We’re delighted to showcase some of the amazing, water-related work of Biohabitats subsidiary, Natural Systems International.

An Urban Water Reuse Model In Tempe, AZ

A city that boasts an 85% chance of glorious sunshine year-round is not without its disadvantages, and an annual rainfall of only 7.63 inches is one of them. Fortunately, the City of Tempe, Arizona’s new LEED-certified Transit Center building makes the most of every drop by reusing stormwater and greywater. NSI designed a treatment system to produce reclaimed, non-potable water by processing greywater, ‘cooling tower blowdown,’ and stormwater runoff. Every day, 400 gallons of greywater from the building’s sinks and 1,000 gallons of water from its cooling tower are treated in a recirculating sand filter, disinfected, and reused to flush the building’s toilets. Stormwater from roofs and parking surfaces is captured, filtered for sediment and oil reduction, stored in an underground cistern and then used to supply the site irrigation system. These two systems provide a constant supply of high-quality reuse water. Potable water is used as a back-up supply only when reclaimed water is not available. Both systems emphasize simplicity, ease of maintenance, and energy efficiency. By harvesting and recycling water in this arid region, the Tempe Transit Center serves as a model for urban water reuse.

Stroud Water Research Institute Grows Greener

The location of the Stroud Water Research Center, which conducts pioneering research on streams and rivers, couldn’t be more appropriate. Situated adjacent to White Clay Creek, which bears the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s highest classification (“Exceptional Value”), the Center encompasses an 800-hectare drainage basin. Designated as an Experimental Ecological Reserve by the National Science Foundation, the site has been deemed an outstanding representative of an ecosystem of its type.

When the Center needed to add a new lab, office and classroom, they called upon NSI to create a natural wastewater management system. The treatment system, which replaces outdated septic fields, will process flows from the entire campus. Funded through a Pennsylvania Growing Greener Grant, it will integrate directly into the landscape and provide a relevant backdrop to the Center’s research. It will also help protect groundwater and nearby streams. The facility includes a primary treatment tank with built-in equalization and secondary treatment through a series of terraced wetlands and a trickling filter tower. A recirculating sand filter polishes effluent prior to dispersal in a subsurface drip irrigation field. Stroud’s research team will monitor the treatment system and drip dispersal field to evaluate its performance.

‘Learning Landscape’ Treats Wastewater At Largest U.S. Wildlife Refuge

When the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently began a project to expand its interpretive and educational experience for visitors to the 1.5-million-acre Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR), it sought to provide wastewater management that was sensitive to the unique setting. The DNWR is the largest wildlife refuge in the continental U.S., and its mission is to protect native species and preserve their habitat. The DNWR’s main visitor center and access to the greater refuge is based at the Corn Creek Field Station in Southern Nevada.

This location is the center of a unique riparian and wetland ecosystem for the Mojave Desert that is fed by several deep aquifer springs. Native Americans, who were attracted to the area’s lush plant and animal resources called Corn Creek home for at least 5,000 years. The USFWS intends the new Com Creek Visitor Center to be an example of a sustainable and environmentally friendly facility, striving for a LEED Platinum Certification and net-zero energy usage. As a subconsultant to the architectural firm Lucchesi Galati, NSI designed an advanced system that uses constructed wetlands as a major component to naturally treat wastewater. The wastewater infrastructure will be built as a learning landscape, providing educational opportunities for people in the Las Vegas area to learn about and respect this dynamic environment. Construction for the 16,000-square-foot facility is expected to finish in 2012.

Visionary Wastewater Treatment Design For A Visionary’s Institute

Founded by J.I. Rodale, one of the first advocates of sustainable, organic farming in the U.S., the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania is a nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. When the Institute needed a wastewater treatment system for its new visitor center, NSI created a fitting solution for an organization that devotes itself to studying the link between healthy soil, food and people. The innovative wastewater system is comprised of three main components: rainwater to flush toilets, wetlands to treat wastewater, and a drip irrigation system that uses the treated water to irrigate the building’s landscaping. The system is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. We’d like to think J.I. Rodale would be proud.

Wise Use of Water Benefits Penguins and People

Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, cherished by the Puget Sound region and visited by people from all over the world for more than a century, encompasses 92 acres and features more than 1,000 animals representing nearly 300 species. Among them is the Humboldt penguin, a timid species named after the cold Humboldt Current, which flows along the coast of North and South America. The Humboldt penguin exhibit at the

Woodland Park Zoo contains pools, a beach and a viewing area. Partnering with Northwest-based planning and design firm, Studio Hanson Roberts, NSI designed a system that treats and filters water from the exhibit through both a settling and equalization tank and constructed wetlands. By minimizing the use of potable water, preventing exhibit backwash from entering the sewer system and harnessing the natural power of a functioning wetland, this unique treatment system saves water, creates habitat, improves water quality, and enhances the exhibit and the zoo experience for visitors.

