RAW Guidelines (aka "the fine print")

(Updated 6/9/2015)


History of RAW:

The Regional Aquatics Workshop held its first official meeting in 1989.  The name was designed to provide lots of elbow room for future development.  The meanings intended for each title word by the founding attendees evoke the sentiments that led to RAW and help us understand and preserve its unique character:



Intentionally vague enough to include a future region of any size.  (Originally encompassing the Great Lakes/Midwest region, attendees now come from all over North America, Europe, etc.)



The group is not limited to those interested in fishes, or to those working at traditional public aquariums.  Over the years “Aquatics” has been occasionally garbled to “Aquarium” or “Aquatic”.



An intentional attempt to avoid the creation of (or reference to) a traditional governing body that would evolve unnecessary hierarchical structures.  Read “Workshop” as “public aquarium professionals of all levels learning from one another”.


From 1989 to 2000 RAW meetings were organized by the host institution with informal help from previous hosts and other interested RAW enthusiasts.  Attendance has grown from 10 to over 200.  The sheer size of the meetings, increasingly complicated logistics, and associated communication issues prompted previous organizers to establish a RAW Advisory Committee in 2001.

                RAW is not part of any other organization.  However its attendees are members of other organizations (AZA, EUAC, etc.) that have found it productive to conduct some of their business in conjunction with RAW meetings [the day before RAW has become the working meeting venue of choice for many AZA conservation committees including the Coral Reef CAP, the Fish and Aquatic Invertebrate TAGs, and the Lake Victoria SSP].


The Advisory Committee

The RAW Advisory Committee (RAWAC) was created to act as a resource for future RAW hosts, and to help bring issues affecting RAW to the attention of the attendees.  RAWAC is not a governing body and any policies or actions suggested by this committee are subject to approval by the current host and the attendees of each meeting (as applicable).

              As of its formation in January 2001, RAWAC is composed of ~25 individuals who have previously hosted RAW meetings, or were co-founders.  Jeff Gibula (jgibula@newportaquarium.com) is the current chair, effective June 2013.

It is not required that the individual remain at the original facility that hosted RAW, but s/he should ideally still be active in the husbandry or conservation departments of a public aquarium.  A chairperson elected by this committee serves as a conduit for information to future hosts and to the attendees (past and potential).  Official activities of the committee begin immediately following the annual meeting.  The chairperson serves a two year term (elections immediately after RAW in even-numbered years).  Committee members may serve for an unlimited period.  As deemed periodically necessary by the RAWAC due to committee growth, an election may be held to decrease the committee size by one member (effectively temporarily freezes committee size since the new host is also added).  N members each cast a vote for N minus 1 seats.  The committee member with the least number of votes rotates off the committee.  Should the current chairperson receive the least number of votes, a new chairperson must be elected.  As another means of managing committee size and structure, the RAWAC Chair may periodically ask the committee if any members wish to voluntarily withdraw because they feel they are unable to actively participate.  In addition, members who are both: no longer employed in husbandry or conservation departments, and who have stopped participating in meetings or email conversations, may be dropped from the committee roster. 

    The Chairperson may appoint individuals to act as temporary secretaries for individual meetings, subcommittee chairs, etc. 

               Two standing subcommittees have been established within the RAWAC:  the Sponsorship Committee (2003), and the Program Committee (2004).  The former is currently inactive because host to host communication has been satisfactory.  Subcommittee members are not required to be chosen from the RAWAC group.

Host facilities remain the primary organizers of each RAW, but are requested to consider the opinions of these committees when planning meetings.  Hosts are required to follow the RAW Policies listed below.  Chairs of these standing committees must maintain contact with RAWAC (through the RAWAC chair) and the hosts.


Program Committee

Brian Dorn, briandorn@ncaquariums.com, is the current chair of the Program Committee. This committee is charged with helping the hosts develop a program for each meeting, and will help solicit speakers. 



