Board of Directors

Robert L. Knight, PhD

President of the Board

Dr. Knight is an environmental scientist/systems ecologist. He has over 38 years of experience as an aquatic and wetland ecologist in Florida. His doctoral work included an ecological assessment of Silver Springs and Silver River under the direction of Howard T. Odum. He completed assessments of the quantitative basis for establishing a minimum flow regime for protection of water and human-use resource values (WRVs) in Volusia County Blue Spring, a 50-year retrospective study of the ecological health of Silver Springs, the basis for establishing pollutant load reduction goals and WRVs for the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run, and a comparison of the ecology of twelve of Florida’s artesian springs.

Under Dr. Knight's leadership, the Florida Springs Institute has developed restoration action plans for Glen Springs, Ichetucknee Springs, Kings Bay Springs, Lower Suwannee River Springs, Rainbow Springs, Santa Fe River Springs, Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs, and Wekiva River and Springs. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for the Florida Springs Institute, Dr. Knight is also a Board and/or Advisory Panel member for the Silver Springs Alliance, Ichetucknee Alliance, Our Santa Fe River, Wakulla Springs Alliance, Florida Defenders of the Environment, and Florida Springs Council.

Awards & Recognitions

Florida Federation of Garden Clubs Earth Steward (2015)

Fourth Annual Spirit of Gainesville Education Award (2014)

Rotary International First Annual Stewardship Water Award (2014)

Silver Springs Alliance Board of Directors (2012-2013)

Marion County Springs Festival Distinguished Speaker (2011)

Patricia Harden

Vice President of the Board

Pat has been involved in environmental issues related to water for the past 35 years. She is a retired Manager of Environmental Affairs at Walt Disney World Co. She served eight years on the St Johns River Water Management Board, including two years as Chair. She is a founding member of the Friends of the Wekiva River, Inc., and has remained involved in issues concerning protection of Wekiwa Springs and the river ecosystem. Pat is former Chair and current Trustee on The Nature Conservancy, Florida Chapter board and has been recognized by the Florida Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the Soil Conservation Society of America for work in conservation.

David Wilson, PhD

Treasurer of the Board

Dr. Wilson earned his PhD in mathematics from Rutgers in 1969. In September 1972, he joined the Mathematics Department at the University of Florida, where he taught for 35 years before retiring in 2007. During his career, he taught both theoretical and applied mathematics to engineers, computer scientists, and mathematics students. In addition to dozens of publications, he organized a number of mathematics conferences and symposia including the first Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (or SIAM) conference on imaging science in Boston in 2002, where 239 researchers attended ( He also collaborated with Dr. Edward A. Geiser, MD in the UF Medical School for 15 years on an echocardiography research project focused on the development of computer based algorithms designed to make measurements of heart function. Dave is an avid canoeist, hiker, and biker. He has led, organized, and/or participated in hundreds of outings. He has also served several times as treasurer and twice as chair of the local Sierra Club.

Mary Odum, PhD

Secretary of the Board

Dr. Odum has worked in healthcare as a nurse for 35 years, including 20 years as a nursing professor. Before relocating to Gainesville Florida, she taught Nursing and Honors at University of Alaska Anchorage, and was involved with their Complex Systems Group. She administers a 2-year old blog called, and she is a featured author at She is also a Trustee and Secretary for the Emergy Society (International Society for the Advancement of Emergy Research). She learned most of what she knows about systems thinking from her ecologist father and uncle, the Odum brothers.

Senator Dennis L. Jones

member of the board

Senator Jones is a retired chiropractic physician, who has served in the Florida House of Representatives (1978-2000) and the Florida Senate (2002-2008). From 2002-2004, he also served as the Senate Majority Leader. During his legislative career, Senator Jones focused his efforts on improvements to health care, education, the criminal justice system, and the environment. His crowning legislative achievement came in 2000, with the passage of legislation to establish Florida’s first permanent funding source for a comprehensive beach nourishment program.

In recognition of his dedication to Florida, Senator Jones has received numerous awards, including the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association Legislative Award, Legislative Conservation Award, Legislator of the Year Award, Theodore Roosevelt Society, Inc. “Teddy Award”, and the Florida Audubon Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award to name a few.

Senator Jones lives in Dunnellon, FL, with his wife Susan, on the Rainbow River. He has witnessed the degradation of our rivers and springs first-hand and has focused his efforts on springs and river restoration by regularly providing public comment on issues he has experienced on the Rainbow River and working with local conservation groups. Dennis and Susan have five grandchildren.

Buddy MacKay, Esq.

