Springs Field School

Registration for this event is closed.

Join the Florida Springs Institute for an in-depth course on Florida springs for all backgrounds. Held from July 25th-28th in Ocala, the Springs Field School explores topics on springs ecology, water use, pollution impacts, and environmental management.


Florida’s artesian (deep groundwater) springs are an important natural resource, providing the basis for extensive wildlife support and human recreation. These springs and the Floridan Aquifer that feeds them are under increasing threats from human activities, including flow reductions, nutrient increases, aquatic weed management activities, recreational impacts, and a variety of water resource development projects. A growing awareness of these problems is leading to a rapid increase in demand for knowledge about the basic chemistry, biology, and ecology of springs to be used for improved resource management. This course provides an overview of the current understanding of how springs are a product of their environmental surroundings and how they respond to management decisions.

Photos by Tessa Skiles and Heather Obara.

who should take this course?

This course is offered to those interested in Florida’s water resources from a science, management, or administrative perspective and for those who wish to develop or sharpen their understanding of aquatic ecology in general. This course should be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students, environmental educators, ecologists, environmental scientists, water resources engineers, natural resource and forestry professionals, transportation and development professionals, environmental advocates, and those practicing environmental law.

This course is not recommended for K-12 students.


During the Springs Field school, we will be lodging, attending lectures, and eating meals at the Retreat at Silver Springs. For those staying overnight, each person will be assigned a private, air-conditioned room with its own bathroom and shower. For more info about the facility, click here.


  • Intro to Florida’s Springs
  • Florida Karst Geology & Hydrology
  • Springs Water Quality Management
  • Springs Biology – Flora and Fauna
  • Water Physical and Chemical Properties
  • Utilizing Geographic Information Systems for Springs Conservation
  • Spring Flows and Aquifer Recharge
  • Springs Restoration


Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area

Rainbow Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park

Ocala Wastewater Treatment Plant 

Ocala Wetland 


As a nonprofit, we put the funds we receive back into our events and programs. The registration cost of this event covers our direct expenses for the event, which includes room and board, meals, speaker costs, staffing costs, course materials, and field trip fees.

On occasion we are able to offer scholarships for our events or lower the registration cost thanks to sponsors. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this event, please contact Heather Obara.


Jul 25 2019 - Jul 27 2019

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Jul 25 2019 - Jul 28 2019


The Retreat at Silver Springs
6455 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488, USA
Florida Springs Institute


Florida Springs Institute
(386) 454-9369


  • Angeline Meeks
    Angeline Meeks
    GIS Analyst, Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

    Angeline’s love for the springs started here in High Springs, her hometown. A graduate of Santa Fe High School, she received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Central Florida, where she discovered her passion for cartography and geospatial analysis. Following graduation, she spent two years in Turkey traveling and teaching English to students and corporate professionals. She went on to receive her MSc in Environmental Informatics from the University of Leicester in the UK. Her thesis focused on performing and visualizing a contamination risk assessment of the Floridan Aquifer and was awarded the departmental Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) prize for best GIS thesis. Angeline is continuing her research on the Floridan Aquifer as a GIS Analyst with the Florida Springs Institute.

  • Christine Denny
    Christine Denny
    President and Co-Founder, First Magnitude Brewing Company

    Christine Denny is president and co-founder of First Magnitude Brewing Company. She has an MS in Forest Resources and Conservation from the University of Florida. Prior to getting into the beer world, she spent 17 years as an environmental consultant, focusing much of her work on balancing the needs of people and the environment, working on issues related to Florida springs and public lands.

  • Dr. Robert Knight
    Dr. Robert Knight
    Executive Director, Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

    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 and Middle Suwannee River Springs, Rainbow Springs, Santa Fe River Springs, Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs, Volusia Blue Springs, Wekiva River, Wekiva Springs, and recently published a comprehensive report on the ecological health and restoration needs for all of Florida’s 1,000+ artesian springs. Dr. Knight is the author of Silenced Springs – Moving from Tragedy to Hope. 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 Ichetucknee Alliance, Our Santa Fe River, Wakulla Springs Alliance, Florida Defenders of the Environment, and Florida Springs Council.

