Our team

Staff, Board of Directors, and Advisory Panel

ROBERT KNIGHT, PH.D.

Executive Director

  • Favorite Spring: Silver Springs

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.

Connie Brown

Associate Director

  • Favorite Spring: Gilchrist Blue Spring

Connie Brown comes to FSI with over 12 years of non-profit experience in conservation, education, development and community relations. She studied Marine Biology and Conservation Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. While in Hawaii Connie worked for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback National Marine Sanctuary, the Honolulu Zoo and was able to assist with Hammerhead Shark research at Coconut Island. Connie has a passion for conservation and a love for the marine environment.   

TESSA SKILES

Outreach DIRECTOR

  • Favorite Spring: mermaid spring

Tessa has spent her entire life around Florida springs and has experienced their degradation first hand. She started caring about springs and working to protect them at a very young age (watch her video, A Young Voice for Florida Springs). Today, she uses her knowledge of springs and skills in visual arts and communications to educate the public. In recent years she’s taken part in many notable conservation initiatives and projects, in and outside of her work at the Florida Springs Institute. She has become a leader in springs conservation by lighting the way for others to become environmental advocates, by building/maintaining relationships between businesses and individuals that need healthy springs to survive, and by producing educational tools for those who need to learn about Florida springs and conservation.

Much like her late father, Wes Skiles, Tessa’s passion for Florida springs runs deep. If she’s not working to protect them she’s out enjoying them on her paddleboard or diving, always with an underwater camera in hand.

Hillary Skowronski

Environmental Scientist

  • Favorite Spring: Ichetucknee Springs

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.

ANGELINE MEEKS

GIS ANALYST

  • Favorite Spring: Naked SPRINGS

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. 

Haley Moody

GIS TECHNICIAN

  • Favorite Spring: BLUE HOLE SPRING

Haley’s passion for the springs began the moment she first laid eyes on the Ichetucknee River. Her love of Geographic Information Systems was born during her time at the University of Florida, where she graduated in 2018 with honors in Landscape Architecture. After completing a GIS Internship here at the Florida Springs Institute, she began working for us as a GIS Technician. Her dedication to the springs continues to grow as she focuses on communicating the challenges that face the Floridan Aquifer.

Zoey Hendrickson

Environmental Scientist

  • Favorite Spring: Gilchrist Blue Springs

Zoey received her B.S. in biological science in 2018 from Florida State University.  Growing up in Gainesville, Zoey’s love for the springs began with childhood trips to Gilchrist Blue and Ichetucknee springs. Being able to enjoy the natural beauty of the springs helped shape her passion for conservation and ecology. Upon returning to Gainesville, she discovered the Florida Springs Institute, applied as a field intern, and was later given the opportunity to continue working there as part of their staff.

HOWARD T. ODUM FLORIDA SPRINGS INSTITUTE

board of directors

ROBERT L. KNIGHT, PH.D.

PRESIDENT OF 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 and Middle Suwannee River Springs, Rainbow Springs, Santa Fe River Springs, Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs, Volusia Blue Springs, Wekiva River, and Wekiva 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.

BOARD TED

CAPT. TEDD GREENWALD

Vice President of Board

Captain Tedd Greenwald is a 500 Ton USCG Master who has spent the better part of 40 years working worldwide on private yachts and his own dive charter boat. He is from Miami where he worked aboard commercial fishing boats and completed his Physics degree at University of Miami. He was a researcher at the Papanicalou Cancer Research Institute in Miami prior to teaching Marine Science at Dade Marine Institute on Virginia Key.  He is a volunteer at the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Florida Springs Institute and lives in High Springs with his wife of 38 years.

DAVE WILSON, PH.D.

TREASURER OF 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 (http://www.siam.org/meetings/is02/). 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.

BOARD Mary

MARY ODUM, PH.D.

SECRETARY OF 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 ProsperousWayDown.com, and she is a featured author at Resilience.org. 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.

JIM STEVENSON

BOARD MEMBER

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.

SENATOR DENNIS L. JONES

BOARD MEMBER

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.

