The Greater Orlando AAZK is a local chapter of the national non-profit organization: American Association of Zoo Keepers. We are made up of animal care professionals in the Greater Orlando area, including: Sea World Orlando, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Discovery Cove, Natural Encounters Inc, and other individuals dedicated to animal care and conservation.



Our Officers

President: Jen Hershey

Jennifer has been an animal keeper for 20 years and is a graduate of the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo Program in Gainesville, FL. She has worked as an intern aquarist at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific and San Diego Zoo's Safari Park working primarily at the Animal Care Center with hoofstock neonates and as a relief keeper for other sections of the park. She was on the opening team at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and now works at Disney's Animal Kingdom in the veterinary department. Being an AAZK member has given her the opportunity to network with other members of the zoological community and participate in conservation fundraisers.


Vice President: Melaina Kincaid

Melaina has been a zoo keeper for 21 years, beginning her career at Brookfield Zoo before coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2005. Throughout her zoo career she has been active in AAZK both on a local and national level. She served as the Professional Development Committee chair for National AAZK for 11 years and planned the conference programs throughout that time. Melaina has a true passion for the zoo field and conservation. She has been lucky enough to visit Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, one of the recipients of the Bowling For Rhinos funds. She felt a true connection with the animals at Lewa, as well as the people ensuring their safety.  

Treasurer: Penny Jolly

Penny has been a zoo keeper for 30 years and a member of AAZK for almost as long. In 2009 she was honored to become an AAZK Board Member and just finished a term as President. She also contributes to the zoological field as the AZA Abdim’s stork Studbook keeper and Program Leader. She has a BS Degree in Zoology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  She has worked with a variety of species at the Utica Zoo, the Kansas City Zoo, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. I have cared for a wide variety of species including Vietnamese walking sticks, Burrowing owls, African elephants, chimpanzees, snow leopards, California sea lions and currently roseate spoonbills, Tammar wallabies, babiurusa and Southern giant anteater. She enjoys being an officer with GOAAZK because we all have fun together, form friendships and help support conservation programs like Bowling for Rhinos!

Secretary: Kim Thomson

Kim has been volunteering and working in zoos for over 20 years. Through her high school years, she was a teen volunteer at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.  After graduating high school, She went on to college at Kent State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in  Zoology.  While earning her degree, she returned to the Pittsburgh Zoo for her internships. Kim began her career as a bird keeper at Zoo Miami before eventually moving to the mammal department.  As an active member in the South Florida AAZK chapter through her whole tenure at Zoo Miami, she held the position of Secretary, Vice President, and President of the chapter during that time.  As a South Florida AAZK member, she began fundraisers including Halloween for Hornbills and Okapitoberfest as well as acting on the Bowling for Rhinos planning committee. She joined the Animal Kingdom Lodge team in 2015 and soon after joined the Greater Orlando AAZK chapter where she has been a member of the Bowling for Rhinos committee since 2016 as well as co-chairing the now-annual Greater Orlando Okapitoberfest celebration at Crooked Can Brewery. In her free time, she also volunteers for the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.  



Keepers leading the way in animal care and conservation.

Our Mission:

To foster a professional attitude in animal keepers and aquarists by encouraging them to become active members of professional teams at today’s zoos and aquariums. AAZK supports the promotion and implementation of zookeeper education and strives to make the general public aware of our concern for all deserving conservation projects and the need for the preservation of our natural resources and the species that depend on those resources.