2013 is certain to be another inspiring year and I am excited to be serving this year as President of IMATA. I know many of you recently attended our 40th Annual IMATA Conference in Hong Kong. I hope you enjoyed this groundbreaking meeting as much as I did. It was a meeting during which I had the opportunity to fully embrace IMATA as an international organization.
We’ve had conferences in North America, Australia , Europe, and now ASIA! For the first time I had the pleasure of meeting new colleagues from numerous facilities throughout Asia and now have a true appreciation for how experience with different cultures further enhances our perspective on our animals, as well as our approaches to training and animal care. I now have new friends in Japan, Hong Kong, and mainland China. As I mingled with conference participants from all over the world I once again enjoyed the camaraderie of our organization. We all have one thing in common as we share the passion to provide the best care possible for animals in our care by being the best trainers we can be. Last year, IMATA President Shelley Wood wrote, “By embracing new ideas, cultures, and philosophies, I have not only become a better trainer, but also a better teacher and person.” After my Hong Kong experience I could not agree with her more! IMATA has once again afforded me the opportunity to grow my relationships in the industry and I am a better person as a result of it. Shortly after the conference I returned to Georgia Aquarium inspired and enthusiastic to share the latest information with my team to help foster continued growth of our staff and program.
What a fantastic job done by Grant Abel, our former 1st Vice-President, for the 2012 conference! Grant is a true friend and has taught me so much about the nuances of managing and caring for marine animals in the Pacific Rim. It was through Grant's vision, drive, dedication, and leadership we were able to bring trainers together from almost every continent on the planet. This conference was a huge success! We are so grateful for Grant's efforts and the graciousness of our host facility, Ocean Park Hong Kong, for their incredible financial and in-kind support of the meeting, and of course Grant’s time.
Our 40th conference had record-breaking support from sponsorship. Through the hard work of our Sponsorship Committee, we have grown our sponsorship program in recent years, and the work done by Grant and his team this past year was outstanding. Sponsorship allows us to offset costs incurred in operating annual conferences, enhance the conference program, and provide better value to our members. For example, this past year conference presentations were translated in three languages; a very costly service that greatly enhanced the conference experience. I encourage all IMATA members to take time to learn about the companies that support our mission and goals, and patronize them as often as possible.
This was a monumental meeting for our organization. IMATA's Board has worked hard in to launch the organization to global status and the 40th conference was instrumental in helping to achieve this goal. Now, as I have the opportunity to serve as IMATA's President, I stand committed to help lead the organization to build upon the international advancements made in recent years. IMATA’s Board and Committee Chairs are busy working to strengthen our global outreach and communication. We plan to accomplish this by increasing world-wide networking through our enhanced website, electronic media (eSoundings), IMATA TV, and social networking.
Regional workshops are another area we plan to grow. In 2012, we had several very successful regional meetings throughout the world. This included: US Southwest (San Diego), US Midwest (Iowa), US Northeast (Long Island) and US Southeast (Florida Keys) meetings and great gatherings in the Caribbean (Freeport Bahamas & Cuba). These meetings were driven by the initiative, hard work and dedication of IMATA members in these regions. We will work to provide greater infrastructure within IMATA to provide stronger support to regional meetings as well as develop increased connections between regional workshops and annual conferences.
I am honored and humbled to work with and lead IMATA's Board of Directors in 2013. Please don't hesitate to contact me or any member of the leadership team as are here to serve you and the organization.