Robert Knight, PhD
Dr. Robert Knight is the founder and director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, a nonprofit program dedicated to supporting science and education necessary for restoration and wise management of Florida’s artesian springs. Dr. Knight is an environmental scientist with more than 38 years of professional experience in Florida, including detailed ecological studies at more than 20 large springs. He is former adjunct professor at the University of Florida Dept. of Environmental Engineering and Sciences where he taught graduate level classes on the ecology of Florida’s springs and wetlands.
Follow Dr. Knight’s work at the Florida Springs Institute.
The Liquid Heart of Florida
Silver Springs, located in central Florida, is perhaps the best known natural artesian spring in the world. A grand natural wonder of the world on par with Niagara Falls or the mighty Mississippi River. Easily the largest spring in the world Silver Springs boasts long-term average measured flows of more than 500 million gallons per day—enough to meet the water consumption needs of 5 million Floridians. Silver Springs is the most visited spring system in the U.S. drawing more than one million tourists each year, and that’s before the days of Disney. Silver Springs has been called the “Fountain of Knowledge” about how all aquatic ecosystems function, based on a landmark, holistic, ecosystem study conducted more than 70 years ago.
Yet Silver Springs is fading due to the careless apathy of the public and the clever manipulations of truth by unscrupulous proponents of poorly regulated growth and development. Despite that, this is an exciting time in the long history of Silver Springs. the Liquid Heart of Florida has the chance to turn the corner from more than 50 years of regulatory neglect and decline, to a future of recovery and protection. Silver Springs can serve as an allegory for all of Florida’s natural wonders. Either it can go the way of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker and Carolina Parakeet, or it can be returned from near extinction like the Brown Pelican and the Bald Eagle. The future of Silver Springs is a choice that will be made by the actions or inactions of our generation.