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Guest post from John Clarke, Coordinator for Florida Environment and Natural History collections at Special Collections, USF Libraries, Tampa campus.
The Dr. John Ogden Caribbean and Coral Reef collection is an important collection of marine science research materials donated from USF integrative biology professor emeritus, Dr. John Ogden. Dr. Ogden’s career in marine biology took him all over the Caribbean, including places like the Virgin Islands, Panama, Nicaragua, Belize, and more. For each of his research excursions, Dr. Ogden collected his field notes, photographs, maps, data, and other research materials and compiled them into research binders. Looking at ecosystem change over time is a prominent theme of Dr. Ogden’s collections. Many of the issues he studied, such as Black Band Disease amongst corals, are still pressing issues in the field of marine science. These materials are thus able to serve as critical reference points that current research can be informed by.
Dr. Ogden generously donated this collection of research binders to the USF Libraries where they can now be shared with students and researchers to help provide a historical baseline to inform contemporary research and management issues in marine biology. The Dr. John Ogden collection joins the library’s Florida Environment and Natural History (FLENH) collection initiative where it supports the goal of protecting and promoting natural history collections for use in addressing current environmental issues.
The contents of the Dr. John Ogden collection include photographs of the breath-taking coral reefs and marine environments that Dr. Ogden spent his career researching. Also included are his detailed field notes, maps, and datasets. Students and researchers viewing his collections have the chance to view things like photographs of the Hydrolab underwater laboratory stationed at St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. They can also read Dr. Ogden’s narrative account in his field notes that describe his time at Hydrolab, researching rainbow parrotfish and artificial reefs.
Viewers can be transported to the Miskito Cays, Nicaragua to see the seagrass transects and fish surveys that Dr. Ogden conducted while serving as the chief scientist on an expedition of the Research Vessel Alpha Helix. These seagrass beds and marine ecosystems studied by Dr. Ogden at the Miskito Cays are important feeding grounds and habitat for green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and many other marine species.
Viewers can also travel with Dr. Ogden to the San Blas Islands of Panama where he returned after 20 years to the same research locations to investigate how the coral reef ecosystems had changed over time. Environmental systems are continuing to change over time, so historical research collections like Dr. Ogden’s give vital snapshots of what ecosystems were like at different points in time.
The Special Collections team has been processing these important marine science research collections through digitally scanning them and uploading them to USF’s Digital Commons where they can be viewed by researchers around the world. In addition, metadata has been added to the digital scans of Dr. Ogden’s materials to note locations, species, and other pertinent information. The addition of metadata will add important context to the photographs, maps, and other materials and help make the collections more searchable and accessible for users.
The collection has grown recently with the addition of over 30 research binders from Dr. Ogden. This exciting addition to the collection will provide new insights into the coral reef and marine science research conducted by Dr. Ogden at locations like the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and even the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
Anyone interested in viewing the Dr. Ogden Caribbean and Coral Reef collection can access it online through USF Digital Commons or in-person through making an appointment at USF Libraries – Tampa Special Collections. Interested parties can view the finding aid for the collection here and can use the Libraries’ FLENH Contact Form to get in touch with a member of the FLENH team.
In addition to the generous donation of his research collections, Dr. Ogden also established a scholarship for students to utilize the materials for their studies and research at USF. The Dr. John Ogden Coral Reef Collection Scholarship is an annual award of up to $500 for a full or part-time USF student. Applications are currently open from now until May 19, 2023. Applications can be submitted through USF’s AwardSpring system. All students are encouraged to apply and the FLENH team is available to answer any questions regarding the scholarship and application.