Power Couple


Spring/Summer 2018

For decades, two Florida scientists have given it their all to protect one of the state’s most treasured resources.

For Dr. Robert L. Knight and his wife, Debra Segal, M.S., a passion for the great outdoors is evident in almost every aspect of their lives. 

Both are environmental scientists who have devoted their careers, and much of their free time and resources, to protecting Florida’s wetlands. And when they’re not busy working to ensure the health of the environment, they can usually be found enjoying it by birding, boating, hiking or participating in other outdoor activities – often in their Subaru vehicles.

Knight has been fighting to protect Florida’s springs for almost 40 years and, 10 years ago, founded the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. A springs and aquatic-ecology research and advocacy group, the institute is devoted to saving the springs and spring-fed rivers of north Florida. Segal, too, has assisted in designing, permitting and monitoring the treatment of Florida wetlands. “The most effective method to restore and protect the springs is through public education and involvement,” says Knight. “We need to get the message out that Florida is unique in having the largest and most diverse assemblage of large springs in the world.”

The couple’s 2016 Forester.
The couple’s 2016 Forester.

Knight bought his first Subaru in the ’90s, and the vehicles have played a role in both work and play ever since. “Our recreational drives reach 100 miles,” says Knight. “The cars just stick to the road; that’s one thing we like about them.” They handed down their second Subaru, a 2002 Forester, to one of their four children, and the couple now split their time between a 2016 Forester and a 2010 Outback.

In Florida, they use their Subaru vehicles to transport their kayaks and canoe when they head out onto streams and into coastal wetlands, ideal environments for birding. They both love the hobby, and Segal is the president of her local Audubon Society chapter. The couple also hikes and birds on trails near their vacation home in the mountains of western North Carolina, where the roads can be challenging. “We drive on- and off-road,” says Knight. “We need a car that can handle single-lane gravel trails and rocky terrain, as well as roads that are often slippery with rain or ice and snow.”

Their Subaru vehicles are a perfect fit for this deeply passionate pair.

Knight and Segal take a break in the outdoors they work so hard to preserve.