Interested or ready to apply?

Application Information

The AIP application season is September–February each year. There will be a series of FREE Information Sessions and an Application Workshop. Register below!

AIP Information Session

AIP Information sessions are free and a chance for you to gain a better understanding of the program, get to know the Denver Zoo AIP Staff, and ask any questions you may have. Typically, information sessions run for about an hour. The planned events are on the calendar below – don’t forget to select different months if you’d like tickets for a date later this year or early next year.
There are 4 Information Sessions planned:

  • September 21st at 6:30pm
  • October 15th at 7:00pm
  • January 11th at 12pm (virtual)
  • January 31st at 5:30pm

AIP Application Workshop

February 8th at 6pm

This application workshop is an opportunity to talk through the application process with Denver Zoo AIP staff. We’ll talk through the portions of the application, provide tips and tricks, and answer any AIP questions you have.

3 Unique Educational Paths to Choose From


Interested in becoming a catalyst for environmental and social change in your community? Denver Zoo is proud to be one of just nine institutions throughout the country to offer the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) in partnership with Miami University. This unique—and uniquely affordable—long-established virtual Master's Degree program encourages critical thinking and inquiry-based learning as a path to impact global conservation issues with local community engagement. Choose from three unique educational paths:


Perfect for non-licensed educators or other professionals, our MA Degree Program enables you to drive your own experience with projects and opportunities based on your personal goals. Develop knowledge and skills in the realms of biodiversity threats and conservation, evolution, social science, community engagement, inquiry-based education, science writing/publishing, conservation leadership and more.


Ideal for licensed K–12 educators who want to use their knowledge and passion to facilitate significant shifts in the communities in which they live and work, this track combines the focus areas above with additional curricula exploring how to leverage local engagement to become a driver of environmental and social change.


Not interested in seeking an advanced degree—but looking for something more meaningful than your sourdough starter? There are seven different courses CGS students are welcome to attend, including Biomimicry, Human Dimensions of Conservation, Climate Change, Environmental Stewardship, Graduate Book Discussion, and Environmental and Informal Education.

Seamless Study with a Distance-Learning Pioneer

The Advanced Inquiry Program has always been a majority distance-learning program, with the option of 100% distance learning for students who cannot attend the handful of in-person or in-the-field sessions we offer. The structure of this entire program was designed for utmost flexibility, accommodation and inclusion of learners from all walks of life—including students with families and full-time jobs. This means that Project Dragonfly and its zoo partners perfected the processes and programs necessary for successful virtual learning long before COVID-19 brought these needs into international focus.


"I owe my career to the connections I made in AIP. Through my AIP peers, I got an animal care internship at Denver Zoo—and subsequently, a position with a local nonprofit called Wildlife Protection Solutions."

—Matt Hron, AIP Graduate


"This program changed me, including how I think about conservation. It helped me understand the importance of community involvement, and rethink how I will approach my future conservation goals."

—Nicole Babyak, AIP Graduate


"Do it!  It is a manageable program that can have a real impact on you personally and professionally if you give it your all!"

—Christa Dillabaugh, AIP Graduate


Baby RegistryStudents participating in the regional ecology course at Rio Mora Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Northern, New Mexico


Through the unique and experiential Advanced Inquiry Program, you can earn a Master of Arts in Teaching, or MAT, in the Biological Sciences (for licensed K–12 teachers) or a Master of Arts in biology (for non-licensed educators or other professionals) from Miami University. All AIP courses are delivered online and are taught by a Miami University instructor. Two-thirds of AIP courses also include up to five days (or equivalent) per course of experiential learning on the grounds of a Master Institution such as Denver Zoo.

Becoming a Catalyst for Change

The core goal of this program is become a driver for environmental and social change in your community, whatever this means to you—whether it’s your immediate neighborhood, school district, workplace, zoo, nature center, city, faith family, or your own interpretation. We encourage critical thinking and inquiry-based learning as tools for creating strategies for change. AIP courses focus on environmental and social topics and devising strategies for communicating with your community on these topics and issues.

Flexible, Self-Styled Education

In this program, students drive their own master’s experience through projects and opportunities they design, so your area of focus will ultimately depend upon your own personal goals. In general, you can expect to develop content knowledge and skills in the realms of biodiversity threats and conservation, evolution, social science, community engagement, inquiry-based education, science writing and publishing, and conservation leadership—among others.

Through the development and exposure of these tools, you will create a framework for bringing social and ecological change to your community. Even better: the entire program is designed to accommodate...well, LIFE! It's intentionally affordable and flexible, so you can successfully balance both tuition and coursework with other responsibilities.

Local Exploration + Global Expertise

This unique graduate program lives within Denver Zoo's Conservation Department. Our goal is to support and build your capacity to successfully collaborate in conservation initiatives in your own community, and throughout Colorado. To do this, we focus on holistic conservation models that drive positive behavior change.

What's more, this uniquely positioned graduate program not only gives you exclusive access to staff experts and opportunities to learn about the conservation projects taking place right here in your state—it also connects you to Denver Zoo's vast network of experienced professionals filling a variety of diverse roles within conservation organizations around the world.

Program Structure

CREDITS: For both MA and MAT degrees, AIP requires that you take 35 total credit hours, including 21 hours of Web+ Courses (online with in-person Zoo experiences) and 14 hours of Core Courses (online only) taken with Project Dragonfly master’s students nationwide via web-based learning communities.

COURSE DELIVERY: All AIP courses are delivered online by a Miami University Instructor, and two-thirds of AIP courses are Web+ courses, which also include up to five days or equivalent per course of experiential learning on grounds at the Denver Zoo, at other DZ facilities, or at sites across the greater Denver area.

PACING: AIP was specifically designed to accommodate working professionals and other lifelong learners, so coursework can be constructed around your life—rather than the other way around. Our students can complete the Advanced Inquiry Program in as little as 2.5, or as long as 5 consecutive years. Flexibility is a key component of this program to ensure the success of AIP students.

PORTFOLIO: Students are required to complete a master’s portfolio—in some ways like a master’s thesis—throughout their time in the program. Subject matter and research will be based on an overarching theme or passion/interest toward which they want to apply their various course projects.

FIELDWORK:  Students in this program will be immersed in numerous opportunities in field work through their W + courses. In addition, AIP students in their 3rd year in good standing are eligible to apply for an Earth Expeditions course to take your explorations further afield—providing a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about community conservation efforts around the world, with specific applications to your individual studies. The 7 credits earned through an Earth Expedition can be applied towards those 35 credit hours for program completion. 


AIP Staff

For more information about costs, please see Miami University’s AIP costs webpage.

Denver Zoo line art document icon

Interested? Get 1:1 Guidance from our Knowledgeable and Passionate Team!

The Advanced Inquiry Program thrives on the individuality of its dedicated staff and engaged cohort. That's why our team is standing by to assist with any questions you might have—from eligibility to coursework details to where this unique program might take you! Click the button below to get personal counseling from Denver Zoo's AIP team.