Matt Seguin (mattseguin@mote.org) has taken over webmaster duties as of July 2013.


RAW Advisory Committee Roster as of June 2015

(Chair) Jeff Gibula jgibula@newportaquarium.com
Richard A. Lerner rlerner@cabq.gov
Greg Whittaker gwhittaker@moodygardens.com
Pete Mohan PJMohan@akronzoo.org
Paul Clarkson PClarkson@mbayaq.org
Allan Marshall almarshall@wondersofwildlife.org
Chris Coco ccoco@georgiaaquarium.org
Joe Yaiullo joecorals@gmail.com
Jeff Landesman jeff.landesman@lacity.org
Roger Klocek conserve@sbcglobal.net
Steve Bailey slbailey@neaq.org
Perry Hampton phampton@lbaop.org
Jay Hemdal jay.hemdal@Toledozoo.org
Rich Toth rtoth@AudubonInstitute.org
Kevin Curlee Kevin.K.Curlee@disney.com
Mitch Carl mitchc@omahazoo.com
Beth Firchau BFirchau@auduboninstitute.org
Mark Schick MSchick@sheddaquarium.org
Matt Seguin mattseguin@mote.org
Hap Fatzinger hap.fatzinger@ncaquariums.com
Marcus Zevalkink mzevalkink@mbayaq.org
Dee Murphy dmurphy@auduboninstitute.org




RAW Program Committee Roster


Brian Dorn (chair) brian.dorn@ncaquariums.com
Jennifer Rawlings jrawlings@riverbanks.org
Beth Firchau bfirchau@virginiaaquarium.com
Allan Marshall almarshall@wondersofwildlife.org
Pete Mohan petem@akronzoo.org
Paul Loiselle ploiselle@wcs.org
Julianne Steers jsteers@ocean-institute.org

RAW Policies:

Every attempt is made to keep the organizational structure of RAW minimized, but a few rules have been found to be helpful.

1)      Site selection for RAW: 

a)     Future hosts are voted on at the annual meeting. 

b)    Voting is for the meeting to be held two years after the current meeting (we voted for the 2004 meeting during the 2002 RAW). 

c)      Voting Protocols:

i)      Votes are by a show of hands and must be tallied. 

ii)     If only two institutions are requesting to host, and there is a tie, a coin flip will decide the vote. 

iii)    If only one institution announces its candidacy at the business meeting, that institution will win the vote by default. 

iv)    If a tie occurs between some of the requestors, a run off vote will immediately be conducted to determine the winner. 

v)     Even if the tie is for runner-up, a run off will be held to determine “rights of succession” in the event that the primary host needs to withdraw for some reason. 

vi)    If the winning requestor withdraws before the meeting occurs, the runner-up is given first right-of-refusal to be the new host. 

vii)  Should a withdrawal occur with insufficient time left to plan a RAW, the meeting will be postponed or will skip a year. 

viii)  Defaulting host individuals are automatically removed from the Advisory Committee and replaced with the new host. 

ix)    If no institutions put forward their candidacies (which must be confirmed by their institutions) by the start of the business meeting, a written vote will occur by email.  The electorate for this vote will be the attendee list supplied to the RAWAC by the host (giving all who could potentially have attended the business meeting an opportunity to vote again).

2)    Hosts should plan for a RAW business meeting to occur near the end of the conference (not at the very end of the last day as attendance will be poor, and not at the beginning of any day for the same reason).  This is when voting for future RAW sites and other RAW discussions and votes will occur.

3)    Husbandry-related issues should be the focus of each RAW conference, but the choice of talks is not limited to that topic.  RAW fills a unique niche for husbandry information now that other organizations such as AZA, IAC, and EUAC have moved away from this topic.

4)    In order for each attendee to maximize their exposure to presented material, scheduling of concurrent sessions is to be avoided.