  • Dr. Stephen Walsh
    Dr. Stephen Walsh
    Aquatic Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center

    Dr. Stephen J. Walsh is an aquatic ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, in Gainesville, Florida. He has been in federal service with the Department of the Interior for over 25 years. Steve received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from St. Louis University, a master’s degree in Zoology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Florida. His primary research interests are the ecology, systematics, and conservation of freshwater fishes and other aquatic organisms.

    Dr. Walsh has worked in a variety of habitats, including karst ecosystems (Florida springs of the St. Johns and Suwannee rivers), Interior Highlands (streams and springs of the southern Appalachians and Ozarks), large rivers and streams of the Coastal Plain (Apalachicola River and other southeastern watersheds), and estuaries. In addition, he has conducted field research internationally, including the Neotropics, Africa, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and Pacific islands of Micronesia. Dr. Walsh holds affiliate faculty appointments with three departments of the University of Florida (Florida Museum of Natural History, Department of Biology, Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences).

  • Eric Hutcheson
    Eric Hutcheson
    Cartographer and cave diver

    Eric is a world-renowned underwater cave explorer and cartographer, and has been involved in exploration nearly all his life. Growing up in South Florida, he spent his early years snorkeling reefs, rock pits and canals. Inspired by his Grandfather, a successful architectural engineer and artist, the young explorer learned to transfer his visions to paper creating award-winning artistic maps. He has combined cave diving, art, and exploration into an exciting career.

    Eric has professionally explored over 100 caves, springs, and reefs and mapped more than 50 cave systems throughout Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico. He served as a primary member of the team mapping and exploring the world’s longest underwater cave. Surveying over 50 miles, Nohoch Nah Chich is located along the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Eric’s pet projects include Silver Springs, the world’s largest artesian spring, and Silver Glen Springs, home of Aussum Pit.

    Eric’s art has won three cartography awards from the National Association for Cave Diving for his cartography in the Silver Glen Springs cave system in 1990, the Eagles Nest cave system in 1991 and for Nahoch Nah Chich cave system in 1993. He has appeared on numerous television programs internationally and his work has been published worldwide.

  • Heather Obara
    Heather Obara
    Associate Director, Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

    Heather Obara is the Associate Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. Heather received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Political Philosophy from Florida State University in 2010. Heather attended the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando from 2010-2013, where she received an Honors Certificate in Environmental and Earth Law. During her time at Barry Law, Heather was selected as the Environmental and Earth Law Student of the Year in 2013 by her law school professors. Heather is a member of the Florida Bar and is admitted to practice law in the State of Florida.

    Heather has been an active member of the environmental community for almost a decade as a volunteer with various non-profit organizations and has been an employee for the Florida Springs Institute for over five years. She has also served on the Board of Directors of the Silver Springs Alliance (2015-2018) and as a member of the Blue Spring Alliance Steering Committee (2014-2015). Heather currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Springs Council.

    Heather’s publications include:

    Culp, Heather (2013) “Land Ethic Under Attack: Keystone XL and the War Over Domestic S(OIL),” Environmental and Earth Law Journal (EELJ): Vol. 3 : Iss. 1 , Article 4.

    Available at: https://lawpublications.barry.edu/ejejj/vol3/iss1/4

    Obara, H. (2017) Aquatic Adventures: Florida Springs & Aquifer. High Springs, FL: Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.

  • Hillary Skowronski
    Hillary Skowronski
    Environmental Scientist, Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

    Hillary’s interest in springs began when she previously worked with the Florida Springs Institute as a student volunteer on our Kings Bay Phytoremediation Project in Crystal River. She received a B.S. in Marine Biology in 2013 and an M.S. in Environmental Biology in 2016. She then went on to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for two years with a focus on aquatic toxicology and has now re-joined FSI as a member of our staff. Hillary will be working on Phase 2 of the Florida Springs Institute’s Lower Santa Fe River Monitoring Project as well as focusing on visiting schools to educate the next generation on the importance of our aquifer and its springs.

