University of South Florida


An image Dr. John Ogden on a sail boat which is now in the USF Digital Libraries Collection.

Coral Reef Changes Documented in New USF Libraries Digital Collection

Forty years of coral reef research is now available to USF students and scientists worldwide. Integrative Biology Professor Emeritus John Ogden, PhD, donated thousands of photos from his research on tropical coastal marine ecosystems along with their accompanying journal publications, maps, data and field diaries. It’s a living collection intended to provide a window to the past to help future oceanographic exploration.

Photo of a star fish at the bottom of the sea.

“We are trying to convey what it’s like to do this kind of field work in the marine environment and what a particular place was like at the time,” said Ogden. “For example, coral reefs have changed greatly in the last three decades and science is trying to document change over time. These collections can provide a historical baseline.”

Ogden’s extensive research and documentation of coral reefs, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems has taken him across the globe, to places such as the Great Barrier Reef, numerous Pacific islands, many Caribbean islands and mainland regions and the Red Sea. One of his many projects was an expedition among the turtle-hunting Miskito Indians of Nicaragua to study how green turtles and hence people depend on seagrass meadows for their livelihood. The collections feature photos of myriad species of fishes, invertebrates and plants characteristic of each area. While handheld GPS units weren’t available for these early explorations, Ogden says the location of where most of the photos can be established within a square mile or closer. This allows new research to be conducted on a region’s trajectory of change over time.

Ogden spent 22 years at USF and retired in 2010. During that time, he also served as director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, the state’s designated organization for facilitating education and research at most of the institutions working in Florida’s marine and coastal environment. His collections are in the process of being digitized and will ultimately be available online to the public through the USF Libraries Digital Collections, which is currently collecting donations to assist in this effort.

Dr. John Ogden shows some of photo slides to USF library staff

In addition to the new collection, Ogden established the Dr. John Ogden Caribbean and Coral Reef Collection Fund, which provides support for collection digitization, preservation and upkeep of future collections, along with a scholarship component which will become available to USF students during the 2021-2020 school year.

If you are interested in providing support to the Dr. John Ogden Caribbean and Coral Reef Collection Fund, you can do so by visiting or by contacting the USF Libraries Office of Development at 813-974-3888.

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