Welcome to The Ecology Center

The Ecology Center, in San Juan Capistrano, is an exciting educational center, that engages individuals, families, and students in fun, hands-on activities that teach practical, environmental solutions at the household and community level. The Ecology Center seeks to bring all members of the community together in a solutions-based educational setting to inspire and create a healthy and abundant future for all of Southern California.

The Center highlights empowering and cutting-edge environmental perspectives that can be applied to the way we live our lives, making it possible for us to coexist with a thriving environment. We are an organization that believes in learning by doing, and we aim to address small and big questions like: How do we ensure the future health of our oceans? How do we inspire a community to make change? How can we make our home healthier? How do we manage food supply and waste? How do we support the children of all species for all time?


A visit to The Ecology Center brings you one step closer to becoming more educated, inspired, and empowered in good stewardship of Southern California’s environment.

We are a 1-acre site composed of our headquarters and general store in the historic Congdon Farmhouse (built in 1878), plus the surrounding learning landscapes and The Eco-Labs of Food, Water, Energy, Waste, and Shelter.

Our facility welcomes individuals and groups on-site and on-location for educational tours, field trips, and private events. Attend a lecture or workshop to learn new skills and practical, hands-on solutions to improve the shared ecosystems in our homes and communities.

Or, just visit and peruse our grounds with educational signage and the Tools For Change general store. Group visits (4 people or more) must be arranged in advance. These spaces are constantly evolving with new content and programming, so visit us soon and often!

As a non-profit, we count on member, in-kind, and sponsor donations for the upkeep and development of our exhibits, and we invite you to join our community as a member today and peruse our volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch!

Open Hours

Tools for Change General Store
Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm
Sat-Sun, 11am-3pm

Office Hours
Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm by appointment

For more information on tours for school and private groups, please review our school offerings and private group packages . Then, contact us to set up a formal visit!

Our Values

Overall we believe the world we live in is facing radical change – and our aim is to help find positive futures in the face of that change. To get in shape for the challenges of the future, we need a culture that knows how to sustain the things that sustain us and at the same time nurtures creativity, imagination and adaptability.

The Ecology Center is founded on the principle that each person can make a difference toward a sustainable future. Individual actions do transform the community, elevating the health of our environment and ecosystems. Through basic action, we can create a diverse, safe, and healthy world with clean air, water, and power for ours and future generations.

Our Home

Perched in the middle of farm fields even today, the Congdon House on Alipaz Street has seen many firsts in its 130-year farmhouse history. Built in 1878, it is the oldest wooden structure in San Juan Capistrano.

When Pony Express Rider Joel Congdon built his family home in 1878, it was the first wooden house in town. The two-story Victorian sat on square blocks taken from the rubble of the Great Stone Church at the Mission, with walls of redwood from Northern California, held together by square iron nails, shipped from San Francisco.

In 1887, Congdon planted Orange County's first walnut grove around the house, beginning an agricultural tradition that would continue with the succession of families that have lived there since. In 1991, the city bought the Congdon House as part of the open-space bond purchase, preserving an essential piece of San Juan Capistrano's heritage.

Now, through The Ecology Center, the Congdon House continues to tell its story. Having witnessed more than 130 years of social, agricultural, and environmental change, it is the perfect venue for an exploration of the links between past, present, and future. At the same time, as one of the oldest standing embodiments of the past, it serves to remind us that we must act today to rejuvenate the environment for the generations to follow.


Evan Marks
Founder & Executive Director

With his background in permaculture and agroecology, and, having worked extensively in California and Hawaii and internationally in Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Ghana and Nigeria, Evan Marks knows that people have the ability to directly impact the environment through individual change.

Sarah Fisher
Sarah Fisher
Meg Hiesinger Ph.D.
Meg Hiesinger Ph.D.
Educational Programs
Max Isles
Max Isles
David Marks
David Marks
Vicki Marks
Vicki Marks
Special Projects
Kristin Morrison
Kristin Morrison
Special Projects
Ann Nguyen
Ann Nguyen
Brigid Jeffers
Brigid Jeffers

Board of Directors

Our highly qualified and engaged board of directors includes:

Jamie Welsh
Board Chair. CEO,
10% Solution/Red Willow Group
Dale Howe
Board Treasurer. Principal,
Dale Howe CPA
Kimberly Krantz
Board Secretary. Senior Manager of Communications,
The Boeing Company
Johnny Schillereff
CEO, Element Skateboards
Harry Helling
President, CEO,
Crystal Cove Alliance
Cristina Cherpas-Wyett
Business Development, Diana Garreau
Ryan O'Melveny Wilson
Executive Chef, Five Crowns/SideDoor
Evan Marks
Executive Director, The Ecology Center
Pro-bono Legal
Jackson Lewis LLP
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP


949.443.4223 Open hours

32701 Alipaz St. San Juan Capistrano, 92675
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