Doris Duke Foundation’s NJ Farm Expands Sustainably

Duke Farms, the Hillsboro, New Jersey estate once owned by tobacco and hydropower magnate James Buchanan Duke (and then his daughter, Doris) is now a 50-acre property striving to become a regional center for environmental stewardship. Managed by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Duke Farms Foundation, Duke Farms intends to provide healthy and sustainable habitat for native flora and fauna, and environmentally-oriented programming for 150,000 visitors a year. This expansion necessitated an upgrade to the facility’s wastewater management system, and NSI was called upon to develop a solution that was in line with the site’s environmental goals. NSI jumped at the challenge, and designed a wastewater treatment and collection system that integrates tanks, constructed wetlands, sand filters and a subsurface drip land application. This low-energy, low-maintenance solutions was designed so that it could be constructed in phases to meet development growth. We’re delighted that our team is assisting in the stewardship of this important cultural asset.


Next week, Senior Ecologist Joe Berg is heading to Lansing, MI for the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics 2011 Conference. This year’s theme is “Building a Green Economy,” and Joe will present “A Federal Method for Cost-Benefits Analysis of 40 Restoration Projects: We Need More” and “Creation for the Collection and Conveyance of Stormwater Runoff as a Form of Green Infrastructure.”

From July 17-21, Biohabitats Great Lakes Bioregion leader, Ivette Bolender will attend the Coastal Zone 11 Conference in Chicago. For over 33 years, this biennial international symposium has been the largest international gathering of ocean and coastal management professionals in the world. This year’s theme is “Winds of Change: Great Lakes, Great Oceans, Great Communities!”

From August 1-5, the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration will be held in Baltimore, right in the backyard of Biohabitats’ Chesapeake/Delaware Bays Bioregion. Our folks are super psyched to lead technical field trips focused on regenerative stormwater conveyance, urban stream restoration and tidal wetland and vernal pool restoration. You won’t want to miss conference sessions featuring Biohabitats staff.

Landscape designer Nicole Stern will moderate an exciting session about the interjurisdictional Baltimore Watershed Agreement. Senior ecologist Terry Doss will present “Restoring Coastal Habitat in the Heart of New York City.” Senior Ecologist Joe Berg will share suggestions for “Prioritizing Watershed Restoration: Headwater Versus Downstream Projects.”

This year, the folks who normally put on the Maryland Streams Symposium have teamed up with colleagues in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia to present the 2011 Streams Symposium and Mid-Atlantic Volunteer Monitoring Conference. The event, which takes place August 10-13 in Westminster, MD, will showcase state-of-the-art stream restoration techniques and address the challenge of “Sustaining Volunteer Involvement in Water Quality Management.” We hope to see all of our Mid-Atlantic friends there!

From August 21-25, the Society for Ecological Restoration International will present the 4th World Congress on Ecological Restoration. This year’s event will take place in Mérida, Mexico, with a theme of “Re-establishing the Link Between Nature and Culture” (Restableciendo la Unión entre Naturaliza Y Cultura). As Global Restoration Ambassador for SER, Biohabitats president Keith Bowers will speak about the economic aspects of ecological restoration at the event’s opening plenary session.

August 28-31 will find two Biohabitats senior ecologists at the EMECS9 Global Summit on Coastal Seas in Baltimore, MD. Terry Doss, who heads up our Hudson River Bioregion office will present “Sustainable Approaches to Coastal Habitat Restoration in the Heart of New York City” Joe Berg from our Chesapeake/Delaware Bays Bioregion office will present “Towards Sustainable Watershed Restoration Projects: Source Reduction versus Interception.” Be sure to say hi to Terry and Joe if you’re attending this event. (If you’re in from out of town, Joe can tell you where to get the best crabs and beer!)


Meet the Newest Members of the Biohabitats Family

Early in 2011, Biohabitats acquired the visionary water resources firm Natural Systems International (NSI). What makes NSI visionary? Long before the rest of the world was talking about water security, the staff at NSI was helping clients all over the world to conserve, manage and reuse water. You’ve read about some of their recent projects. We thought it was about time you met some of these talented folks.

