The Florida Ornithological Society Nests at the USF Libraries 

Special Collections is the official repository of the society’s physical and digital records
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Many birds migrate in predictable ways, heading north in spring as winter retreats from cooler climes and cycling south in the fall as northern habitats freeze over. Florida’s milder climate, however, sustains both the migrants and the state’s charismatic resident birds.

For the last fifty years, members of the Florida Ornithological Society (FOS) have studied and appreciated bird life in Florida. A natural hub for bird scholars and enthusiasts, the society formed in 1972 under the sponsorship of the Audubon Society of Florida (then known as the Florida Audubon Society), with a mission to “advance ornithology in Florida and surrounding areas, support research and education about birds, and unite amateurs and professionals in the study of wild birds.”

From FOS archives: The birding journal of Helen Cruickshank, Rye, New York, 1952. Married to Allan Cruickshank of the Audubon Society, the two made a highly effective team, with Allan taking black and white photos for their studies while Helen produced color slides.

Beginning in 1973, the FOS has published the Florida Field Naturalist, which covers Florida’s biology and natural history. Through research awards, systematic studies such as the Florida Bird Checklist, special publications, and statewide projects such as the Breeding Bird Atlas, the FOS is a vital resource for anyone interested in Florida’s avifauna.

The USF Libraries are pleased to announce a new partnership with the FOS. Library courtesy faculty appointee Dr. Ann Hodgson, who is also a long-time member of the FOS, has been collaborating with Special Collections Associate Librarian Andy Huse on similar projects for more than ten years. They began by acquiring environmentally themed collections that helped inspire a new strategic vision for Dean of USF Libraries Todd Chavez. As an avid birder himself, Dean Chavez immediately saw the value in such records and created the Florida Environment and Natural History (FLENH) initiative, which prioritized such materials for future acquisitions. Considering the Libraries’ many previous successes with environmental scholars and the Audubon Society of Florida, the Florida Ornithological Society seemed like a natural fit to join the FLENH nest.

From FOS archives: FOS birding expedition hikes into the mist, Gainesville, 1999.

After contacting the FOS leadership about their records in the summer of 2021, Huse was asked to speak at a FOS board meeting. Through collaborative discussions afterwards, the Libraries and Society finalized a memorandum of understanding that formalized their relationship this past December. The agreement specified the USF Libraries as the official repository of FOS’s physical and digital records. In February 2022, the FOS records were transferred from the Florida Museum of Natural History to Special Collections. Since then, Special Collections staff have been consulting with FOS leadership on ways we can expand our joint engagement and increase the educational impact of our burgeoning relationship. The conversations have been very encouraging for both sides.

FOS President Ann Paul is energized by the collaboration, saying, “We appreciate our new partnership with the libraries, especially as we are entering the society’s fiftieth year. We anticipate that the partnership between the Florida Ornithological Society and the University will offer many opportunities to make history together.”

Tomaro Taylor, Director of Special Collections, shares, “We are excited to work with the FOS on building print and digital collections that explore the scientific study of birds. These materials couple with our existing Audubon Florida sanctuaries holdings to create a wealth of resources that both students and professional researchers will flock to.”

Current FOS Special Publications Editor, Dr. Hodgson, has been working with Special Collections to solicit FLENH materials for more than a decade. She is confident that “adding fifty years of Florida’s ornithological history to the FLENH nest shares this important collection with scholars of all disciplines through the worldwide Digital Commons.”

From FOS archives: FOS birding expedition in the Bahamas, 1996.

For Special Collections, the FLENH related materials have helped the archive round out its scientific holdings, which tended to be dominated by arts and humanities subjects in the past. Huse and other library staff look forward to using the FOS records to tell its story through a digital exhibit. Drawing upon documents, photos, and conversations with society members, the exhibit will be unveiled at the society’s fiftieth annual meeting, to be held in Fort Lauderdale in October—and the Libraries are looking for other ways to make the golden anniversary that much more special.

The USF Libraries are grateful to the Florida Ornithological Society’s leadership and members for their partnership. Jointly, several exciting projects are being developed although not quite ready to be fledged publicly, but we are thrilled that the relationship is taking wing.

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