5)    Keep costs to attendees minimal:  Registration should be free when possible and must never exceed $75 (1/08).  Sponsorships and internal funding should be used to support the conference to whatever extent is possible.  Keep the lodging costs down (for those aquarists attending only RAW, not any supplemental meetings) by placing non-RAW meetings at either end of the meeting schedule, so those attendees not involved in non-RAW activities (AZA TAG meetings, extra ‘symposia’, and extensive tours or side trips) can make the best use of time and expense money.  Potential hosts located at cheap airfare destinations will be appreciated by attendees who are paying their own way. 

6)    RAW paper sessions should not exceed 2½ days.  This does not include any special meetings that may be tacked on either end of the conference for the convenience of some attendees.  Please do not intersperse the session days with “special event days”.

7)    Host as your means allow.  As the meetings have increased in size, so has the level of effort put into ice breakers, dinners, etc.  Do not feel obligated to equal or top previous efforts.  Picnics are as good as banquets.  Remember that originally, RAW evening events featured a cooler of beer in someone’s hotel room.

8)    When offering to serve as a host for a future RAW, each candidate should present tentative dates for their RAW, a brief summary of hotel costs, and airline ticket prices from a few key cities (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami).  The purpose of this is to give future attendees a way to compare the costs of attending a meeting at each location prior to the vote.

9)    Hosts must collect abstracts for each paper and poster presented.  These should include title, presenters, affiliation, and email address.  Text should be limited to a couple of paragraphs.  Hosts must submit the abstracts to Drum and Croaker by Dec 15th of the conference year, in the format used in previous issues of D&C (see Pete Mohan for more information and a copy of the original Word document containing formatting cues. 

10)  Email lists of attendees of a particular RAW (specific year) will be made available to attendees from that year’s conference.  A larger, comprehensive mailing list (or annual lists) will be kept using contact information for all previous attendees for at least 5 years.  This master list will not be distributed to attendees (because it could be misused by vendors), and will be updated each year by the next host.

11)  The search for sponsors should begin soon after volunteering to host a RAW Conference (two years in advance).  It has become obvious that sponsors plan their own schedules and budgets over a year in advance and opportunities for sponsorships may be missed if host wait until the year before the conference to begin seeking sponsors.

12)  Vendors are allowed to give presentations, as long as they contribute to the field and are not simply opportunities for advertising.  It is up to each host to determine the appropriateness of such talks.


Previous RAWs









Columbus Zoo

John Culbertson & Doug Warmolts

Casual chat arranged by John, a vendor and aquarium fan, leads 4 attendees to support what would soon become RAW #1



Toledo Zoo

Jay Hemdal

Single day.  Name coined and guiding principles developed.  Jay invites all aquariums within half-day drive.  20 attendees.



Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

Warren Pryor

Last meeting fit in a single-day or held around a conference table.  29 attendees? 



St. Louis Zoo

Joe Norton

First auditorium and formal program for talks.  19 attendees.



Milwaukee County Zoo

Rich Sajdak &

Craig Berg

Group brainstormed on planned exhibit renovations at zoo.



Ohio DNR Hatchery. Put-In-Bay, South Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio

Doug Warmolts & Dave Ross, Ohio Division of Wildlife

A small RAW group helped ODNR develop plans to convert the hatchery to an aquarium.  Gales kept a drunken sailing regatta in port.



Sea World of Ohio & Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Pete Mohan & Dan Moreno

Last semi-annual RAW.  Tours of Rainforest (Zoo) and Shark Encounter (SWO), both under construction.  Vote of support from attendees for Pete to relaunch Drum and Croaker.  Last ice-breaker held in someone’s motel room.  21 attendees



Tennessee Aquarium

Chris Coco

First RAW at a large stand-alone aquarium.  Attendance jumps to 35-40 as East-Coast and Southern facilities attend for first time.



John G. Shedd Aquarium

Roger Klocek &

Mike Mulligan

41 folks from 17 facilities, including the first "overseas" attendee, an aquarist from Bermuda Aquarium. There were 12 scheduled talks including ones on poison arrow frogs, paddlefish, and Partula snails.



