Florida Institute of Oceanography
University of South Florida
St. Petersburg, FL
Princeton University 1962
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.
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."
fields of biology do you work in?
Marine ecology; marine conservation; marine
When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
From my earliest years spent in the woods within
What was your college experience like?
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
Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
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
How did you get your first job?
I studiously read the ads in the back pages of
Science magazine and was very persistent while overcoming disappointment
What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
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
Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've
worked on has positively impacted the world?
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.
Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Yes. I enjoy experiencing new cultures seeing
nature in exotic environments and interacting with colleagues from all
over the world.
Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
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.
Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
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.
Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while
working in your current job?
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.
If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
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.
Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in
the real world?
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.
Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students
be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
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.
What other advice do you have for precollege students?
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.