RAW 2022 has officially ended here at Moody Gardens on Galveston Island, Texas. It has been a stellar 4 days of meetings, presentations and camaraderie. Approximately 200 of our colleagues braved the viral threat and I have heard nothing but praise from every one. It was certainly the perfect re-connection that everyone has been missing for so long.
The hospitality of our hosts was welcoming to all and outstanding in generosity and genuine appreciation for our visit. As is the tradition of RAW, everyone has had ample opportunity to gather, learn and share stories (good and bad) from the past few years.
The first day consisted primarily of aquatic TAG meetings providing updates on all of the programs, changes coming down the line, and opportunities for everyone to participate.
There was a session on animal welfare in our collections, including a panel of experts from several institutions, that provided fantastic guidance on how to incorporate assessment tools into your programs for the benefit of both the animals and the staff that care for them.
Following that was an excellent and well overdue session and workshop on increasing and retaining minority professionals in aquarium careers. I personally found it to be profoundly eye-opening and paradigm-shifting. I expect that many others did as well. We have an opportunity (I would suggest obligation) to recognize the hurdles that many face when trying to enter this industry and we are missing out on the different perspectives that people from varied backgrounds may bring to the table. Thank you Jenny, Megan and George for leading that charge.
The presentations given by 41 of our colleagues were excellent in the diversity of topics, the valuable content, and the engaging nature of the presenters. The RAW program committee has been reviewing all of them for Best of RAW and those results will be announced soon. It will be a very difficult choice to select the best as the caliber all this year was outstanding. Kudos to all presenters!
As we have come to expect, Animal Professionals provided the A/V and IT needs to make this all happen. We had many opportunities for problems, but they never occurred, because these guys were on it!
Our sponsors are an invaluable component to RAW. Their commitment every year is what allows us to create each meeting at a price point that is accessible to everyone. More importantly, these guys are the businesses that keep our aquariums running year after year with products that we cannot live without. I hope the RAW attendees made the most of the opportunity to connect with these guys as much as their colleagues, as they truly are colleagues amongst us. Thank you!
Keeping the best to last, it must be said that the hosts this year have done a phenomenal job of creating this meeting. In any other year, it would have been awesome. With a short time frame to put it together and gambling with the threats of shut-downs and poor attendance, the crew at Moody Gardens are to be commended with the highest praise!!!! The venue was outstanding, the aquarium and rainforest was gorgeous, and food, drinks and networking opportunities abounded. Thank you yet again Greg Whittaker and the whole team at Moody Gardens for this very special event which marks the return of RAW and the return to some form of normality in a world still reeling.