caique (Ky-eek). She also has two, long-suffering, senior dogs named Keira and Phoenix.


The Importance of Integrative Behaviour Care for Feather Destructive Behaviour Cases

Joe Whitehead

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 Pederson


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


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

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.

Gail is a very active instructor, teaching continuing education for wildlife rehabilitators and Ambassador Animal trainers at the state and national level and has presented all over the country. She has coordinated and presented workshops on Ambassador Animals, focusing on mentoring nature center staff and wildlife rehabilitators.

She has state and federal wildlife rehabilitation permits and is an “equal opportunity” wildlife rehabilitator. Currently, she is serving on the Wildlife Rehabilitation Advisory Council (WRAC) to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. She is also involved in one-to-one mentoring with organizations and individuals in rehabilitation and in animal training.

Gail has been a team member and supervised four very diverse collections and programs. She is one of the Editors for “A Guide for the Care and Use of Program Animals” 2nd Edition, 2018, published by the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA).

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



More Inspiring Speakers To Be Announced Soon!