The Florida Springs Institute is gearing up for its fourth Springs Field School program and registration is now open for FSI members and future members. The Springs Field School is a 4-day course that provides in-depth lectures on topics including springs biology, geology, hydrology, chemistry, stresses, environmental law and advocacy efforts. As a Field School participant, you will learn everything there is to know about Florida springs and what is needed to protect them.

This year’s Springs Field School will be held from Monday, August 13th through Thursday, August 16th. Our home base for the Field School will be The Retreat at Silver Springs, a conference facility that includes classrooms, a dining hall, air-conditioned cabins, and recreational opportunities. The Retreat is conveniently located east of Ocala in the City of Silver Springs, Florida, and is a short walk or drive from the entrance to Silver Springs State Park. Each day will consist of two to four hours of lectures and three to four hours of field trips. Field trips for the Field School are currently planned to Silver Glen Springs, Silver Springs State Park, the Ocklawaha River/Rodman Dam, and the Ocala Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Photo by Tessa Skiles.

In anticipation of the upcoming Field School, we asked two past participants to give us their take on the program. Below is a series of questions and answers from Field School graduates, Curtis Whitwam and Brenda Wells, that will provide you with more info about the course and its impact.

Q: How did you feel about your level of knowledge about springs going into and coming out of the course?

Curtis: I had a basic understanding of the karst geology and a surface level idea of how springs work and what could affect them. I had spent a lot of time over the years immersing myself in the springs and so I had a great appreciation of their magnificence.

Brenda: Coming out of the course, I felt like I had access to the people who were at the very front of springs research, so I was hearing the best and latest information straight from the best sources.

Q: What is your favorite memory about the Springs Field School?

Curtis: I really enjoyed the fish count field trip to Blue Hole at Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

Brenda: The camaraderie with the other participants. I went to my first field school two years ago and I still communicate with many of the people I met there.

Q: What was the most compelling topic that you learned about or speaker that you heard from during the course? What made the topic or speaker so interesting?

Curtis: The topic I enjoyed learning about the most was about the springsheds and how they are measured and how they can change. Dr. Bob Knight was the instructor. It was amazing to learn how vast they are and just how permeable the substrate is to direct pollutants.

Brenda: I really enjoyed hearing about manatee studies in Silver Glen. Quite a few assumptions about that spring and about manatees were turned around that day and I remember thinking that we don’t really know what’s going on, can’t make assumptions, until we get out there and conduct the studies.

Q: How did the Springs Field School impact or change your view about springs protection?

Curtis: I was already totally on board with springs protection, but the Field School strengthened my knowledge base and helped me in educating others about the aquifers.

Brenda: When I first fell in love with springs I thought that there were enough experts and scientists and government agencies taking care of the springs on my behalf. That I was an outsider and had nothing of value to add to the springs conservation community or any role to play in springs protection. But the Field School illuminated how much help the springs need from everyone, and made me feel like I had the tools and knowledge to take a more active role in conserving the springs.

Q: How did the Springs Field School motivate you to get involved in environmental issues moving forward?

Curtis: To see not only how important the aquifer is, but also how fragile it is, was a huge motivator. I did not realize how degraded the springs already are, but I could see solutions that could actually work if we have the resolve in leadership to make the necessary changes. Cape Town South Africa was able to reverse their “inevitable” water crisis through the action of all of its citizens and through the motivation and education programs put forth by its leadership. It is possible.

Brenda: I feel a lot more connected to the springs conservation community.

Thank you to Brenda and Curtis for providing their insights on the Springs Field School. For those interested in learning more about the upcoming Field School, click here. Our event page includes information about the course lectures and field trips, course syllabus, and schedule. You can also register for the course here. We hope you will consider joining us in August for what will be a fun and inspiring experience for all!

Photo by Tessa Skiles.

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