The Florida Springs Institute wrapped up its fifth Springs Field School on August 16th in Silver Springs after four days of science education and history on our springs and aquifer. Today we take a look back at each day during the Springs Field School and all that we learned.
Participants from all over the state arrived on August 13th at the Retreat at Silver Springs to check in and meet their fellow Field School students, who would be sharing in their journey for the next few days. Following an introductory lecture from Florida Springs Institute Executive Director, Dr. Bob Knight, and a delicious lunch in the Dining Hall, we geared up for a talk on cave diving and cartography from Eric Hutcheson. Eric described his boundary-pushing dive at Silver Springs, which took place over 25 years ago and is still the furthest dive anyone has made in the Silver Springs cave system.
Following Eric’s talk, participants carpooled to Silver Glen Springs, where Eric described the cave system using cave maps that he made. Eric also talked about his diving experience at Silver Glen Springs. We capped off Day 1 with a snorkel at Silver Glen and a short hike to view nearby sand boils. Following dinner, participants gathered for a film showing of “Water’s Journey” by the legendary cave diver, Wes Skiles.
The second Day of Springs Field School continued to add to our growing knowledge about the springs and aquifer. Jim Gross from Florida Defenders of the Environment kicked off the day with an interesting lecture on springs hydrology, which explained how the Floridan aquifer functions and feeds our springs. Jim’s lecture was followed up by a lesson on springs flora with Dr. Knight. After lunch, we were joined by research fish biologist, Dr. Steve Walsh, with the U.S. Geological Survey – Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, who describe common freshwater fish and discussed the impacts that man-made dams have on fish migration patterns.
Following a brief presentation about the case history of Silver Springs and the Ocklawaha River, participants were excited to take a boat trip out to the Rodman pool and view the Kirkpatrick Dam from a distance. The dam currently restricts flow to the Ocklawaha River. We saw many cypress trees sticking out of the water from a time when construction for the Cross Florida Barge Canal destroyed many acres of habitat along the natural riverbank. Captain Karen Chadwick provided a brief history of the dam and reasons why restoration of the Ocklawaha is needed. Participants later learned more about the controversy during an after-dinner showing of “Lost Springs” by Matt Keene featuring artist, Margaret Tolbert.
The third day of Springs Field School was packed full of interesting topics including water chemistry, water law, springs history, and water quality. Lisa Saupp provided a fun science experiment for the students by showing us how limestone can be dissolved by chemical compounds in our water.
Following a lecture by Dr. Knight on the regulatory protections for springs, we traveled to Silver Springs State Park for a tour of the Silver River Museum with museum founder Guy Marwick.
Next, students received an overview of how FSI conducts field work from FSI Environmental Scientist, Emily Taylor, and Environmental Technician, Nicole Pollio. We then headed out on a bout tour of the Silver River to get some hands-on experience with the sampling equipment.
While on the river, we were treated to a special sight: a pod of manatees! We capped the night off with a showing of “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, which was filmed at Silver Springs!
The fourth and final day of Springs Field School started off with a lecture on springs water quality management from St. Johns River Water Management biologist Rob Mattson.
We then took off for the Ocala Wastewater Treatment Plant, where we were greeted by Rachel Slocum of the City of Ocala. Rachel provided a brief introduction on Ocala’s Water Resources department and the new treatment wetland that is currently under construction in Ocala.
We then split up into groups and received a tour of the plant from two senior operators. Everyone had a lot of fun learning about wastewater treatment and how it fits into the water cycle. A reporter from the Ocala Star Banner even stopped by to interview a few of our students.
Following the tour, participants enjoyed lunch at a local park and headed back to the Retreat for a review session, final exam, and graduation. Overall, the event was a huge success for springs education and we are excited to welcome our newest Field School graduates as FSI Springs Ambassadors!
Part of our 2018 Springs Field School Graduating Class!
Our next Springs Field School program is tentatively scheduled for July, 2019! Subscribe to our mailing list to receive important updates, event announcements, springs news, and more!
Until next year, folks!