ROBERT PALMER, PH.D.

BOARD MEMBER

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.

BOARD Bob u

ROBERT E. ULANOWICZ, PH.D.

BOARD MEMBER

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.

BOARD Phyllis

PHYLLIS PARK SAARINEN

BOARD MEMBER

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.

HOWARD T. ODUM FLORIDA SPRINGS INSTITUTE

ADVISORY PANEL

Advisory Panel Responsibilities

  • Promote the Florida Springs Institute and the need for springs restoration and protection in Florida.
  • Annually evaluate progress and help to update the Three-Year Plan.
  • Provide outreach related to springs restoration and protection to the public and governmental decision-makers.
  • Promote teamwork across all interested groups for springs restoration and protection.
  • Provide credibility for the mission and actions of the Florida Springs Institute.

LARS ANDERSEN

ADVENTURE OUTPOST

Lars, a life-long Floridian, is the owner of Adventure Outpost in High Springs. 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. 

ADVISORY Todd

TODD KINCAID, PH.D.

GEOHYDROS, LLC

Dr. Kincaid is a hydrogeologist with more than 20 years of experience in aquifer characterization and hydrogeologic modeling. He has earned a Ph.D. in hydrogeology from the University of Wyoming and a MS and BS in hydrogeology and geology from the University of Florida. He is the managing member of GeoHydros LLC, a consulting company focused on advanced computer simulation and visualization of complex geologic and hydrologic environments. His work has addressed karst-conduit flow in the Floridan aquifer, extremely heterogeneous aquifers in glacial sediments in New York and Pennsylvania; fractured rock aquifers in interbedded shales and limestones of eastern Pennsylvania; and structurally complex volcanic and sedimentary rocks underlying Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site, Nevada. 

Dr. Kincaid also serves as the vice-president for Global Underwater Explorers, a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring and protecting underwater environments, and on the Board of Directors for the Wakulla Springs Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving and promoting strategies for protecting Florida springs.

STEPHEN WALSH, PH.D.

U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

Dr. Walsh is a Research 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. His primary research interests are the ecology, systematics, ecophysiology, and conservation of freshwater fishes and other aquatic biodiversity. He has worked in freshwater and marine ecosystems in the central and southeastern U.S., the Caribbean, Neotropics, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Micronesia. He has a bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) in Biology from St. Louis University, a master’s degree in Zoology from Southern Illinois University, and a doctoral degree in Zoology from the University of Florida, where he currently holds courtesy faculty and curator appointments in three departments (Biology, Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and Florida Museum of Natural History). In addition to his service on the FSI advisory Panel, he has served in numerous other professional capacities. For more information about Dr. Walsh, click here.

Mike Roth

Our Santa Fe River

Mike capped off a 30-year career as a partner in a large local CPA firm in Hollywood Florida by opening an ice cream store in Gainesville with his wife, Cindy, which they ran for 12 years before selling it and retiring.  In retirement, he developed a strong interest in the protection of water resources, particularly in the springs watershed, which led him to the presidency of Our Santa Fe River, Inc., the “voice of the Santa Fe River”.  In that capacity, he has written numerous op-eds and articles regarding the plight of our rivers and springs and has spoken before several county commissions and water management districts as an advocate.  He is pleased to be able to bring skills from both CPA and river advocate days to the benefit of the Florida Springs Institute.

HEATHER OBARA, ESQ.

Alachua Conservation Trust

Heather has over nine years of experience working with and managing Florida non-profits. She is a licensed Florida attorney and currently works as the Community Outreach Coordinator for Alachua Conservation Trust. Prior to moving to ACT, Heather was FSI’s Associate Director and continues to serve in an advisory capacity to FSI on issues related to non-profit management. Heather is a founding member and Treasurer of the Florida Springs Council. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Paddle Florida. In her free time, Heather enjoys paddling Florida’s rivers and springs. Her favorite place to paddle is Silver Springs.

Header Photography Copyright © David Schrichte Photography. All Rights Reserved.

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