Local ecological and landscape architecture firm Great Ecology is continuing to expand its green reach across Southern California and the U.S. Its team of ecologists and designers have completed more than 1,200 projects – both domestically and abroad – and have several new ones underway, including a lithium recovery project at the Salton Sea.
“It’s really an amazing project. Our client, Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR), is working to implement one of the largest integrated lithium recovery and geothermal power projects in California and one of the most exciting renewable projects in the world,” Great Ecology Founder and President Dr. Mark Laska, Ph.D. said.
“Their facilities will recover crucial lithium resources from subsurface brine which is needed to power the electric vehicle industry – a major goal of the state, all with clean and renewable geothermal energy,” Dr. Laska said. “We are assisting with the environmental components of the project for CTR, and that includes the design and implementation of wetland and desert mitigation habitats, environmental justice elements, and seeking to address community health concerns associated with dust exposure from the shrinking Salton Sea.”
“San Diego’s proximity to the emerging ‘Lithium Valley’ in the Imperial Valley is just going to add to the already strong green-tech industry here,” he added.
Dr. Laska’s technical specialization includes habitat restoration, ecological planning and design and mitigation banking. He is also a leading Natural Resource Damages (NRD) practitioner.
Dr. Laska founded Great Ecology in 2001 and has grown the company into a team of ecologists and designers who create and consult on more resilient and healthy habitats, open spaces and parks that fit within the context of the landscape.
“We’ve seen it all, from landmark projects for Fortune 100 companies to one-day jobs for small business owners,” Dr. Laska said. “When I started the firm back in 2001, ecology as a project component was an afterthought. Now, ecology is a project focal point to the extent that it supports an entire industry – and habitat restoration is now a billion-dollar industry employing more than 250,000 people.”
Great Ecology has worked on projects in 37 states and across eight countries.
Some of Great Ecology’s most notable projects include the San Dieguito Lagoon restoration project and Pond 20 in the South Bay.
For the San Dieguito lagoon, the team helped the Del Mar Fairgrounds in restoring a former dirt parking lot behind the back into an 11-acre salt marsh habitat within the lagoon.
Pond 20 is a former salt evaporator pond near Imperial Beach in which the firm assisted the Port of San Diego’s proposed development of a 76-acre wetland restoration for commercial development. When completed, the existing land that is full of high-saline soils and degraded habitat is going to be restored into native wetlands, acting in part as a natural buffer to sea-level rise and storm surges.
“Both projects are examples of how coastal communities across the Country are prioritizing restoring and creating new wetlands along their shores, for ecological benefits now and to mitigate the effects of climate change in the future,” said Dr. Laska, who explained that several factors make San Diego a phenomenal place to implement nature-based solutions to address climate change. “Our geographic location gives us a year-round ‘growing season’ and combined with our marine, coastal, inland, mountain and desert habitats we represent a huge diversity of ecosystem types…San Diego also has a comprehensive climate action plan with an aggressive goal to reduce carbon that will have to come from alterative and creative approaches. Combine that with the financial and intellectual resources that exist in San Diego, and you have the building blocks for what could be an inspiring example of ecologically driven climate change solutions.”
FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT: Dr. Mark Laska, Ph.D.
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Environmental consulting
NOTABLE: Great Ecology was one of the first ecological consulting firms in the environmental industry and has completed more than 1,200 projects in the U.S. and internationally.