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Lisa Marie Avendaño


Mexican American

Current position: 

Vice President of Animal Programs

Current facility:

Houston Zoo

Year zoo career began:


Lisa Marie Avendaño is a native Houstonian and grew up visiting the Houston Zoo as often as her parents were willing to take her. She earned a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, an M.A in cross cultural studies from the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL), and certificates in veterinary technology and zookeeper technology from Houston Community College. Lisa Marie is studying to earn an M.B.A with a concentration in leadership at UHCL.

Lisa Marie’s 20 + year career at the Houston Zoo has included positions as zookeeper, veterinary technician, hospital manager, department director, senior director of animal care, and currently the Vice President of Animal Programs where she is the executive for animal care and health. She is also currently serving the role of Texas Conservation Programs Liaison, working to strengthen collaborations with partners and stakeholders for the breeding/rehabilitation and release programs for Attwater’s prairie chicken, Houston toad, and sea turtle species along the upper Texas coast.

One of Lisa Marie’s career highlights came while serving as Director of Veterinary Services. During this time, she oversaw the multi-year project for the new veterinary complex facilities and equipment.

Lisa Marie is active in business continuity planning for the organization, emergency drill planning, and serves on the animal emergency response team. Lisa Marie has served as a member of both the AZA Diversity Committee and the Professional Development Committee. Currently she serves on the AZA Ethics Board and as an AZA accreditation inspector.

“As other long-time zoo and aquarium professionals in the network have expressed, I too had no role models or mentors serving in leadership that looked like me. I am grateful for this community and the support offered here that can make a huge difference for minority professionals seeking to enhance their development or students looking for opportunities in the field.”

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