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John Ogden 1938 - 2012

Fern Davies

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On March 31, 2012, John C. Ogden, a Fellow of the AOU, died at home in Homestead, Florida following a brief illness.


Dr. Ogden served as the first president of the Waterbird Society, which posted this remembrance:


John Ogden, one of the world’s leading authorities on wading birds and a scientist who fought for and shaped Everglades restoration plans, died at 73. The long-time Redlands resident dedicated nearly 40 years to the Everglades, with a five-year stint out west to help rescue the endangered condor. Ogden worked for Audubon, Everglades National Park and South Florida Water Management district, co-authored a book considered the bible on Everglades science, inspired other scientists and influenced politicians.


The Miami Herald described Dr. Ogden's career and his impact on Everglades restoration:





John Ogden, an eminent authority on the Everglades and influential architect of the plan to restore it, died at his Homestead home on Saturday after a brief illness. He was 73.


As an ornithologist for Everglades National Park and the National Audubon Society in the 1960s and ‘70s, Ogden spent decades crawling through muck and mangroves to become one of the world’s leading authorities on wading birds — at the same time gaining a deep understanding of the complex life cycles of the Everglades.


Later, as lead scientist for the South Florida Water Management District, he would play a crucial role in driving and shaping the multibillion-dollar restoration effort.

He was the soft-spoken but steadfast voice persuading engineers, bureaucrats and politicians that simply pumping more water wouldn’t help reverse the decline of birds and wildlife that were the best barometers of Everglades health. That water had to be delivered at the right time and place, in the right amount.


Nat Reed, vice chairman of the Everglades Foundation and long-time champion of restoration, believes Ogden’s battles to protect the Everglades, often waged behind the scenes, place him in lofty company.

“John is as great a figure as Art Marshall and Marjory Stoneman Douglas yet he’s basically unknown to thousands of citizens who really care about Everglades restoration,” said Reed.

Ogden, whose graying beard, wry wit and signature uniform of Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans reflected his laid back demeanor, might feel uncomfortable on any icon pedestal. But he shared an unflagging passion for the Everglades, devoting more than 40 years of his life to reversing decades of abuse and mismanagement. His stances sometimes ruffled the feathers of bosses and powerful interests.


“Dad had almost a biblical belief in the power of science to help us make decisions,” said his daughter Laura Ogden, an assistant professor of anthropology at Florida International University. “He really pushed that in the face of incredibly daunting opposition.’’

Ogden, born in Nashville on Nov. 18, 1938, was drawn to the outdoors at an early age, his daughter said.


His mother, a nature lover herself, gave him a bird guide when he was home sick from school. As family history goes, he was flipping pages when he looked outside to see the exact bird in a photo he’d settled on — a thrill he never stopped pursuing.

He came to work at Everglades National Park in 1965 as a graduate student from Florida State University. His first foray — a bird survey in mangroves near Flamingo recently raked by Hurricane Betsy — didn’t go well. He struggled through a steamy, mosquito-infested thicket, emerging with a wicked rash from a brush with poisonwood.


But he had found his calling, spending the next four decades in positions of increasing influence with Audubon, the park and water district. Audubon hired him back in 2007 as director of bird conservation.

“He made the science make sense to people,’’ said Eric Draper, Audubon of Florida’s executive director. “You had to stop and listen to him.’’


Ogden literally wrote the book on restoring the River of Grass, co-editing a massive 1994 volume compiled by dozens of scientists, along with more than 85 other academic papers. In the 1980s, he spent five years with Audubon in California leading a program credited with helping bring the California condor back from the brink of extinction.


Nick Aumen, an aquatic ecologist at Everglades National Park, said Ogden served as mentor, inspiration and counselor to numerous colleagues, his stature putting him a select group that other scientists respectfully dubbed “the silverbacks’’ or “gray beards.”


Laura Ogden said her father’s studies — and a childhood spent slogging through the Glades or tending to baby crocs in the bath tub — influenced her own work as well, including her two books, “Gladesmen” and “Swamplife” which focus on the cultural history of the Everglades.


“My father was a fierce champion of my work and who I am as a scholar has always been tied to who I am as a daughter,” she said.


In addition to his daughter, Ogden is survived by his wife, Maryanne Biggar; son, Nicholas, and brother, David. The family plans a memorial at a later date.


Ogden’s boyhood fascination for birds remained until the end. Ogden, binoculars at his bedside, kept a list of species he spotted through his window at South Miami Hospital, said Roger Hammer, a retired Miami-Dade parks naturalist and longtime friend. It topped 40 species, including a peregrine falcon and a nesting pair of swallowtail kites.


“These bird watchers, you just can’t keep them down,’’ Hammer said.


Read more here: http://www.miamihera.../#storylink=cpy

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