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.

HEATHER OBARA, ESQ.

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

  • Favorite Spring: Rock Springs

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, Florida, 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 several years as a volunteer with various non-profit organizations and previously served as FSI’s Outreach Director. 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 as the Secretary-Treasurer and Education and Communications Committee Chair.

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.

MELISSA REDON

DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR

  • Favorite Spring: GILCHRIST blUE spRINGS

Over the last 10 years, Melissa has provided marketing, design, fundraising, and event planning services to a myriad of businesses and industries, including many local non-profits. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Florida in 2003 and an A.A. in Graphic Design from Santa Fe College in 2005, as well as a certificate in Tradeshow Marketing from the University of Illinois in 2011.

While Melissa is new to the environmental community, she has been a springs enthusiast since her first trip to Blue Springs in 2000. 

TESSA SKILES

Media DIRECTOR

  • Favorite Spring: mermaid spring

Tessa has spent her entire life in, and around, Florida springs. She has experienced their degradation first-hand and is passionately driven to preserve and protect them. She has a background in graphic design, photography, and film. She has produced a number of films featuring Florida springs, most notably, her own environmental documentary, Saving Florida’s Springs. Tessa works to make younger generations aware of the current state of Florida springs while instilling in them a strong and positive outlook on protecting our environment. Tessa’s passion for Florida springs runs in her blood as the successor to her late father, Wes Skiles, who was a respected cave diver, springs conservationist, National Geographic explorer, and cinematographer. Much like Wes, she enjoys exploring nature and capturing it’s beauty through film and photography to better help the public appreciate and understand Florida’s natural resources.

EMILY TAYLOR

SPRINGSWATCH COORDINATOR

  • Favorite Spring: Ichetucknee river and springs

Emily received her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Florida in December 2016. Emily was an intern with the Florida Springs Institute for four years before becoming an Environmental Scientist.

Emily recently returned to the University of Florida to pursue her Ph.D. in Soil and Water Sciences. She continues to serve as the project coordinator for FSI’s SpringsWatch Program as she works towards her doctorate.

ANGELINE MEEKS

GIS ANALYST

  • Favorite Spring: SALT 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. 

PAUL DONSKY

ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNICIAN

  • Favorite Spring: RAINBOW RIVER AND SPRINGS

Paul  was an intern with the Florida Springs Institute before joining our staff as an Environmental Technician. He is currently receiving his AA degree from Santa Fe College and intends to transfer to the University of Florida to study Soil and Water Science. On the weekends, Paul volunteers with Habitat for Humanity. 

NICOLE POLLIO

ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNICIAN

  • Favorite Spring: Gilchrist Blue Springs

Nicole received a B.A. in Sustainability Studies from the University of Florida in May 2018. She plans to continue her education at the University of Florida and will be pursuing her Masters of Science in Sustainable Design. Nicole’s passion for the springs begun during her first year living in Gainesville. She recognized the unique beauty and importance of North Florida’s springs which drove her to apply as a Field Intern here at the Florida Springs Institute before joining our staff after her graduation.

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 Pat

PATRICIA HARDEN

vice PRESIDENT OF BOARD

Pat has been involved in environmental issues related to water for the past 35 years. She is a retired Manager of Environmental Affairs at Walt Disney World Co. She served eight years on the St Johns River Water Management Board, including two years as Chair. She is a founding member of the Friends of the Wekiva River, Inc., and has remained involved in issues concerning protection of Wekiwa Springs and the river ecosystem. Pat is former Chair and current Trustee on The Nature Conservancy, Florida Chapter board and has been recognized by the Florida Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the Soil Conservation Society of America for work in conservation.

DAVE WILSON

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, PHD

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.

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.

BOARD MACKAY copy

BUDDY MACKAY, ESQ.

BOARD MEMBER

Buddy is a retired attorney and former state legislator (serving in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives), U. S. Representative, Lt. Governor and Governor of the State of Florida. He grew up on a citrus farm near Ocala. In addition to his work with the Florida Springs Institute, Buddy also serves on the Advisory Board of the Conservation Trust for Florida.

ROBERT PALMER, PHD

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 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.

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.
BOARD Bob u

ROBERT E. ULANOWICZ, PHD

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 Terry

TERRY L. ZINN, ESQ.

BOARD MEMBER

Terry has a B.S. in Biology, M.S. in Wildlife Ecology, and a J.D.  He has worked as an environmental attorney for over 27 years in private and public areas.  His practice has focused on remedial work at contaminated sites, groundwater contamination, wetlands, endangered species. 

He now raises over 30 species of native wildflower seed on his farm, Wildflowers of Florida, Inc., in northern Alachua County. Terry has been researching and producing native wildflower seed for 16 years. He is a founding member, Vice President, and past President and Treasurer of the Florida Wildflower Cooperative.  He was appointed in 2007 to the Florida Wildflower Foundation board as the Cooperative’s representative and currently serves as Chair of the Board.  He is a past board member and Chair of the Conservation Trust for Florida.

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.

ELIZABETH ODUM

HOWARD T. ODUM CENTER FOR WETLANDS

Elizabeth (Betty) Odum was born in Hartford, Connecticut and grew up in Easton, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Swarthmore College with a major in Zoology and minor in Chemistry. She received her MEd from the University of Florida. Her second marriage was to Howard T. Odum, (died Sept 2002) with whom she shared research, travelled and wrote ecology books, such as “A Prosperous Way Down.” After teaching biology and ecology at Santa Fe College, she retired as Professor Emerita. Betty now works with the Emergy Society and the Howard T. Odum Center for Wetlands.

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.

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