Remembering John Ogden

A giant's legacy.

National Audubon’s staff and environmental activists suffered a tragic loss this spring with the death, at 73, of John Ogden, a great scientist and an influential conservationist in the preservation of Florida’s Everglades.

“John was a stickler for just that—sound, well-conceived, properly conducted, peer-reviewed science,” says Nathaniel P. Reed, a former Audubon board member and Assistant U.S. Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and National Parks in the Nixon and Ford administrations. “John was a giant, a determined companion in our efforts to save what’s left of the great Everglades ecosystem and dramatically improve the management of the water resources on which so much of South Florida’s wildlife depends.”

Audubon hired Ogden away from the National Park Service in 1974 as its senior research biologist. He became a leading authority on wood storks and their complex needs in southern wetlands. During the early 1980s he helped manage Audubon’s research and conservation campaign to preserve the California condor.

He continued working closely with Audubon biologists after returning to the National Park Service in 1988 as a senior research scientist on restoration projects in the Everglades. He later became lead environmental scientist in the planning department of the South Florida Water Management District. Fittingly, before his official retirement, he served as director of bird conservation for Audubon of Florida.

In recent years Ogden was a consultant for various wetlands restoration initiatives. He also made several trips to Cuba, building partnerships between American and Cuban scientists studying birds and butterflies. Before his illness, he had planned two trips to Cuba for this past spring.

On March 30, John’s wife, Maryanne Biggar, and daughter Laura Ogden brought him from the hospital to his home, set among lush Florida foliage in Homestead. “He died the next day,” says Laura. “Maryanne and I were with him. The French doors were wide open to the butterfly garden, and the garden was filled with painted buntings.”

This story originally ran in the July-August 2012 issue as "A Giant's Legacy."