Florida Environment & Natural History Portal
Coordinator, Library Operations: LGBTQ+ Studies, USF Libraries, Special Collections, University of South Florida
As climate change, pollution, and the loss of wildlife and habitats due to human development have become some of the most decisive and pressing issues on the planet, environmental concerns increasingly define our present era and have deeply influenced both public and academic landscapes. Situated with three campuses along Florida’s gulf coast, the University of South Florida (USF) has a unique vantage point on and interest in issues related to the local environment and sustainability.
In support of research on these topics and the university’s core commitments, USF Libraries formally launched the Florida Environment and Natural History (FLENH) collections initiative in 2020. This endeavor positions USF as a leader among U.S. academic institutions collecting in environmental and natural history by establishing a central repository for historic and contemporary scientific data and providing sustainable institutional support for the ingest, creation, and distribution of archival and secondary research resources centered on the impacts to, and effects on, Florida’s natural environment.
Information about the collections and their reach across library units can be found on our FLENH Portal. The USF Libraries’ FLENH collections are growing with an eye on promoting knowledge and awareness through a unique combination of open-access resources and a team of dedicated experts who are committed to developing and sustaining the infrastructure, collections, and professional connections. In order to fulfill the mission of FLENH, Special Collections personnel build and foster relationships with faculty, researchers, organizations, and community donors to collect, preserve, and provide access to books, artifacts, and archival materials.
Page from hydrology field notebook. Geological Investigations (1939-1943), Dr. Garald Gordon Parker Collection
FLENH materials have been collected for decades at USF, driven by a partnership with Audubon Florida and their research outposts and sanctuaries across the state. In total, the library is home to the archives of seven Audubon society archival collections with more to be added in 2022. In total, FLENH archival collections currently number twenty-four, with crossover themes present in other holdings. In addition to ornithology, other areas of specialty include research into coastlines, coral reefs, and environmental education.
In addition to hard sciences and data, Special Collections has also sought to leverage existing collections to underscore how deeply interwoven environmental issues are in research material scholars might not at first consider. Focusing on the papers of state politicians, policymakers, scholars, and journalists, the natural history aspect of FLENH reveals connections between the environment and areas such as lobbying and legislation, labor and economy, tourism, public health, infrastructure, advocacy and activism, and industrial agriculture.
Rare books and historic texts on botany and the discovery of new species allow for inquiry into the evolution of scientific practice and teaching. Although only at the beginning, USF’s FLENH initiative has already brought together interdisciplinary partnerships to foster education both on and off the university’s campuses. FLENH materials have been embedded in course curricula in disciplines such a history and literary studies, been utilized for a graduate intern’s field work experience, funded undergraduate scholarships, and been the focus of grant opportunities for a cross-campus faculty learning cooperative. We look forward to future expansion and contribution to the professional discourse surrounding libraries and the environment.
- Catesby, Mark, and George Edwards. Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands: Containing the Figures of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects and Plants: Particularly the Forest-Trees, Shrubs and Other Plants, Not Hitherto Described, or Very Incorrectly Figured by Authors. …To Which Are Added, Observations on the Air, Soil, and Waters: With Remarks upon Agriculture, Grain, Pulse, Roots, &c.. London: Printed for C. Marsh [etc.], 1754. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Department, Tampa Library, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
- Dr. Garald Gordon Parker Collection. Special Collections Department, Tampa Library, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.