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Biology Overview

John Ogden

Florida Institute of Oceanography
University of South Florida
St. Petersburg, FL



A.B. Princeton University 1962
Ph.D. Stanford University Biological Sciences 1968
John Ogden is responsible for the operation of shared-used facilities (two ships and a marine lab) and administration of inter-institutional grants and contracts in marine research.
"Try not to be seduced completely by the virtual world which has a great deal to offer. Remember that a biologist draws his/her inspiration ultimately from nature. Take walks in the woods, better yet, take a 5 year-old for walks in the woods. You will find inspiration and you will be making a down payment on the future of biology."

What fields of biology do you work in?
Ogden: Marine ecology; marine conservation; marine resources management.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
Ogden: From my earliest years spent in the woods within nature.

Q: What was your college experience like?
Ogden: I found my first two years in college prior to declaring a major to be academically difficult. I opened up considerably after I declared Biology as my major and interacted more or less professionally with the faculty while writing my Junior Paper and Senior Thesis. 

Q: Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
Ogden: Yes. I ran a small natural history museum in Harriman Park; I was a summer Park Ranger Aid in a small California redwood park; a technical assistant in a major pharmaceutical lab; and I received my own small grant to study of fishes in the tributaries of the Delaware River.

Q: How did you get your first job?
Ogden: I studiously read the ads in the back pages of Science magazine and was very persistent while overcoming disappointment and discouragement.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
Ogden: In the academic world, you are your own boss and function in part as an independent entrepreneur which provides great freedom as well as great responsibility. I also enjoy teaching as long as it is mixed with the research/field experience. I have also taken every opportunity to travel the world and have found this important and rewarding. 

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've worked on has positively impacted the world?
Ogden: Some of my early work on Caribbean coral reefs while I was a junior professor has stood the test of time and is still cited. The best part, however, has come later in life when my experience has pre-adapted me to work on the science-policy interface and to help to define national marine conservation policy.

Q: Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Ogden: Yes. I enjoy experiencing new cultures seeing nature in exotic environments and interacting with colleagues from all over the world.

Q: Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
Ogden: The beautiful thing about advanced study in the sciences is that it is an apprenticeship with a major professor in which the rewards of problem solving are shared and education is by doing rather than reading. Thus, I have depended upon mentors both in my undergraduate and graduate years, to say nothing of my years as a junior faculty member. Now, I hope I am successful in mentoring younger colleagues and students.

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Ogden: I have always worked in a team situation and my current job is to forge teams around large ocean scientific and management problems. In some ways it may be natural to work this way in marine science as we are often constrained by ships, submersibles and equipment where inter-disciplinary teamwork is essential.

Q: Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while working in your current job?
Ogden: As a senior faculty member I have long since learned how important this is and how to do it. I have to say, however, that it was not so in my early years where I felt that extraordinary effort was required to get ahead, get grants, write papers and stay abreast of my field.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Ogden: Absolutely. I am quite certain that had I not been so fortunate in higher education, I would have been a biologist anyway, pulled always by the need to be in nature.

Q: Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in the real world?
Ogden: School provided the basic tools, but the real education in research in biology and perhaps many other fields is by doing. I have often wondered if one could become a good biologist by getting grounding in the science basics in college and then going immediately into the field without the PhD.

Q: Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
Ogden: The future opportunities for biologists are explosively expanding with daily discoveries in genetics, physiology, neurobiology, ecology, and so on opening up new areas of knowledge and research. Students should use their college years to get as well grounded in the science basics and use free time and summer to experiment with jobs, travel, and educational experiences.

Q: What other advice do you have for precollege students?
Ogden: The young dream and those dreams become our future. Do not be discouraged by people who try to fit square pegs in round holes. Keep your edges, your ideas and your dreams. Do the best you can do in college to become educated in the liberal sense and exercise those dreams every chance that you get.

One other thing. Try not to be seduced completely by the virtual world which has a great deal to offer. Remember that a biologist draws his/her inspiration ultimately from nature. Take walks in the woods, better yet, take a 5 year-old for walks in the woods. You will find inspiration and you will be making a down payment on the future of biology.


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