About RAW

RAW Guidelines (aka “the fine print”)

(Updated 10/7/2021)

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.  Paul Clarkson (PClarkson@mbayaq.org) is the current chair, effective May 2023.

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 May 2023

Andy AllisonNational Mississippi River Museum & Aquariumaallison@rivermuseum.com
Barb BaileyNew England Aquariumbbailey@neaq.org
Steve BaileyFrost Museum of Sciencesbailey@frostscience.org
Mitch CarlHenry Doorly Zoo & Aquariummitchc@omahazoo.com
Paul Clarkson (Chair)Monterey Bay Aquariumpclarkson@mbayaq.org
Chris CocoGeorgia Aquariumccoco@georgiaaquarium.org
Mike DanielWonders of WildlifeMWDaniel@wondersofwildlife.org
Becky EllsworthColumbus Zoo and AquariumBecky.Ellsworth@columbuszoo.org
Beth FirchauAZA-FRTRP/Conservation Coordination LLCbfirchau@aza.org
Jeff GibulaMississippi AquariumJgibula@msaquarium.org
Jay HemdalToledo Zoojay.hemdal@toledozoo.org
Jennie JanssenNational Aquariumjjanssen@aqua.org
Allan MarshallPittsburgh Zoo and Aquariumamarshall@pittsburghzoo.org
Pete MohanAkron Zoopetemohan55@gmail.com
Dee MurphyDisney the Seas w/ Nemo & FriendsDee.Murphy@disney.com
Brian NelsonNational Aquariumbnelson@aqua.org
Mark SchickShedd AquariumMSchick@sheddaquarium.org
Chris SpauldingPoint Defiance Zoo and Aquariumchris.spaulding@pdza.org
Greg WhittakerMoody Gardensgwhittaker@moodygardens.org
Marcus ZevalkinkJohn Ball Zoomzevalkink@jbzoo.org

RAW Program Committee Roster – coming soon

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

07/22/89Columbus 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
111/3/89Toledo Zoo
Jay Hemdal
Single day.  Name coined and guiding principles developed.  Jay invites all aquariums within half-day drive.  20 attendees.
23/9?/90Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Warren Pryor
Last meeting fit in a single-day or held around a conference table.  29 attendees? 
310/26-27/90St. Louis Zoo
Joe Norton
First auditorium and formal program for talks.  19 attendees.
44/25-26/91Milwaukee County Zoo
Rich Sajdak &Craig Berg
Group brainstormed on planned exhibit renovations at zoo.
510/4-6/91Ohio 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.
66/12-13/92Sea 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
76/16-17/1993Tennessee 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.
87/29-30/94John 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.
97/21-23/95National 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.
unofficial3/15/96ReRAW 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).
106/6-8/96New 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). 
116/11-13/97Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo
Kathy Vires
Concurrent workshops held on several subjects. 
124/8-10/98Texas 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”.
135/13-15/99Underwater World, Mall of America
Craig Atkins &Jeff Krenner
Chalice first awarded to aquarium professional with most challenging year.
145/24-27/00Aquarium 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.
156/3-7/01Atlantis 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.
163/24-27/02Colorado’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
176/5-8/03Riverbanks Zoo and Aquarium
Melissa Salmon
Sea Turtle Symposium held in conjunction with RAW.  First “Aquarist Olympics”.  198 attendees.
185/18-23/04Mote 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.
196/20-24/05Aquarium of the Pacific & Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Perry Hampton & Jeff Landesman
RAW finally crosses the continental divide and touches the Pacific. 200 attendees!
205/14-19/06 (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.
216/18-21/07Pittsburgh 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.
226/16-19/08Atlantis Marine World
Joe Yaiullo
The second Atlantis to host a RAW, but this time the one on Long Island! 200 attendees.
236/8-6/13/09Newport Aquarium
Jeff Gibula
Newport , Kentucky brings RAW back to its roots….kind of. It’s right across the river from Cincinnati , Ohio .
246/7-6/11/10Henry 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.
255/2-5/62011Virginia Aquarium
Beth Firchau
RAW heads to Virginia Beach! Sea Turtle Symposium enjoyed by all.269 attendees.
264/9-4/132012John G. Shedd Aquarium
Mark Schick
Back to the Windy City after 18 years!290 attendees.
274/22-4/262013Georgia Aquarium
Chris Coco
Time for some Southern hospitality!340 attendees.
284/21-4/252014North Carolina Aquarium
Hap Fatzinger
East Coast!
292015Monterey Bay Aquarium
Paul Clarkson
West Coast!
302016Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Dee Murphy 
Mardi Raw! 
312017New England Aquarium
Steve Bailey
Wicked RAWsome!
322018The Florida Aquarium
Mike Terrell
RAW in Florida!
332019The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Becky Ellsworth
Retro RAW!
342020Wonders of Wildlife
Mike Daniel
Combined symposium with AALSO – Cancelled due to COVID-19
352021Sea World and Discovery Cove Cancelled due to COVID-19
362022Moody Gardens
Greg Whittaker
RAWdemic – Rising from the ashes!
372023National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
Andy Allison
RAW on the River!