Michael Ogden is the Founding Director of Natural Systems International, has a BS from the University of California (Berkeley) in Civil Engineering and an MBA from the University of Chicago (MBA in mathematical methods and finance). He is a registered professional engineer in 10 states. His engineering practice focuses on the use of natural systems – the ecologies of the pond, marsh, river, prairie, and woodland- for the treatment and reuse of wastewater and storm water. Michael has been involved in more than 500 projects involving sustainable natural systems. He has worked in 40 states, and internationally in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, India, China, Afghanistan, and Australia. Michael has participated in some of the first commercial LEED projects. Michael co-wrote the textbook ‘Constructed Wetlands in the Sustainable Landscape’, published by John Wiley and Sons. The text was also translated into Chinese to assist in moving water sustainability concepts around the world.

Erin English grew up playing alongside (luckily not in-she knew better, even at that age) a little stream polluted from septic tank seepage, acid mine drainage and runoff from a nearby golf course. Despite the strange ‘colorful’ state of the water, the wooded ravine was a wondrous playground, so when someone told her cattails could help ‘clean up’ water, she organized a small posse of neighborhood kids to plant some from the seed heads they found nearby. Almost 23 years later, she now delights in helping other communities reap the benefits of using natural systems (and yes, cattails) to manage wastewater and stormwater runoff. Erin focuses her chemical engineering background on integrating conventional process-design with the ecological concepts of natural systems. She has worked in both non-profit (Ocean Arks International) and design firm environments on community, school, zoo, and agricultural projects. Having studied permaculture and sustainable design, she works to integrate these concepts into her water and community work. Interested in the intersection of agriculture, soil, nutrients and water, Erin has served on the Board of the Santa Fe Farmers Market Institute for the last five years. She has helped develop NSI’s approaches to water master planning and water reuse systems and is a registered professional engineer in five states.

As a child, Pete Muñoz used to think his cereal bowl was the ocean and that the Cheerios were trash. It was his job to clean everything up. Since then, he hasn’t stopped fighting for the preservation and restoration of our waters. Along the way he picked up a few skills solo biking through Europe at age 18, locking-down in front of a bottled water semi-truck, and hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. More formally Pete picked up a couple useful nuggets at Michigan State University (BS-Biosystems Engineering) and the University of Vermont (MS – Civil and Environmental Engineers). Pete helps manage our office in Santa Fe, NM, but works around the globe helping to connect communities with appropriate inspirational water infrastructure. He is frequently asked to speak on green infrastructure, sustainable water management, and ecological design, and he also teaches at Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, VT. Pete has deep love for Michigan, the Great Lakes and sugaring. Pete is a cancer survivor, extreme tinkerer, avid gardener, master of science, student of life, foodie, music lover, woodworker, baker, LEED AP, wastewater treatment operator, coffee drinker, chicken tender, activist, soccer player, dish washer, and father of three girls (including one four-legged).

Until he moved to the arid Southwest, senior engineering technician Ryan Case had always lived alongside water-the Gulf of Maine, Vermont rivers, the Pacific Ocean or Lake Champlain. This exposure to both the abundance and scarcity of water no doubt affected his understanding of humankind’s relationship to water. Ryan’s passion for protecting water resources really came alive when he discovered the work of Dr. John Todd while at Middlebury College. He went on to join Dr. Todd’s team at Ocean Arks International, where he helped design and build experimental systems for treating wastewater that were analogs of wild ecosystems. He also began developing the organization’s educational outreach. Ryan later started his own non-profit, the Water Stewards Network, which worked with an international network of water rights activists and water experts to amplify and unify the voices of communities around the world affected by global water politics and our mismanagement of water resources. As far as we know, Ryan the only member of the Biohabitats staff who can claim to have directly influenced a U.S. president. In a former non-political job managing services for President George H.W. Bush’s family estate, Ryan actually convinced the President to let him build a floating island to improve the ecology of the President’s favorite-and badly polluted- pond. According to Ryan, the President was so pleased with the ecological restoration project he had Ryan show it to former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, during his visit to the estate. Ryan’s interest in sustainability extends far into his life outside of work. He continues to refine his Vermont homestead, which he built by hand using traditional timber framing techniques, with principles of permaculture.

Growing up on the East Coast, Project Engineer Justin Lyon spent a significant amount of time around the ocean. This was a major factor leading to his dream of becoming a boatbuilder. Though he continued to spend a significant amount of time with boats, including a long-distance sail from California to Nicaragua in 2008, his career focus switched to civil and environmental engineering. Justin has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Bucknell University and is currently working on his M.S. in Environmental Planning and Management at Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Biohabitats, Justin worked in land development and environmental planning in California where he honed his drafting and design skills and enhanced his working knowledge of civil engineering. Justin left California to begin his own sustainable engineering firm in Nicaragua where he was exposed to a wide variety of projects such as eco lodges, shipping container hostels, recycled tire and bottle houses and organic farming. Now that Justin has moved to a landlocked state, he can most likely be found skiing, hiking, golfing, playing tennis or just generally wandering and exploring new places.

