Springs Field School 2021

Join the Florida Springs Institute for an in-depth course on Florida springs for all backgrounds. Held from March 9th through the 14th, 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 the need for knowledge about the basic chemistry, biology, and ecology of springs to be used for improved resource management. This course provides a lay-person’s and scientific overview of the current understanding of how springs are a product of their environmental surroundings and how they respond to management decisions.

The 2021 Florida Springs Field School is centered on the springs of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers in north-central Florida. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the course is designed to protect personal health while offering the opportunity for full immersion in the springs.

Multiple pre-recorded Zoom lectures will be released daily on March 9, 10, 11, and 12, and two days of guided field excursions will be offered on March 13 and 14. On Friday evening (March 12) an outdoor meeting will be held at Poe Springs Park from 4:30 until 9 pm for a catered supper, introduction, orientation, and educational movie before the two following field trips on the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers. During the evening of March 14 all course participants will be included on a live Zoom call for discussion and Q&A.

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. Information from all related physical, chemical, biological, and economic disciplines will be integrated and presented in understandable fashion to allow participants to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the role that springs play in overall support for Florida’s natural and human ecologies. This course should be of interest to environmental scientists, ecologists, environmental activists, water resources engineers, natural resource managers, and those practicing environmental law.

This course is not recommended for K-12 students. 


  • Intro to Florida’s Springs
  • Florida Karst Hydrology
  • Springs Water Quality
  • Springs Biology – Flora and Fauna
  • Florida Springs Advocacy and Protection
  • Springs Pollution
  • Springs Ecology
  • Springs Flows: Past, Present and Future

FIELD excursions

sold out

Santa Fe River & Springs Paddling Excursion

Ichetucknee Springs Paddling Excursion


Dr. Robert Knight
BK Headshot

Dr. Robert L. Knight is an environmental scientist/systems ecologist. He is Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute and has over 40 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. Dr. Knight and the Florida Springs Institute have developed restoration action plans for Wakulla Springs, Ichetucknee Springs, the Santa Fe River springs, Silver Springs, Wekiwa and Rock Springs, Volusia Blue Spring, Kings Bay/Crystal River springs, and Rainbow Springs.

guest lecturer: Dr. Stephen WalSh
SFS 2_Steve

Stephen Walsh is a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center in Gainesville, Florida. His interests are in conservation biology and biodiversity of aquatic organisms, including the ecology and environmental physiology of fishes and aquatic invertebrates, evolution, systematics, and zoogeography of temperate and tropical freshwater, estuarine, and inshore marine fishes, reproductive biology, and life-history strategies. Dr. Walsh has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from St. Louis University, a master’s in Zoology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and a doctorate in Zoology from the University of Florida. In addition to his service on the Florida Springs Institute’s Advisory Panel, he also serves in numerous other professional capacities. For leisure, he enjoys reading, travel, tennis, cooking, photography, kayaking, and exploring wonders of nature.  

guest lecturer: Ryan smart
Ryan Smart Headshot

 Executive Director of the Florida Springs Council, MS

guest lecturer: Robert mattson
Rob on Juniper Ck

Rob is a Senior Environmental Scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District. He has been with the District for 15 years. Previously he was a Biologist with the Suwannee River Water Management District for 17 years. He got his B.A. degree in Biology and M.S. degree in Zoology from the University of South Florida. He also teaches an Environmental Science class as an Adjunct Instructor at St. Johns River State College. In his spare time, he enjoys studying about and visiting places with a maritime or naval history, including lighthouses, museums, historic ships and locations, etc.

guest lecturer: SKY notestein

Sky joined the Suwannee River Water Management District in August 2019 as a Senior Project Manager in the Office of Minimum Flows and Minimum Water Levels. Sky has over 20 years’ work experience with emphasis on aquatic ecology, water quality impairment, and environmental research.  He earned a BS in Wildlife Ecology & Conservation and MS in Estuarine Ecology, both from the University of Florida.  The Ichetucknee is his favorite spring ecosystem.

guest lecturer: Michael Roth

President of Our Santa Fe River

Advisory Panel Member of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute


5 scholarship passes will be offered for any of the above options, at no cost to the attendee. 

Any interested person is eligible to submit an email that briefly describes their reasons for wishing to attend and their financial need. Scholarship applications for Springs Field School 2021 are due no later than 11:59 pm on Thursday, February 25th, 2021 and can be submitted to info@floridaspringsinstitute.org.


The Springs Field School was funded in part through generous support from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.

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Mar 09 - 14 2021

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  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Mar 09 - 14 2021

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