Ecotechnics and Biospherics

Innovative Approaches to Living Sustainably


Mark Nelson: “Ecotechnics and Biospherics: Innovative Approaches to Living Sustainably” will be Keynote speaker at the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) Sustainability Summit on Friday, April 15 at 9:00 am.


$ 99 Saturday Workshop:

99.00 $

Room M233, second floor of M, look in Map for best parking in S1:


8:45 am Registration

9 am Workshop starts

12:30-1:30 Lunch

4:30 pm Workshop conclusion


Dr. Mark Nelson – Ecotechnics

Dr. Mark Nelson brings a world of practical knowledge and unique perspectives to the Sustainability Summit. He has a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering Sciences from the University of Florida where he worked with the founder of the new field of ecological engineering, Prof. Howard Odum. Mark is a leading researcher in ecological restoration, environmental technologies and space life support. He was a member of the eight person biospherian team in the first two year experiment in Biosphere 2, the world’s first laboratory for global ecology. That mini-world housed a rainforest, savannah, desert, mangrove marsh and coral reef ocean along with a farm to feed the eight people. Everything was recycled inside, which necessitated that farming and all supporting technologies be accomplished in a healthy, non-polluting and sustainable way. This led to major environmental technology advances like air purification using soils and plants, constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment and reuse as well as important insights into how to restore and manage key wilderness biomes. Mark co-founded and heads the Institute of Ecotechnics which has worked for four decades around the world in innovative demonstration projects in challenging environments. These range from world city (London), arid southwest deserts (Santa Fe, New Mexico) where Mark developed organic orchards and vegetable gardens and methods for reversing desertification, sustainable forestry in the rainforest (Puerto Rico), regeneration of overgrazed tropical savannah (West Australia), maintaining traditional polyculture in the Mediterranean (Aix-en-Provence, France) and working on ocean health and sea people cultures in the world ocean with the Research Vessel Heraclitus. His Institute consulted to the Caravan of Dreams jazz and theatre complex in Ft. Worth in the 1980s, demonstrating that global solutions have to include the vital role of cities, including urban greening and enriching cultural diversity. Biosphere 2 inspired Mark to start Wastewater Gardens International bringing cutting-edge and affordable ecological approaches to several hundred projects in 14 countries around the world. Mark’s work includes rigorous science coupled with the necessity of finding low-cost, green and low tech approaches. The goal is to develop ways of enhancing human life while protecting our global biosphere. His books include: “Space Biospheres” (with John Allen), “Life Under Glass: the Inside Story of Biosphere 2” (with two fellow biospherians) and most recently: “The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time”.

About the speaker:

Dr. Mark Nelson has been hands-on on pioneering ecological projects around the world. His Institute of Ecotechnics has for over three decades been working on ecological restoration and sustainable ranching and farming/orchardry in the tropical savannah of outback Australia (in the Kimberley of Western Australia), the semi-arid temperate grasslands of the U.S. Southwest (near Santa Fe, New Mexico) and demonstrating sustainable forestry in the rainforest (in Puerto Rico). Originally a city boy from New York City, Mark knows that what happens in the world cities is crucial to our transition to a sustainable future. His Institute has its base in London where they showcase cutting-edge artists from around the world, and create a space where art, science and ecology can meet. His Institute was also involved in the Caravan of Dreams jazz club and theater in Fort Worth, Texas in the 1980s, helping bring life to a downtown city center, with a geodesic dome featuring cacti and succulents from Texas and other bio-regions.

Mark also brings a unique personal perspective to our shared challenge of learning to live in harmony with Earth’s biosphere. He was a member of the first team of “biospherians” who conducted a two-year experiment in Biosphere 2, the large closed ecological system facility in southern Arizona which served as a laboratory for studying our global ecology, as well as an early prototype for long-term space habitation. That experience has catalyzed his appreciation that every action has consequences and that changing the way we think about living in our planetary biosphere is crucial to changing how we treat it.

Among the topics that Mark will speak on and explore more deeply in the Saturday workshop are:

  •     intensive organic farming and fruit growing in water-limited environments, replenishing soil fertility, approaches which can help green our cities;
  •     ecological approaches to sewage treatment and water re-use with constructed wetlands.,
  •     graywater irrigation and other emerging ways to prevent water pollution and conserve valuable freshwater supplies;
  •     air purification using soil and plants, a solution to indoor and outside air pollution
  •     the development of our understanding of the biosphere and the role humans play in its  cycles and co-evolution
  •     the need for dialogue between scientists and artists and between cultures since we share our planet in common
  •     the ability of each of us to make a difference and regain our sense of connectedness with the biosphere

Mark has a Ph.D. in environmental engineering (worked with systems ecologist and father of ecological engineering, H.T. Odum at the University of Florida), a M.S. in Watershed Management from the University of Arizona and a B.A. from Dartmouth College. He helps edit the journal, Life Sciences in Space Research and organizes sessions at space science conferences. His books include: “Space Biospheres” (with John Allen), “Life Under Glass: the Inside Story of Biosphere 2” (with two fellow biospherians) and most recently: “The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time”.

Mark is Chairman and CEO of the Institute of Ecotechnics (, a U.S. and U.K. non-profit research group working on ways to bring ecology and technics into balance; head of the Biospheric Design Division of Global Ecotechnics Corporation ( and founder of Wastewater Gardens International ( which has brought ecological approaches to projects in  more than a dozen countries worldwide.

Starting in the 1970s, Mark worked in the high desert grassland south of Santa Fe, New Mexico where he made hundreds of tons of compost, planted over a thousand fruit and windbreak trees, and helped develop a highly productive organic vegetable farm, creating an oasis in previously overgrazed and eroding country. Since 1978 Mark has worked in the semi-arid tropical savannah of West Australia where he helped start Savannah Systems P/L a project centered on the pasture regeneration and enrichment of a 5000 acre property in the Kimberley region. He has also helped develop the research program at Las Casas de la Selva, a project for sustainable forestry in the tropical rainforest in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Mark has co-authored papers on the results of the line-planting of 40,000 trees on an 1100 acre property to showcase responsible enrichment and utilization of secondary forest.

Mark was a summa cum laude graduate from Dartmouth, Phi Beta Kappa and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the honors engineering society. Mark was awarded the Yuri Gagarin Jubilee Medal, 1993 for outstanding service to international cooperation in space and the environment by the Russian Cosmonautics Federation; and elected a Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences (2008), Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (1998) and Fellow of the Explorers Club (1994).


Biosphere 2 facility in southern Arizona. The white domed structure on the far right is one of two “lungs” (expansion chambers) connected to the main structures by air tunnels. Population: 30,000 tons of soil, 3800 species of plants and animals, 8 humans.



Biosphere 2 first experiment crew on the beach prior to closure. From left: Mark (Laser) van Thillo, Dr. Roy Walford, Abigail (Gaie) Alling, Linda Leigh, Jane Poynter, Sally Silverstone, Mark Nelson and Taber MacCallum (photo: D.P. Snyder).



Biosphere 2’s half acre farm which supplied eight people with a healthy, organic diet including a small amount of eggs, milk and meat. It was one of the most productive systems in the world and used no harmful chemicals and maintained soil fertility.



Mark Nelson conducting research in the mangrove ecosystem of Biosphere 2.



Measuring plants to track rates of growth and increase in biomass were done by Linda Leigh and Mark Nelson in the rainforest as well as the other terrestrial wilderness biomes of Biosphere 2.



Room M233, second floor of M, look in Map for best parking in S1:


8:45 am Registration

9 am Workshop starts

12:30-1:30 Lunch

4:30 pm Workshop conclusion









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