Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Michael T. Maslanka

Head, Department of Nutrition Science

  • Leads the Zoo’s Commissary operation, clinical nutrition, nutrition laboratories, education and outreach, which comprises the comprehensive nutrition program at both the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
  • Coordinates nutrition research to improve the health and welfare of zoo animals worldwide, and oversees the Zoo’s Milk Repository (the largest collection of exotic animal milks in the world)
  • Manages the sustainable use of our natural resources to provide an ongoing (and increasing) supply of  hay, browse, and bamboo for the Zoo’s animal collection.

Michael Maslanka, Head of the Department of Nutrition Science, is responsible for oversight and guidance of Commissary operations, clinical nutrition, nutrition lab operations, field and zoo-based nutrition research, nutrition education, and outreach for the Rock Creek and Front Royal campuses of the Zoo. He came to the National Zoo in November 2007.

Maslanka is a professional fellow in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), serves as the Chair of the AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, and is a member of the Comparative Nutrition Society. He currently serves as nutrition advisor for numerous SSP and TAG Programs across a variety of different taxa. He has chaired or co-chaired the AZA Nutrition Advisory Group Conferences on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition since 1999, and has the opportunity to guest lecture in a variety of undergraduate and graduate level nutrition courses at several universities around the United States.


Before joining the staff at the Zoo, Maslanka was the nutritionist at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, and has worked and/or consulted for numerous other zoos throughout the U.S. during his career.

Maslanka received his B.S. in Wildlife Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1993. He received his M.S. in Nutritional Physiology from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He completed his Zoo Nutrition Residency with the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo in 1998.

Maslanka’s main areas of nutrition research include: sustainable forage management for agriculture and wildlife value, the use and development of body condition scoring scales for practical management of zoo animals, foraging behavior and nutritional physiology of whale sharks; comparative milk composition, nutrient metabolism of amphibians and reptiles; and practical collection-based clinical nutrition concerns.