Advancing Conservation Through Empathy (ACE) for Wildlife

Empathy is a stimulated emotional state that relies on the ability to perceive, understand, and care about the experiences or perspectives of another person or animal.

Creating Change Symposium

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Empathy in Action

February 19, 2020

Woodland Park Zoo will be hosting its second symposium for the Advancing Conservation through Empathy for Wildlife (ACE) learning network in Seattle, WA on February 19.

The purpose of this symposium is to bring together multidisciplinary representatives from zoos, aquariums, cultural organizations, universities and others who are interested in fostering empathy for animals to share how they are putting empathy practices into action. Through panel discussions and presentations, attendees will learn new applications and insights for incorporating empathy practices into their own work. Presenters will also share current work being done to learn how to foster empathy for animals more effectively. Attendees will come away from the symposium with concrete examples of how ACE for Wildlife organizations are incorporating empathy practices into their day-to-day operations, internal and external communications, and on grounds experiences.


Keynote Speaker: Sara Konrath, PhD

Dr. Konrath is an Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2007. Konrath is the director of the Interdisciplinary Program on Empathy and Altruism Research (iPEAR), a research lab with a primary focus on motivations, traits and behaviors relevant to philanthropic giving, volunteering and other prosocial behaviors.

Symposium sessions will be held at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center (4272 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103) from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Breakfast and lunch will be served.

We will be holding a symposium reception (included in $100 registration fee) from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Woodland Park Zoo directly following the sessions.

For additional information please contact empathy@zoo.org

About the ACE Network


Fostering Empathy

Empathy is a powerful emotion that drives our connection with those around us. It is a capacity that most humans are born with, is developed over time, and reinforced through our interactions with the world. Empathy is also an important driver for positive social change and motivates people to take caring action towards animals and nature. Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we believe that fostering empathy with animals is a powerful tool for empowering our guests and the community to make conservation a priority in their lives.

In 2015, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo embarked on a journey together to intentionally improve our capacity to foster empathy for animals and evaluate the outcomes of our efforts.

At the time, very few evaluative tools were available to assess whether programs in informal learning institutions are achieving the desired outcome. The three organizations collaborated on the Measuring Empathy: the Collaborative Assessment Project (MECAP) to design tools that can be used by staff to gain insight into the effectiveness of their programs.

We continue our research-based approach to understand empathy and how it applies in zoos and aquariums. We invite you to join us on this journey – learn about and participate in our programs!




Ambassador Animals at Woodland Park Zoo

Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we incorporate our new understanding of empathy into our programs with training for our educators, summer camp instructors, animal keepers and volunteers to provide them with effective ways to engage in guests’ empathetic skill development.

Our educators and animal care staff teamed up to create two new programs using the zoo's ambassador animals. These programs help highlight the individual animals’ stories while encouraging more understanding of how these animals’ needs and experiences are both similar and different from our own.

Find out more about our ambassador animals




Designing for Empathy Summit

Washington DC, November 13-15, 2019

Presentation by Wei Ying Wong, PhD, Vice President of Learning & Innovation, Woodland Park Zoo

Empathy & Animal Welfare


As part of the Empathy Project, Woodland Park Zoo will specifically be examining the intersections of animal welfare and perceptions of animal welfare, as well as how this relates to empathy. Zoos and aquariums have an ethical commitment to prioritizing animal welfare. While we provide experiences that can greatly enhance a guest’s emotional connection with animals, it is important to understand their thoughts on the care we provide and how their perceptions affect this connection. The Empathy Project will examine this topic and make recommendations to help organizations prioritize both animal welfare and a positive empathetic experience for guests during their visit.

Interested in learning more or getting involved?

Email empathy@zoo.org


9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Timed ticket entry on sale now. Find out more at zoo.org/visit