Aquarium welcomes Dr. Kathayoon Khalil as Interim Vice President of Conservation Learning


BOSTON, MASS. (May 4, 2022) – The New England Aquarium welcomes Dr. Kathayoon Khalil of Zoo Advisors to serve in a consulting capacity as Interim Vice President of Conservation Learning.

An integral member of the Zoo Advisors team, Khalil will oversee the Aquarium’s reimagined Conservation Learning work in the coming months. She is a well-recognized leader in zoo- and aquarium-based conservation education, community engagement, and programmatic assessment.

“It’s a real coup to have Kathayoon join our team as we build out our Conservation Learning work,” said Vikki Spruill, the Aquarium’s President and CEO. “She has a stellar reputation in the world of conservation education and a deep understanding of working within aquarium and zoo cultures. She will bring a wealth of knowledge to us in Boston.”

For Zoo Advisors, Khalil is the Director of Engagement and was the Conservation Impact Manager for the Oregon Zoo and the Principal Evaluator for the Seattle Aquarium before that. She received her Ph.D. in Learning Sciences and Technology Design from Stanford University, her master’s degree in Environmental Science from the Yale School of the Environment, and her bachelor’s degree in Organismal Biology from Claremont McKenna College.

A conservation psychologist and a social scientist, Khalil collaborates with colleagues from around the world on research projects to advance our understanding of learning in zoos and aquariums. She is also a researcher for Fostering Empathy for Animals, a joint project among the Seattle Aquarium, the Woodland Park Zoo, and the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. In this capacity, Khalil participates in publications, public speaking engagements, and conducts workshops on empathy development and measurement.

Khalil started her career at as a teen volunteer at the Oregon Zoo and quickly developed a passion for wildlife and conservation. Through over a decade of work in zoo education, she has implemented authentic approaches to evaluating visitor learning, including attitude and behavior changes that may have resulted from their visit. She is also an alumna of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program, an instructor for Project Dragonfly at Miami University of Ohio, and a member of the editorial board for Zoo Biology. She is also a commissioner with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.


Pam Bechtold Snyder –, 617-686-5068