FSI Blog

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  • 27 Oct 2015 2:29 PM | Heather Obara (Administrator)

    by Dave Wilson with photos by Dagmar Bastiks

    On October 17, Tom Morris led 23 adventurers on an enjoyable outing to six exquisite springs near Branford.  The stops included Mill Creek Sink (actually near the city of Alachua), Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park, Olsen Springs, Running Springs, Cow Springs, Royal Springs, and Little River Springs. 

    While some members of our group had heard of a few of these gems, most had never visited any of them.  Mill Creek Sink is adjacent to the Sonny’s BBQ where Route 441 goes underneath I75 near Alachua, Florida.  While you have driven past it 1,000 times, you should check it out some time.  It is similar to the Devil’s Millhopper with steep wooden steps leading down to the bottom of the sink.  The difference is that a beautiful reflective pool awaits you at the bottom.  In one of Tom’s multitude of instant lectures, he remarked that the water in the sink is 190 feet deep.  He added that on occasion divers have been stricken with the bends ascending the steps after an extended SCUBA dive.  He also reminded us that a memorable scene from Wes Skiles’ movie “Water’s Journey, the Hidden Rivers of Florida” was filmed at Sonny’s when the geekie physics guy, Brian, walked through the salad bar while carrying a device that magnetically track Tom and Jill Heinerth SCUBA diving through the cave 190 feet below.  Teenagers love that memorable scene. 

    On the political side, we also discussed the current conflict between the City of Alachua and Alachua County concerning the rezoning of 154.5 acres on the other side of Route 441.  Tom was part of a research team that conducted a dye trace study, where dye placed in the sink reappeared 20 days later in Hornsby Springs (on the Santa Fe River).  Thus, an underground conduit transports runoff from nearby commercial developments straight into the spring system along the Santa Fe.             

    The next spring on the agenda was Wes Skiles Peacock Slough with its unusual rock formations decorating the bottom.  While our photographers enjoyed the opportunity to photograph the clear blue water, Tom described the geology of the underground cave system.  After a quick side trip to nearby Olsen Springs, we headed off to Running Springs with its clear flowing steam running directly into the Suwannee.  Celeste Shitama, owner of the spring, was not only gracious enough to let us enjoy her exquisite property, but also joined us for lunch.  Many in our group did not hesitate to enjoy a quick dip.  A water snake also joined in the fun as he cruised by one of the swimmers almost unnoticed.  

    We also walked to Cow Springs, which has a completely different character.  While Running Springs is open and clear, Cow is cold, dark, deep, and shaded by an overhang of large trees.  Despite all these reasons to avoid this spring, a number of our group plunged in anyway.  Celeste captured a wriggling loggerhead musk turtle to show the group. 

    The day was completed with short stops at Royal Springs and Little River Springs, where some of us chatted with locals about various threats to the springs (e.g. a new chicken farm nearby) while others continued to enjoy Tom’s lectures on the flora, geology, and hydrology of the area.  Tom pointed out a honey locust tree at Little River with oversized thorns along the trunk.  While serving no purpose today, he conjectured that these thorns discouraged Pleistocene mammals from eating the foliage.  At Little River we were also greeted by a drone hovering over our heads and a jet-ski roaring up the Suwannee.  Despite these minor disturbances, we all had a great day at the springs.  

    FSI will host its next outing to the Harvey Sharron Bat Cave Field Laboratory on November 7th. Registration is open to 12 springs enthusiasts for $20 each ($10 for students). On this outing you will the importance of caves to the Floridan aquifer system. Click here to register today!

  • 04 Sep 2015 2:38 PM | Heather Obara (Administrator)
    Today concludes the first week of FSI's baseline assessment along the Rainbow River. For the past five days, FSI staff and local volunteers have been engaged in an extensive study of the middle and lower segments of the river with the goal of establishing a baseline of scientific information that will serve as a starting point for future health assessment of this diverse ecosystem, which connects to Rainbow Springs and the Floridan aquifer.

    FSI Executive Director, Dr. Bob Knight (left), leads a team of volunteers conducting light measurements to help determine water clarity. 

    During the week, staff and volunteers have conducted various sampling activities, including fish, bird, and vegetation surveys; flow, depth, and light measurements; and snail and human use counts. FSI is also collecting insects and water quality measurements, such as pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen, throughout the study period. These activities will resume next week with additional data collection and surveying.

    FSI Environmental Scientist, Ron Clark (right), records water quality data with volunteer Dan Hilliard. 

    During the busy holiday weekend, volunteers will conduct additional human use counts of the recreational activities that occur along the river. Examples of these activities include tubing, snorkeling, kayaking and canoeing. If you are planning a visit to the Rainbow River this weekend be sure to waive to our wonderful volunteers as you pass by!

    FSI has already conducted the first phase of the baseline assessment along the lower Ichetucknee River. In October, staff and volunteers will begin a two-week study of the Wakulla River and will re-visit all three systems in Spring 2016. To learn more about FSI's springs baseline assessment project and how you can become a volunteer, click here.

  • 01 Sep 2015 11:07 AM | Heather Obara (Administrator)
    On August 27, Dr. Robert Knight, Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute called for a comprehensive, area-wide groundwater nitrate sampling effort by state and local governments, especially in the karst areas of Alachua and Gilchrist counties. Dr. Knight’s call for action comes after the Alachua County Health Department released private, self-supply well nitrate data confirming the relatively common occurrence of nitrate above safe drinking water levels (10 mg/L) and the lower springs standard of 0.35 mg/L.

    (Source: Florida Department of Health)

    (Source: http:// www.dep.state.fl.us/water/drinkingwater/)

    The Alachua County Department of Health has initiated additional sampling and nitrate testing of private wells in the area of the Watson Dairy in eastern Gilchrist County. “In our opinion,” stated Knight, “that does not go far enough considering the human and ecological health risks posed by these elevated pollutant concentrations…This sampling effort should be expedited and results need to be widely publicized so that local residents are aware of the risks they face and the alternatives they have to avoid those risks.”

    A PDF version of this information is available for download here.

  • 01 Sep 2015 10:18 AM | Heather Obara (Administrator)
    One of the many goals of the Florida Springs Institute is to disseminate current best available knowledge and information about the ecology and environmental condition of Florida's springs to the public and their leaders through continuous public outreach and education. We know that websites containing a plethora of information can be difficult to navigate when you are looking for specific content, which is why we are starting the FSI Blog!

    The FSI Blog will serve as a platform for the newest information and content on Florida's springs released by FSI and our springs allies. Blog posts may contain press releases, event announcements, educational materials and resources, important springs articles and editorials, and scientific updates on springs health. Although much of this information may be found elsewhere on the FSI website, the FSI Blog will help guide you to the most important content on springs in a web-friendly format and will provide an opportunity for discussion and public engagement. 

    We hope to update the blog frequently as new information becomes available. We will also include similar updates on our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ profiles for those who prefer to follow us on social media. To receive direct updates from the FSI Blog, please click on the RSS link at the top of the page. We look forward to continuing to provide our members and supporters with updated scientific and educational information on Florida's springs and to encourage the public and Florida's leaders to engage in efforts that lead to the protection of these natural treasures for current and future generations!
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