Nature Collective

About Nature Collective

Founded in 1987, Nature Collective is a conservation and science education nonprofit leader in San Diego County. We work to restore habitats to provide healthier waters and greater wildlife diversity. We educate future generations to become aware of, appreciate, and act to protect the natural environments and watersheds surrounding them. We think inclusively and diversely when serving those growing up devoid of nature, those longing to reconnect, and those who already prioritize their relationship with nature. We want our places and events to offer every human an experience and deep connection with the living world. 

Our vision is a world where everyone has a passion to connect with, experience, and protect nature.

Our mission is to drive a passion for nature, for all. We want our places and events to offer every human an experience and a deep connection with the living world.

Committed to Driving a Passion for Nature, for All


From education tours and field trips to volunteer opportunities, we offer a dynamic array of community activities– as well as trails where you can go solo and enjoy the peace.


With energy and determination, we work hard to conserve our lands. We know – and champion – the importance of opening the lagoon to the ocean, removing invasive plants, and more.


Thanks to our 20+ years of experience with the lagoon restoration, Nature Collective soon will be available for consulting with watershed restoration, education, and conservation projects.

We Are An Award-Winning Organization


San Elijo Lagoon Restoration: Sustainability Project of the Year Award (in partnership with SANDAG + CalTrans) by American Public Works Association – San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter


Harbaugh Seaside Trails: 2021 Merit Award for establishment + beautification of this permanent open space, awarded by California Trails + Greenways and California State Parks


Cardiff Living Shoreline: 2020 Best Restored Beach Award for City of Encinitas, in partnership with Nature Collective for habitat restoration, by American Shore and Beach Preservation Association


Harbaugh Seaside Trails: 2020 Honor Design Award to Grounded Landscape Architecture, by American Society of Landscape Architects, San Diego Chapter


Excellence in Public Lands Partnership 2019, awarded by Public Lands Alliance


Excellence in Environmental Stewardship 2018, awarded by City of Encinitas, California


Reviving Your Wetlands Lagoon Restoration: Best Restored West Coast Beach 2018, by the American Shore + Beach Preservation Association for Cardiff State Beach sand replenishment


Science Education: 2018 award by John Muir Environmental Conservation Education (bestowed to Tara Fuad, Education Director)


Volunteer Champion Award: 2017 for Barbara Wallach, by County of San Diego Parks + Recreation


Community Team Member Award: 2017, for Volunteer Coordinator Elayna Flanders, by County of San Diego Parks + Recreation


Doug Gibson Conservation Leadership Day Proclamation: 2016, for Executive Director Doug Gibson’s 20 years of service, by the County Supervisor, and Mayors of Encinitas and Solana Beach


Outdoor Outreach’s Lead the Way Honoree: 2016, for Executive Director Doug Gibson


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Grant Award: 2017-2018 national recognition funding for Science Education


Stewardship Award for Community Conservation: 2014, by Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project


Habitat Restoration Excellence: 2013, by San Diego Coastkeeper Water Wise Award


Denise Stillinger Day, June 19, 2012: Proclamation for Board of Directors President, by County Supervisor District III


Board President Denise Stillinger is named Cox Conserves Leader in San Diego.

Our History


Keeping lagoon water flowing freely was a priority in these early years. Quickly, the young organization began to attract more support + awareness. Growing an education program was also key, as awareness of the lagoon’s biodiversity brought more visitors.


Entering our 2nd decade, an endowment was secured so that the lagoon’s connection to the ocean would flow freely. Lands were secured through several major partnerships, establishing the conservancy’s role as a land trust + steward of the lagoon’s expanded habitat areas.


During its 3rd decade, our organization wins awards for leadership in conservation + education. As a land trust, enhancing open space is a priority. More than 40 miles of streams and 60 acres of rare coastal lands were conserved. Key parcels continue to be secured for the enhancement of wetland native habitats.


As we moved closer to 30 years, we developed our vision and the release of our Strategic Plan 2020. In late 2016, the California Coastal Commission issued our permit to restore + enhance San Elijo Lagoon. Harbaugh Seaside Trails will be restored for open space trails and views.

Learn More

An Oral History of
the San Elijo Lagoon

Efforts of the volunteers of the San Elijo Alliance + San Elijo Lagoon Foundation connect past preservation with present and future efforts to protect the lagoon. Today, the future of San Elijo Lagoon looks bright; however, it wasn’t always so.

History of the San Elijo
Ecological Reserve

Understand the past of San Elijo Lagoon, one of San Diego’s largest coastal wetlands. Did you know that Native American tribes hunted + gathered along the shores of the estuary at least 8,500 years before European settlers arrived?

Archeology at
San Elijo Lagoon

More than 50 prehistoric sites have been recorded in this area – and a number of these sites are major shell midden areas, scattered remains of seafood shells that indicate habitation.