Technical terms related to zoo design

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Advance Organizer: Advance or pre-organizers offer information on conceptual and topographic orientation. They can be provided by staff, posters, kiosks, self-testing devices, headline questions, films, computers, videodiscs, flip panels, and other means.

Alignment Principle: When a (vertical) map is aligned, then the upper part of the map corresponds to the area forward in the terrain.

Allocentric orientation: Allocentric orientation is maintained through the use of either environmental features such as landmarks, or coordinate systems (i.e., north-south, east-west), which are independent of the observer.

Animal enclosure: Space that is enclosed for keeping animals inside.

Animal exhibit: Animal enclosure on public display.

Animal welfare: physical and psychological well-being of animals. For the assessment of animal welfare, Dr. John Webster, Professor of Animal Husbandry at the University of Bristol, developed the concept of "five freedoms" for farm animals in the 1960's. The British Farm Animal Welfare Council has promoted the five freedoms and many organizations worldwide use them. The "five freedoms" are: 1. Freedom from hunger and thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour. 2. Freedom from discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area. 3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment. 4. Freedom to express normal behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind. 5. Freedom from fear and distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

Attitude: The feelings and beliefs that predispose an individual to react in a certain way to an object or stimulus.

Attracting power: The ability of an exhibit to attract the attention of visitors usually is measured as ratio of the number of visitors who stop at an exhibit to the total number of visitors who pass by this exhibit. For example, if 10 out of 20 people stop at an exhibit, the attracting power is 50 %.

Authentic: Not counterfeit or copied. Authentic elements of an exhibit are originally occuring features. Elements, built for the purpose of looking authentic, are not authentic. An original building dissembled in one place and assembled in another place is authentic. An exotic building built by exotic craftsman for an exhibit is not authentic.


Behaviorial Enrichment: Animal management techniques which allow the animal in captivity to express a range of natural behaviors and provides stimulation. Animal holders provide animals with the choices to interact with conspecies, to interact with other species, to search for food and browse, to manipulate food (prey with fur and bones, complete fruits, branches), to manipulate novel objects (anything suitable), to interact with humans (training, feeding), to change their daily routine.

Browse: Branches, twigs, shoots, leaves, and blooms of various plants given to the animals for food.


Ceiling effect: When a sample of visitors respond so positively to a programmatic effort that little information is gained from an investigation, one may assume a ceiling effect. This has special significance for evaluations of theatrical shows, slide shows or film programs.

Concept learning: The ability to group or name a class of objects, events, or symbols that differ among themselves on some common characteristics.

Conceptual orientation: An overview of what can be seen, done and learned, a brief information about exhibits.

Content: Intended communication. Basically, this is what interpretive signs say. It is the cognitive information that the zoo or aquarium wants people to perceive, understand and remember.

Context: The exhibit viewers' perceptual surroundings. This is everything that exhibit viewers perceive consciously or unconsciously while experiencing an exhibit.

Cued testing: Method of formal analysis when subjects are aware they are to be observed and questioned; reflects ability of materials to communicate under motivated conditions.


Den: sleeping place

Dependent variable: Changing variable, assumably influenced by the independent variables.

Developmental evaluation: See formative evaluation.

Diurnal: daylight active

Dutch door: split door which allows to leave the top half open (for ventilation) and the bottom half closed.


Egocentric orientation: Egocentric orientation involves cues that depend upon the position of the observer (i.e., left - right, in front - behind). The relative absence of external cues maximizes the likelihood that subjects will rely on egocentric reference systems.

Enclosure: space that has been enclosed for some purpose.

Enrichment: Provision of stimuli which promote the expression of species-appropriate behavioral and mental activities in an understimulating artificial environment. The process of creating an environment that addresses an animal's social, psychological and physical needs. Enrichment aims to enhance animal activity and to provide stimulation.

Entering knowledge: Knowledge/attitudes/skills shown in pretests.

Environmental enrichment: Environmental design that provides the animal with opportunities to express species specific behaviors and allows the animal to make a choice of exposure and behavior. The provision of a species appropriate choice of microclimates (shade, sun, wind, rain, warm and cold materials), light levels (sun exposure, sun protection), substrates (to burrow, to dig, to bath), water levels (to drink, to play, to bath, to swim, to dive), vegetation (trees to climb, plants to browse, plant parts to build nests), natural objects (stones, logs, fruit), appropriate naturalistic artificial objects (trees to climb, ropes to swing), places for retreat (visual barriers and hides), lookout places and spaces (outdoor exhibits, rotation exhibits).