  • Jim Gross
    Jim Gross
    Executive Director, Florida Defenders of the Environment

    Jim Gross is a professional geologist with over 40 years of experience in water resources. He is a native of California and earned his bachelor’s degree in geology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Jim worked in geothermal energy exploration and development early in his career, then returned to graduate school to earn a master’s in geology at New Mexico State University. Jim has more than 20 years of experience in long-term regional water supply planning, including 18 years in Florida. Jim is a licensed professional geologist in California and Florida and is certified as a Professional Geologist by the American Institute of Professional Geologists. Jim is the executive director of Florida Defenders of the Environment and also an adjunct professor at Santa Fe College in Gainesville where he teaches Earth Science.

  • Lars Andersen
    Lars Andersen
    Owner and Guide, Adventure Outpost

    Lars, a life-long Floridian, is the owner of Adventure Outpost. He is a full-time nature guide and the author of several works including, Payne’s Prairie: A History and Guide, Paddlers Guide to the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail and The North Florida Adventure, an audio CD. You can read about his adventures on his blog, River Guides Journal.

  • Lisa Saupp
    Lisa Saupp
    Director, Aqua Pure Laboratories

    Lisa has published articles in multiple industry periodicals and secured approval for EPA alternative analytical test procedures. She has provided expert witness testimony in environmental compliance cases and provides consultation to industrial, commercial and residential industries for ‘best management practices’ and environmental stewardship. She actively works with various social and political groups in the formulation and application of environmental policy and community education.

  • Rachel Slocumb
    Rachel Slocumb
    Water Resources Conservation Coordinator, City of Ocala

    Rachel Slocumb is the Water Resources Conservation Coordinator for the City of Ocala. Her position focuses on water conservation education and outreach along with promotion of the different water resources facilities. Previously, Rachel has worked for UGA and UF – IFAS as an Extension 4-H Agent. Her award winning programs focused on Natural Resources and Outdoor experiential education, focusing on water. Prior to being and Extension Agent she was an Environmental Educator and Program Assistant for the Rock Eagle 4-H Center. Rachel has a B.S. in Agricultural Education from the University of Minnesota.

  • Robert Mattson
    Robert Mattson
    Senior Environmental Scientist, St. Johns River Water Management District

    Robert Mattson is a Senior Environmental Scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District. He has been with the District for nine years and is involved in conducting ecological studies in spring ecosystems along the St. Johns River. Previously he was a Biologist with the Suwannee River Water Management District for 17 years, where he conducted ecological studies in the rivers, estuaries and springs of the northern Big Bend for MFLs, water quality management, and basin assessments. He got his B.A. degree in Biology and M.S. degree in Zoology from the University of South Florida. Rob is certified as a Senior Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America and a Certified Environmental Professional by the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals. In his spare time, he fishes, hunts, and participates in civil war reenactment and living history events.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Are there scholarships available? 450$ is quite steep for me. I’ve been receiving partial pay for 6 months and I’m interested in the school for sure but it’ll be quite difficult for me.
    Don’t get me wrong it’s worth every cent just inquiring.
    Thank you so much,

    1. Hi Kathy! We do not currently have any scholarships available for this event, but if one becomes available, we will let you know. We do offer a payment plan for this course. Please contact me at hobara@floridaspringsinstitute.org if you’d like to learn more about the payment plan option.

  2. I live near Silver Glen Springs, so don’t need room @ board. What would costs be then?

    1. Good afternoon Scott! Thank you for your event inquiry. We have a request into the venue to see if there is a change is cost for those not needing overnight accommodations. We will let you know as soon as we hear back from them.

  3. Hi Heather, I sent you a note before about the school. I’m a retired firefighter and have no professional need for the complete technical spring studies. As a part time neighbor of Silver Glen Springs, I’d be interested to listen in your Thursday class only. Could I possibly attend that lecture and follow your group over to the Glen to listen to the instructor there?
    Would a $100.00 donation cover my intrusion?

    Thank you, Scott

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