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Great Ecology and PLAT Studio Strategic Alliance

Great Ecology and PLAT Studio are pleased to announce a strategic alliance between their firms to advance project work in the United States and China.  PLAT Studio, founded by Te-Hsuan Fred Liao, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP is a Landscape Architecture firm focused on master planning and design of large scale projects based in Berkeley, CA. Great Ecology, founded in 2001 by Mark S. Laska, Ph.D. is an ecological design and habitat restoration firm with offices in San Diego, Denver, and New York. 

The goal of the alliance is to provide mutual clients an enhanced offering in landscape design and ecology.  “With this alliance, PLAT Studio can provide its clients a higher level of scientific planning and habitat design” said Fred Liao.   Great Ecology’s Dr. Mark Laska said “working with PLAT Studio in China with their substantial experience expands opportunities for the application of science and design.” 

The two firms are currently working on the Miaojing River wetland corridor habitat restoration and the Qidong Master Plan both near Shanghai and look forward to additional opportunities to support each other’s work.

Visit PLAT Studio’s website. https://platstudio.net/

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Hunter’s Point South Wins ASLA Honor Award

Great Ecology is pleased to announce that Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park (New York, NY) is the recipient of a second ASLA Honor Award in General Design (here’s the first one) and a 2019 World Architecture News Award in Urban Landscape. The innovative design blends landscape architecture and infrastructure and transforms a contaminated rail site into a vibrant park, which includes a tidal marsh designed by Great Ecology. The tidal marsh, which includes a palette of salt-tolerant plants, will help protect a sculpted grassland, sloping pathways, and an island sanctuary from storm surges.

We are proud to have been part of transforming this waterfront. Read more about our work on this project and other awards this project has won.

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Meet Davis Ladd

Great Ecology would like to introduce Davis Ladd, who has joined the Great Ecology team in San Diego as the Marketing Coordinator. Davis holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Redlands and has worked in marketing and product development, including for other companies focused on connecting people and nature. In his free time, Davis enjoys hiking and landscape photography. He is also an avid golfer and a lifelong San Diego Padres fan.

A young white wearing a black shirt with khaki pants and a brown baseball cap stands on a rocky outcropping, with snowy mountains and trees in the background.
Davis, hiking in California
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Great Ecology Founder Featured in New Book

This summer, Natural Resource Damages: A Guide to Litigating and Resolving NRD Cases, edited by Brian D. Israel, Brett Marston, and Lauren Daniel was published by the American Bar Association. Great Ecology is pleased to announce the book contains a chapter by our President and Founder, Dr. Mark Laska. The book, with contributions from multiple Natural Resource Damage (NRD) experts, explores NRD topics related to litigation strategy, cost-effect resolution of NRD cases, and jurisprudence related to the injury of natural resources.

Dr. Laska’s chapter, “The Future of NRD Restoration is ‘Banking’” focuses on the challenges of implementing habitat restoration projects that offset environmental injuries and why these challenges should make purchasing credits from established banks more appealing. He argues that utilizing mitigation or NRD banking professionals increases the likelihood of a successful project because these professionals have a vested interest in overseeing successful projects and that by purchasing offset credits from a bank, permitting time can be drastically reduced.

Dr. Laska is a subject matter expert in NRD expert developing and implementing a NRD response strategy for multiple active national contracts for states and trustees, large industrial, pharmaceutical, and energy sector clients and their legal counsels. The team at Great Ecology is highly experienced in completing Natural Resource Damage Assessments from concept through final report and has provided expert witness support and strategy to litigators, companies, and state trustees. Dr. Laska has served as an expert witness on numerous projects involving NRD and other ecological topics across the United States, is highly knowledgeable in habitat restoration planning and design, and has 25 years of experience, 18 as CEO of Great Ecology. 

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Great Ecology announces regional expansion to the Gulf Coast

Today, Great Ecology is announcing a major regional expansion into the Gulf Coast by opening an office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.   With the massive wetlands restoration plans of Louisiana, dramatic environmental changes in Texas, and habitat improvement opportunities throughout the Gulf of Mexico region, Great Ecology sees the need for its world class habitat restoration-driven services.

The newly opened office will be led by Claire Odenweller, who has worked in Louisiana and Texas for the past decade.  Dr. Mark Laska, CEO of Great Ecology said, “Great Ecology has worked every Gulf Coast states on multiple projects over the years from our remotely located offices and we realized that a physical presence can only lead to better client servicing.  The opportunity to open an office in Louisiana means we will now be able to offer clients more face-to-face interaction while continuing to develop our practice in the southeastern United States.”

Claire Odenweller stated, “my background as a professional wetland scientist with substantial environmental work in mitigation project and wetland banks, including permitting and ecological assessments dovetails with the core services Great Ecology offers and I am excited to grow our practice in this region.”

Active regional projects include Dallas’s Trinity River riverfront park planning and design, the Humble, TX mitigation bank assessment, and several mitigation and wetland projects in Louisiana.  Previously Great Ecology worked on a multi-state natural resource damage (NRD) coastal restoration project from a major oil spill. 

The office is located at 8550 United Plaza Blvd. and can be reached via (225) 416-5353.  For more information contact Jessa Spainhower or Claire Odenweller.

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Waterfront Esplanade Opens Along East River!

The best things come to those who wait—and it’s with that in mind that Great Ecology is pleased to announce that Pier 35, on the East River Waterfront, is now open! The East River Waterfront Esplanade soft opened in late 2018—but fully opened to the public in April of this year. The project, was led by SHoP Architects, with landscape architecture design from Ken Smith Workshop, ecological consulting from Great Ecology, and engineering from HDR and ARUP. The site includes a new eco-park and urban beach, dubbed Mussel Beach, which was influenced by the pre-industrial East River shoreline and provides habitat for a variety of aquatic species, notably blue and ribbed mussels.