Member of the Board

Buddy is a retired attorney and former state legislator (serving in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives), U. S. Representative, Lt. Governor and Governor of the State of Florida. He grew up on a citrus farm near Ocala. In addition to his work with the Florida Springs Institute, Buddy also serves on the Advisory Board of the Conservation Trust for Florida.

Robert Palmer, PhD

Member of the Board

Dr. Palmer holds a Ph.D. in marine biology and worked on the staff of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the U. S. House of Representatives for 26 years, including 12 years as the Committee's Staff Director. He serves on a number of for-profit and non-profit boards and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Bob formerly chaired the Alachua County Environmental Protection Advisory Committee. 

Phyllis Park Saarinen

Member of the Board

Phyllis is a retired water economist with an MS in Resource Economics from the University of Florida. She retired as Senior Economist with Hazen & Sawyer Environmental Engineers & Scientists, but previously was the founder and president of Resource Economics Consultants, Inc., in Gainesville, FL. Earlier she worked for Camp Dresser & McKee Environmental Engineers and Scientists in Virginia and Boston. She has been an environmental advocate all of her adult life, beginning with the Fairfax County League of Women Voters as their first Environmental Studies Chair in 1969. She was also on the board of the Broward County League and the president of the Seminole County League. She was Vice President of the Friends of Wekiva River and appointed by Governor Bob Martinez to the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission (1987-91).  She served on the Alachua County Economic Development Advisory Committee and on the City of Gainesville Water Management Committee. All three of the children she raised with Arthur Saarinen are professionals working in the environmental field.

Jim Stevenson

Member of the Board

Jim is a retired senior biologist with the Department of Environmental Protection. Jim began his 38 year career with the Department as a park ranger while attending the University of South Florida.  He served as Chief Biologist for the Florida State Park System for 20 years during which he guided the restoration and protection of state park springs. 

Jim organized and coordinated spring basin interagency working groups for Wakulla Spring and Ichetucknee Springs for 18 years. He was Chairman of the Florida Springs Task Force that developed a protection strategy for Florida’s springs and he was Director of the Governor’s Florida Springs Initiative that funded springs protection. He conducted Florida Springs Conferences in 2000 and 2003 and coordinated the Florida Springs Rally at the Capital in 2010. In recognition of his dedication to the protection of Florida’s springs, the State of Florida named a large spring on the Suwannee River “Stevenson Spring” in his honor.

For his longstanding stewardship of Florida’s public lands, the Governor and Cabinet dedicated the “Jim Stevenson Resource Manager of the Year Award” that is given annually by the Governor and Cabinet to the most deserving state lands manager in the Department of Environmental Protection, the Division of Forestry and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Robert E. Ulanowicz, PhD

Member of the Board

Dr. Ulanowicz is a native of Baltimore and a graduate of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. He received a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering Science from the The Johns Hopkins University, and is currently Professor Emeritus with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Dr. Ulanowicz pursued research on the analysis of ecological networks at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, MD for 38 years, before moving to Gainesville, FL, where he is now a Courtesy Professor with the UF Department of Biology. 

In 1987, Dr. Ulanowicz was a featured speaker at the Royal Swedish Academy Symposium honoring H.T. Odum with the Crafoord Prize. In 2007, Robert was awarded the Ilya A. Prigogine Medal from the University of Siena for outstanding research in ecosystems dynamics. Dr. Ulanowicz has written three books, Growth and Development: Ecosystems Phenomenology (1986), Ecology, the Ascendent Perspective (1997) and A Third Window: Natural Life beyond Newton and Darwin (2009) and authored over 190 refereed publications. He has maintained an almost lifelong attachment to the springs of Florida, visiting them from Maryland at least yearly since 1962.

Terry L. Zinn, Esq.

Member of the Board

Terry has a B.S. in Biology, M.S. in Wildlife Ecology, and a J.D.  He has worked as an environmental attorney for over 27 years in private and public areas.  His practice has focused on remedial work at contaminated sites, groundwater contamination, wetlands, endangered species. 

He now raises over 30 species of native wildflower seed on his farm, Wildflowers of Florida, Inc., in northern Alachua County. Terry has been researching and producing native wildflower seed for 16 years. He is a founding member, Vice President, and past President and Treasurer of the Florida Wildflower Cooperative.  He was appointed in 2007 to the Florida Wildflower Foundation board as the Cooperative’s representative and currently serves as Chair of the Board.  He is a past board member and Chair of the Conservation Trust for Florida.

The Florida Springs Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. All or a portion of your donation may be tax deductible. FEIN 46-1663401.

Mailing Address: 23695 W US HWY 27, High Springs, FL 32643
MainTel: (386) 454-9369

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