The Denver Zoo AIP program will no longer be accepting new students. This decision will NOT impact the pace or progression of current students' journey through the program. We are committed to supporting all AIP students through our final cohort, as well as our alumni—and will remain active members of the AIP community.


Ignite ecological & social change while earning your master’s degree

Pursue your passion with the Denver Zoo while you earn your master’s online from Miami University through the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP). Created for working professionals, the AIP is a one-of-a-kind master’s program that immerses students in collaborative inquiry and action as they champion change. Through web-based coursework from Miami and face-to-face experiential learning and field study at Denver Zoo, you will connect with classmates, Miami University faculty, Denver Zoo experts, and community leaders locally, nationally, and globally.

The AIP is designed for students from a range of backgrounds and career stages. With professional and academic mentoring and self-designed Master Plans, students adapt their degree path to fit their interests in fields such as community-engaged conservation, inquiry-driven education, environmental justice, learning across K-12 and informal settings, animal care and welfare, green business innovation, climate change, urban ecology, human-nature relationships, environmental restoration, and public engagement in science.

An unprecedented network of premier public zoos and botanical gardens across the United States and conservation organizations worldwide have joined together to support the AIP. This extraordinary learning collaborative, the largest of its kind, fosters groundbreaking ideas, collaborations, professional connections, and study opportunities. AIP students have the option of integrating an Earth Expeditions field course at a global field site into their degree path. The AIP is overseen by Project Dragonfly, an education reform initiative located within the department of biology at Miami University.


Enrollment is open to applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree regardless of academic major or profession. Students should have internet access and be able to attend in-person experiential learning days at Denver Zoo. For more information, visit Miami University’s AIP overview page


Students can enroll in either a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in the biological sciences for formal K-12 teachers or a Master of Arts (MA) in biology for all other professionals. The MAT does not confer a teaching license. All courses are delivered online by a Miami University instructor. Two-thirds of AIP courses also include experiential learning on grounds at Denver Zoo and in and around the Denver Metro region. Miami University is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Denver Zoo looks forward to supporting you through the AIP!

Program Contacts At Denver Zoo

Sofia Prado-Irwin
Graduate and Adult Programs Coordinator

At Miami University

Connie Malone
Project Dragonfly, Department of Biology

Flexibility, Accommodation + Inclusion in Action

The Advanced Inquiry Program prides itself on seamlessly blending distance learning with fieldwork, 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.


"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 AIP site 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

Downloadable Documents

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.