Great Ecology was instrumental in providing scientifically-based design recommendations for the habitat creation feature of the park, including the intertidal shellfish habitat. As part of our role in this project we developed a grant, submitted by NYC Economic Development Corporation, which funded a two-year intertidal shellfish habitat creation study. Great Ecology staff evaluated biotic and abiotic factors at the Site, which included water quality testing, pollution sources, and oyster survivorship and recruitment monitoring to determine whether shellfish could survive and flourish at the chosen location. A “habitat slab,” designed by Ken Smith with Great Ecology’s design guidelines, was installed in 2012 and recruitment of young shellfish onto the slab has already started, which means visitors to the park can see how the East River waterfront aquatic species have been colonizing the habitat slab.

Eco Park/Pier 35, East River Waterfront, NYC Location: New York, NY Architect: SHoP Landscape Architect: Ken Smith Landscape Architect

Restoring and revitalizing shellfish habitat to the East River, which was once home to massive populations of shellfish, is a lofty goal—but one worth pursuing as shellfish act as natural filters. Their presence can improve water quality and offers an excellent indicator of ecological health. This innovative project serves as a pilot for sustainable waterfront development in New York and New Jersey and earned the 2009 Design Award of Excellence from the Public Design Commission of NYC and the 2019 Best New Infrastructure award from MASterworks. The Pier 35 ecopark and urban beach opened to the public in April 2019.

Measuring Mussel Size
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Great Ecology’s Latest Team Members!

Great Ecology’s been growing and we’re thrilled to welcome the following people to our team!

Cate Collinson – Cate began at Great Ecology earlier this month as an Associate Ecologist, based in our New York office. She brings six years of experience working with the Canadian provincial, municipal, and private sectors as well as at the state-level in the United States. She specializes in regulatory support, ecological surveys and sampling for both terrestrial and aquatic environments, and habitat suitability surveys.

Claire Odenweller – Claire joined Great Ecology earlier in June as a Senior Landscape Architect and is leading our brand new Baton Rouge office. Claire brings extensive experience in wetland mitigation, particularly in the southeastern United States, and is adept at developing and overseeing solutions that offset impacts to natural resources.

Ellie Garza, PLA – Ellie joined the Denver team in early May as an Associate Landscape Architect. She’s a professional landscape architect and dynamic team player who excels at developing creative and resilient ecological designs. Ellie’s past project experience includes analysis and planning, design development and construction documentation, public-led planning, and visual communication. She’s a Council of Landscape Architectural Boards (CLARB) Certified Landscape Architect. And, did we mention she’s also a certified small unmanned aircraft systems commercial remote pilot?

Esa Crumb, MS – Esa joined Great Ecology in February as an Associate Ecologist in Denver. She has more than ten years of experience in wetland and plant ecology, restoration planning, and environmental permitting. She’s well-versed in the nuances of the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting, Endangered Species Act consultation, and natural resource assessments and has worked on multiple mitigation planning projects.

Justin Heyerdahl, MESM – Justin is an Ecologist who joined Great Ecology’s San Diego office in April. He brings a strong background in mapping, visual story-telling, and data science. His experience includes modeling species distribution, landscape connectivity, and climate change adaptation. He uses spatial and non-spatial analytics to help leverage ecological processes for building resilience through design and planning.

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Chris Loftus Among First to Earn SITES AP Credential

Chris Loftus, Senior Landscape Architect at Great Ecology has earned the SITES Professional (SITES AP) credential through Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI), placing him among an elite group of professionals dedicated to elevating the value of landscapes in the built environment.

The SITES AP establishes a common framework to define the profession of sustainable landscape design and development. It provides landscape professionals the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, expertise, and commitment to the profession. SITES APs possess the knowledge and skills necessary to support the SITES certification process, including participating in the design and development process, support and encouraging integrated design, managing the application and certification process and providing advocacy and education for the adoption of SITES.

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Hunter’s Point South Phase II – Best Urban Landscape Project

Great Ecology is pleased to announce that Hunter’s Point South, Phase II has been named the Best Urban Landscape project for 2019 by the Municipal Arts Society. We are so pleased with the work our team has put into this effort.

Members of the Great Ecology team designed the approximately one acre tidal wetland mitigation and habitat creation and provided extensive permitting support. This included a Wetlands Functional Analysis and an Evaluation of Planned Wetlands. Great Ecology’s design accounted for predicted sea-level rise to ensure long-term project success.

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Great Ecology to Present at 7th International Conference on Eco-Compensation and Payments for Ecosystem Services

Associate Ecologist, Marlene Tyner-Valencourt will present at the 7th International Conference on Eco-Compensation and Payments for Ecosystem Services. The conference, which is hosted by the China Eco-Compensation Policy Research Center, RKSI, Asian Development Bank, and CAEP, will occur on December 3 – 4, 2018 in Huangshan, Anhui Province in China.

Ms. Valencourt-Tyner’s talk on December 4 will be called “Mitigation Banking in the U.S.: Practice and Conditions,” and will provide a regulatory overview of natural resources protection in the U.S., a definition of ecosystem and mitigation banking, an overview of U.S. mitigation banking marketplace, key factors for mitigation banking success, and a framework for applying these concepts and practices in China. It was co-authored with Dr. Mark S. Laska, Founder and President of Great Ecology.

The lineage of this talk includes Dr. Laska’s 2016 presentation at ADB’s Green Business Forum in Manilla and continues Great Ecology’s collaborative work with the ADB to share market-based approaches, best practices, and lessons learned to the conservation discussion in Asia.


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