Erosion technique: Method of indirect observation using traces like worn pathways in the grass.

Evaluation: Systematic assessment of the value of a display, exhibit, gallery, film, brochure, or tour with respect to some goal for the purpose of making decisions.

Exhibit: Something shown to the public. In educational discussion the term "exhibit" often derives its meaning from its historic connection to museum exhibit design. Thus it is used to describe a well-defined object, display or group of displays. In terms of immersion design "exhibit" has a broader meaning, including the entire environmental surround. Besides the animals being displayed, this can include the surfacing underfoot, the themed character interacting with guests, and vistas of distant landscape.

Ex situ conservation: conservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats.


Feasibility study: See Front-end evaluation.

Flip panel: Interactive label; viewers answer questions by choosing and lifting one of several hinged flip panels that depict correct/incorrect photos, objects, statements etc.

Focus group method: A method from marketing research in which a small group of consumers participates in in-depth interview focused on a particular topic of product.

Formal learning: Learning that is evaluated or assessed according to prescribed standards such as a letter grades or numbers in schools or courses as opposed to informal learning.

Formative evaluation: Evaluation with the major purpose to improve the functioning of the exhibit.

Freedom: having options. See animal welfare.

Front-end evaluation: Evaluation undertaken before an exhibit is installed or project developed; used to help establish goals and objectives of the project.


GIS: geographic information system. A GIS is a computer-based system for the storage, management, analysis, and display of geographic and associated data. GIS is a powerful tool designed specifically for integrating, analyzing and mapping all types of spatial information.

Goal-free evaluation: Evaluation that is shaped from the information collected; attempts to not impose evaluators' goals and objectives before the start of the evaluation.

Goal-referenced evaluation: Evaluation undertaken to assess whether or not specified objectives are being met.

Gunite: Mixture of cement, sand, and water sprayed to specifications, used throughout zoos to duplicate rock formations.

Guy-rope, guy-wire: rope or wire used to steady anything or hold in position; most often used to describe ropes or cable securing such things as tents or tall poles.


Habitat: the type of environment in which an organism or group of organisms normally lives or occurs. Accoding to this definition most animal exhibits cannot be habitats because the animals kept normally would not live there. Nevertheless it has become common practice to call enclosures habitats.

Holding power: A measure of time spent viewing an exhibit. Often used as a ratio of average viewing time by uncued visitors. The quotient of the mean viewing time and the minimum time needed, e.g. the length of the program, also is refered to as the program's holding power. For example, if the required minimum viewing time of an exhibit is 30 seconds and a person stops for 10 seconds (actual viewing time), the holding power is 0,33.

HOLZ John C. (2000): Controlling Pond Algae with Barley Straw. School of Natural Resource Sciences, Lake Water Quality Extension Program, University of Nebraska. Lincoln, Nebraska.

HVAC system: heating, ventilating and air conditioning system.

Hypothesis: The assumption of a relationship between variables.


Immersion exhibit: An exhibit in which animals and visitors share the same environment. Physical barriers between animals and visitors are not visible or not existing.

Immersion exhibit experience: The viewer moves through the characteristic landscape of the natural habitat zone seeing its sights and savouring its moods. The success of this immersion depends entirely upon two factors: 1) the completeness and correctness with which the characteristic landscape is projected, and 2) the care and accuracy with which the viewpoints and views are located and composed, concealing barriers, enhancing perspectives, composing light and shadow and, most importantly, visually unifying animal space and visitor space.

Immersion: To involve or engage deeply; complete attention; intense mental effort; to plunge into something that surrounds or covers.

Independent variables: Conditions of an hypothesis, should be held constant to learn the relationship between dependent and independent variables.

Informal learning: Free-choice learning that is nonlinear, self-paced, voluntary, and exploratory as opposed to formal learning.

Informal setting: Learning environment for informal learning such as museums, zoos, aquariums etc.

In situ conservation: conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings and, in the case of domesticated or cultivated species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties.

Instrumental learning: See operant learning.

Interaction: Any movement associated with gaining better comprehension such as stepping closer, touching, discussion, and use of the senses.


Knowledge gain: The retention of previously learned material and the ability to grasp the meaning of the material.


Landscape immersion: Term used by COE (1986) to describe zoo exhibitions that provide the illusion of "naturalism" to the point that visitors are perceptually immersed in the environment.

