Springs Eternal Project Mixes Art and Science to Save a State Treasure
Florida has the highest concentration of freshwater springs in the world. The springs are beautiful, breathtaking and disappearing fast.
Development, pollution and harmful human activity is degrading these springs quickly, and if left unaddressed, these springs will dry up and vanish.
Lesley Gamble, director of the project, and her team founded the Springs Eternal Project to make sure that doesn’t happen. Since 2003, the project has aimed to make people fall in love with these springs and educate everyone about the dangers they’re are facing.
John Moran and Rick Kilby both work on this project with Gamble. Each member of the team has a special skill that captures the essence and beauty of the springs they are trying to protect.
Moran is a nature photographer, Kilby is a graphic designer and Gamble is an underwater videographer.
Gamble teaches a course at the University of Florida called Art Water Ecology, which explains a contemporary history of environmental art having to do with water.
For the final project of the semester, Gamble assigned her students to create an environmental art project for the springs. Gamble never assigns her students a project she hasn’t done herself. The Springs Eternal Project was born out of this assignment.
“The best way to protect something is if people love it,” Gamble said.
This is her strategy in saving the springs. Her goal is to have people come to the springs, learn about them and fall in love with them.
“These springs are windows to [the Floridan Aquifer], which is the source of drinking water for 90% of Floridians,” Gamble said.
The project aims to show people how unique and beautiful these springs are, but also let them know that they provide a necessary ecosystem service. The Springs Eternal website has an entire page dedicated to educating people about the springs and what they do for the environment.
Gamble also created the Spring Ambassadors camp. This year, 2o middle school students will learn about where their water really comes from by interacting with it directly. These kids will kayak on the springs, swim in them and learn what a healthy spring is. Kids from every corner of the state with very diverse backgrounds come together to learn.
“Having an immersive experience and learning to fall in love with nature is very important early on, so we don’t see ourselves separate from nature; we see ourselves as a part of nature,” Gamble said.
A similar concept drove the Urban Aquifer project. Gamble felt that people don’t understand where their drinking water comes from. She explained that a lot of people believe it’s in some distant place that isn’t disturbed by our everyday activity.
The Urban Aquifer project puts beautiful photos and art of the springs on RTS busses. It’s statement that gets people interested in the springs and calls the community to action.
“The Urban Aquifer project makes the aquifer that runs under our feet everyday no matter where we are visible,”Gamble said. “It’s as if a spring were popping up right there in the middle of Gainesville.”
These busses have QR codes on them that take anyone who scans it right to the website’s Take Action page, which explains how anyone can help the springs.
“Everything is interconnected,” Gamble said.
Everything that people do affects something else, including the springs. This is what Gamble and her team want people to realize. Not only are the springs beautiful, they also provide ecosystem services that can’t be replaced. The springs also stimulate Florida’s economy with their eco-tourism value. No matter how you decide to view the springs, they are definitely worth saving.