Retired Biologist Mellen Receives AZA Achievement Award
Dr. Jill Mellen’s impact on Disney’s Animal Kingdom as well as animal well-being research extends far beyond the theme park. Recently, the acclaimed research biologist received the Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for her decades of work in the field, according to Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment Facebook page.
“This award honors those who significantly influence the quality of animals’ lives through long-term personal commitment to the field of animal welfare,” the post celebrates. Dr. Mellen specifically focused on enhancing not only animals’ lives but also cultivating an enriching guest experience, according to her LinkedIn page.
With over thirty years of experience in the field, Dr. Mellen worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for almost twenty years, serving as the Education & Science Director for much of her career with the company. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California-Davis, renowed for its zoological science programs. Dr. Mellen retired recently.
“Dr. Mellen has worked in the zoo and aquarium field for over three decades most recently at Disney’s Animal Kingdom where she researched a range of topics from elephant welfare to inspiring children to conservation action,” according to her LinkedIn profile.
In fact, Mellen was one of the very first cast members hired for Disney’s Animal Kingdom with much of her prior work done at the Oregon Zoo. Her focus on animal husbandry and enrichment led to the SPIDER model that is still consistenly used throughout the theme park and now at zoos nationwide.
“It was really exciting getting to walk around the construction areas that would become Animal Kingdom,” Mellen said in an interview with Zoophoria. “I’ve never used my brain so much in my whole life. It was so exciting to open this big zoo starting from literally scratch. When I started there were seven animal people. My job included putting a framework of science over the art of animal management.”
Congratulations, Dr. Mellen, on your life’s work as well as the distinguished award!