Leftover technique: Method of indirect observation using traces like pieces of litter, fingerprints, photos and video/audio recording.

LSS: Live Support System (waste, air and water recycling)


MARTIN J., O'REILLY J. (1988): Contemporary environment-behavior research in zoological parks. Environment and Behavior 20: 387-395.

Message: the actual communication received and remembered by zoo visitors. This may include the (cognitive) information, concepts or ideas that the visitor gleans from the actual interpretive information, filtered through the (affective) context of the setting and the distractions, prejudices or attitudes of visitors themselves. The message that counts most is the one the visitor remembers. Serrell emphasizes the importance of clearly and finitely defining the message as the first step in the exhibit design process. Since the message is communicated through the entire immersive environment, the entire team of designers, educators and other stakeholders should participate in framing the intended message.

Mock-up: Prototype, model; an inexpensive simulation of an exhibit or object often used during formative evaluation in order to determine its effectiveness before a final exhibit is completed.


Natural: Existing in or produced by nature; not artificial or imitation.

Naturalistic exhibit: The exhibit represents a natural animal habitat in a convincing way.

Naturalistic: Representing what is real, aiming at replicating a natural environment.

Nocturnal: night active

Noncued testing: Method of formal analysis when subjects are not aware they are to be observed; reflects the motivational impact of exhibit elements.

Non-participatory learning devices: Learning devices with a one-way flow of information.

Nonreactive measures: Methods of collecting data which do not change the behavior of the subject that is being observed.


Obtrusive observation: The subject knows that he/she is being observed.

Operant learning: An operant is a voluntary reaction, unlike a reflex, that has been learned to be successful by non-aimed acting. The likelihood of a particular response then is a function of the immediate consequences that have been associated with it.

Orientation: General term that includes conceptual orientation, wayfinding, and circulation.


Participatory learning devices: Learning devices offering the possibility of interaction.

P.O.E.: Predict - Observe - Explain; a procedure from a publication called "84 Ways to Add Sparkle to Your Teaching" from PEEL (Project for Enhancement of Effective Learning), Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Post-design evaluation: See summative evaluation.

Post-occupancy evaluation: Term used in architectural literature to mean evaluation of a building after the facility is in use. Similar to post-design or summative evaluation.

Pre-design evaluation: See front-end evaluation.

Pre-organizer: See advance organizer.

Pretest: Test given before exhibit exposure.


Realistic: representing what is real; not abstract or idealized.

Reliability: Reliable measurements refer to the consistency and stability of measurements and depend upon objectivity and standardization.

Remedial evaluation: The term refers to a post-design evaluation with the intention of improving exhibits.

Rule learning: As result from learning a rule (that defines a concept) one can use this rule by stating it and selecting new examples of the rule.


Scenario: The outline for a proposed natural or cultural setting which carries out the intended theme; setting the scene.

Spatial patterns: Actual routes followed by visitors through an institution.

Storyline: The narrative or pictorial sequence of active events or experiences envisioned in a themed setting.

Summative evaluation: Focused on installed exhibits, evaluates the extent to which an exhibit/program is meeting its objectives and is cost-effective for future exhibits.

Survey: Self-report method that includes questionnaires, interviews, and rating scales.

Sustainable: The United Nations' World Commission on Environment and Development's definition in 1987 suggests that development is sustainable where it "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."


Temporal patterns: They describe how recreational visitors divide total time spent, e.g. among walking and viewing exhibits, eating, shopping, and other activities such as restrooms, entertainment, playing ground etc.

Theme: The subject of the overall presentation or experience; the overall character-giving concept.

Topographic orientation: This element to visitor orientation involves being able to find or locate places in a facility. Orientation devices such as maps and direction signs are critical for wayfinding.

Tracking: Direct observation of visitor behavior throughout an exhibit area or facility to find spacial, temporal and behavioral patterns. It gives a more complete picture of the visitors' behavior than does focused observation as they move through the facility.

Triangulation: This term refers to the ability of some person or object to promote social interaction between viewers who otherwise would not interact.


Validity: The accuracy of conclusions about measurements depends on several concepts of validity: Is your sample representative? Are your measurements really measuring the concepts you think they are? Does your measurement distort the system? Are the results due to the factors that you think? Do your results generalize? etc.

Variable: Observable/measurable values used for the verification/falsification of hypotheses.

VESDA system: very early smoke detection alert system.


Wayfinding: See topograhic orientation.