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fish swimming in Silver Springs

Scientists form interdisciplinary team for springs research

By Hannah O. Brown

At the same site where the Father of Springs Ecology, Howard T. Odum, began his pioneering research on springs decades ago, a group of scientists from the University of Florida and the St. John’s River Water Management District have begun a three-year $3 million initiative to take a closer look at some of the same questions that Odum himself explored.

“It’s the same question now,” said David Kaplan, UF assistant professor in the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and the Environment. “How productive are they? What are the drivers? So we are still trying to figure it out.”

The project, called Collaborative Research Initiative on Sustainability and Protection of Springs or CRISPS, is focused on the Silver Springs springshed in Marion County.

While some conditions have changed since Odum’s initial research in the 1950’s, such as reduced water flow and an increase in nitrate concentrations, the project aims to use interdisciplinary research to identify any and all variables that may have an effect on the health of the spring.

The project’s research team is organized into two “supergroups” and six workgroups. Researchers from UF have been paired with researchers from the SJRWMD, the funding organization, and each team is focused on a specific area of research impacting springs conservation.

“From our perspective, it’s an excellent investment and a great opportunity to have a partnership like this,” said Casey Fitzgerald, director of the Springs Protection Initiative at SJRWMD.

The project is directed primarily by three questions:

  1. When and where is it most feasible and cost-effective to reduce nitrate loading to the spring?
  2. Is nitrate reduction alone sufficient to restore the degraded spring ecosystem?
  3. What are the relative influences of nitrate and non-nitrate causes of excess algae in the springs?

Read more about the CRISPS Project.