Growing up in Espanola, New Mexico, Rachel Arrietta dreamed of becoming a truck driver. Somewhere along the road, however, she rerouted her aspirations toward the field of drafting. Though she began by drafting by hand for a civil engineering and land surveying company, Rachel ultimately discovered an affinity and knack for Computer Aided Drafting (CAD). As CAD Engineer, she has applied her skills to environmentally focused water resources projects for more than six years. When she’s not busy drafting, Rachel can usually be found spending time with her family, motorcycle, fishing rod or garden trowel. Does Rachel think her CAD work helps improve the earth? That’s a 10-4!

After high school, Project Engineer Alan Garrido dreamed of becoming a rock star like “Slash” to rock on with his friends every weekend. Instead of becoming a rock star, Alan was involved in different styles of traditional Colombian music in his home university while studying Agricultural Engineering. Alan wrote a thesis with his brother addressing the technical improvement of production of Calcium Oxide in his home state of Huila. In a short period of time after graduation, Alan started a new research topic with his research team and lead meetings between academics, the government, and entrepreneurs in the area of mining and mining industrial processes. Alan was offered the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Oklahoma (OU) where he started his Master’s in Environmental Engineering. At OU Alan developed a research plan to determine the effects of acid mine drainage on agricultural produce and human health at the mining district of Potosi, Bolivia. He also got involved in the development and monitoring of passive technologies to treat acid mine drainage at the Tar Creek Superfund Site. While working on his graduate degree, Alan shared his time with his band where he played the rhythm guitar and back-up voice around Dallas, Houston, Austin, Oklahoma City, and other cities in the south of the United States. Before joining Biohabitats, Alan recorded a CD with his band, presented his research at international and national conferences, and played “Rock Band” every weekend with his friends. Nowadays, Alan enjoys the outdoors in Santa Fe and feels like Captain Planet when working at Biohabitats.

With over 400 years of ancestry in the “City Different,” Rose Marie Price’s roots extend deeply into Santa Fe soil. Perhaps that’s why she’s able to manage the operations of our busy Santa Fe office so stably. Rose Marie’s 16 years of administrative experience have equipped her with strong skills in accounting, budgeting, organization and communication. Outside of work, Rose Marie’s passion is fortifying her ancestral roots with genealogical research. She has spent ten years compiling her 1600-person family tree, which, by the way, includes Ritchie Valens of “La Bamba” fame. One of the many things Rose Marie likes about her job as office manager/administrator is that it gives her the chance to learn new things and broaden her skills. With her strong foundation, it’s not surprising that she branches out so easily!

Growing up in a remote high mountain valley of Southern Colorado inspired senior engineering technician Olin Christy with the pure joy and contentment that comes from being closely connected to one’s environment. The happiness Olin found in natural areas led him to believe he would have a career as an outdoor guide in Colorado’s Wilderness areas. However, interests in philosophy, the environment and the winding river of life carried him in a different direction, to that of water and land stewardship. In his time away from the office, Olin tries to live from the land as much as possible on seven acres of northern New Mexico farm land, where he and his fiancé are attempting to grow most of their own food. If there is a free moment, he also enjoys camping, making metal sculpture, reading, movies, mechanics and mountain biking.

New Biohabitats Hudson River Bioregion Staff

For ecologist Justin Bowers, work was just a day at the beach before he joined Biohabitats. That’s because he was working at NOAA’s oceanfront facility in Sandy Hook, NJ, compiling a database containing 20 years’ worth of ecological restoration projects completed within the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary. In addition to this body of regional restoration knowledge, Justin brings five years of hands-on conservation planning and GIS project experience, including a stint with the USGS’ North Carolina Water Research Center. He has also performed GIS analysis for wind, solar and LNG energy projects. Justin holds a B.A. in human ecology from the College of the Atlantic and a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University. Equally impressive, he manages to maintain loyalty to his hometown Red Sox in an office full of New York and New Jersey natives! Although he is undoubtedly helping us in the Hudson River Bioregion office, his work on the NOAA database will help everyone in the restoration community.

Got an idea?

Contact The Editor

Sign up for Leaf Litter

Browse by topic

Browse by year