Robert L. Knight, Ph.D.
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 Suwannee River Springs, Rainbow Springs, Santa Fe River Springs, Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs, and Wekiva River and 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.
Heather Obara, Esq.
Heather received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Political Philosophy from Florida State University in 2010. In 2013, Heather became a graduate of Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando, Florida, where she received an Honors Certificate in Environmental and Earth Law.
As a law student, Heather was involved in several organizations on campus including serving as President of the Environmental Law Society, Vice President of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, and member of the Environmental and Earth Law Journal and Environmental Responsibility Committee. As a result of her hard work, she was selected as the 2013 Environmental and Earth Law Student of the Year by her law school professors. In September 2013, Heather was admitted to practice law as a member of the Florida Bar.
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. Heather currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Springs Council and Silver Springs Alliance. She is also a member of the Blue Spring Alliance Steering Committee.
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.
Jonathan Freedman, PH.D.
Senior Environmental Scientist
Jonathan is an aquatic ecologist with over 15 years experience working in systems from the boreal forest to Florida’s springs. Originally from Toronto, he has a B.Sc. in Zoology from the University of Guelph, M.Sc. in Biology from the University of New Brunswick, and Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Penn State University where he made multiple research trips to Florida springs. He was then a postdoc at the Illinois Natural History Survey, before moving to Stetson University as the Brown Visiting Scholar where he began studying springs in earnest. After working as an independent consultant for three years, Jonathan is excited to join the Florida Springs Institute.
In his spare time, Jonathan enjoys spending time in and on the water, hosting trivia at First Magnitude Brewing Company, and turning water into beer with the Hogtown Brewers.
Emily received her Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science from the University of Florida in December 2016 and plans to continue her education in Fall 2017 as a graduate student. Emily was an intern with the Florida Springs Institute for four years before becoming an Environmental Scientist.
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.
Tessa has grown up around freshwater springs and is driven by a strong passion to preserve and protect Florida's water so that future generations can enjoy the springs as she has. She has an optimistic approach to a difficult topic and her preferred method of outreach intertwine's science and creative, high energy digital media. Tessa uses this method as a tool to reach younger generations and introduce a positive approach to protecting our environment. She is known as a successor of her late father, Wes Skiles, who was a respected cave diver, National Geographic explorer, and cinematographer. Much like her father, she enjoys exploring the outdoors and capturing the beauty of them through film and photography.
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.