National Aquarium in Baltimore

Perry Hampton, Bruce Hecker, & Chris Andrews

First East-Coast meeting.  Discussion groups on LSS and Conservation.  AZA TAG meetings are first held in conjunction with RAW.  55 attendees.



ReRAW at Frisch's  Big Boy, in Findlay, Ohio

Warren Pryor

5 or 6 aquariums drove to a central point for a long lunch to attempt to recreate the original semi-annual RAW tradition.  The joke: Form a new organization called LUNCH (Landlocked Underwater Naturalists and Curators Hanse).



New England Aquarium

Steve Bailey

RAW hosted a paper session and TAG meetings for AZA conservation efforts…and confusion of RAW with AZA begins.  72 attendees from 26 institutions (4 overseas). 



Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo

Kathy Vires

Concurrent workshops held on several subjects. 



Texas State Aquarium

Charles Smith & Tom Schmidt

Many attended a 3-day pre-RAW tour of Texas Aquariums.   Bad judgment in San Antonio results in ‘discovery’ of what would become “The Chalice”.



Underwater World, Mall of America

Craig Atkins &

Jeff Krenner

Chalice first awarded to aquarium professional with most challenging year.



Aquarium of the Americas

Rich Toth & Toni Davi

Last free RAW as attendance and costs skyrocket.  AZA TAGs fixed as a pre-RAW event, instead of mixed with RAW sessions.  120 attendees.



Atlantis Resorts

Michelle Liu-Ferguson & Steve Kaiser

Modest registration fee of $25.  Advisory Committee formed to deal with administrative issues on an “as-needed” basis.  163 attendees.



Colorado’s Ocean Journey

Rich Lerner

RAW meets as the closing of the facility seems imminent.  RAW in the Rockies…almost to the continental divide.  138 attendees



Riverbanks Zoo and Aquarium

Melissa Salmon

Sea Turtle Symposium held in conjunction with RAW.  First “Aquarist Olympics”.  198 attendees.



Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium

Kevin Curlee

A series of talks and workshops were directed at improving communication among and within aquariums, and identified priority issues on many topics for further action by RAW attendees.  ~170 attendees.



Aquarium of the Pacific & Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Perry Hampton & Jeff Landesman

RAW finally crosses the continental divide and touches the Pacific. 200 attendees!


5/14-19/06 (Sea Turtle Symposium on 5/20-21)

Aquarium at Moody Gardens

Greg Whittaker

Cephalopods, sea turtles and more with a combined attendance of about 225.  A unique use was found for a ton of expired frozen capelin.



Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Alan Marshall

Back to the Homeland of RAW (Great Lakes and Ohio Valley). A cruise.  Unfortunately, a pond was included at the Olympic site.



Atlantis Marine World

Joe Yaiullo

The second Atlantis to host a RAW, but this time the one on Long Island! 200 attendees.



Newport Aquarium

Jeff Gibula

Newport, Kentucky brings RAW back to its roots....kind of. It's right across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio.



Henry Doorly Zoo

Mitch Carl

The Oracle of Omaha, Mitch Carl, predicted we would all attend RAW in 2010. And there was a SECORE workshop. 185 attendees.




Virginia Aquarium

Beth Firchau

RAW heads to Virginia Beach! Sea Turtle Symposium enjoyed by all.

269 attendees.




John G. Shedd Aquarium

Mark Schick

Back to the Windy City after 18 years!

290 attendees.




Georgia Aquarium

Chris Coco

Time for some Southern hospitality!

340 attendees.




North Carolina Aquarium

Hap Fatzinger

East Coast!



Monterey Bay Aquarium

Paul Clarkson

West Coast!



Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Dee Murphy


Mardi Raw!




New England Aquarium

Steve Bailey

Wicked RAWsome!










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