Written by:
Elaine Genest

Lisa Ciecko

Ecology Team Manager | Green Seattle Partnership, Integrated Pest Management, Wildlife Management

City of Seattle, Seattle Parks & Recreation


In her role as ecology team manager at Seattle Parks and Recreation, Lisa leads a team to support program planning, implementation and budget management of restoration projects across Seattle’s parks.
Q: Describe the personal and professional experience that led you to your current role.
A: In high school, I did a report on a Lake Washington restoration site. Through my report, I learned that there is a whole underworld in action every day in Seattle that I can tune into through simple observations. I was taken by the idea of nature being part of a city and I found a lot of joy knowing that birds, trees, and bees are living their lives with us as neighbors.

I carried this initial spark onward. After graduation, I joined AmeriCorps, a year-long service-based program where I gained experience in fieldwork management and planting as well as community programming. I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies while doing seasonal work at different parks departments.

I eventually decided to go deeper into the science side of my work by pursuing a master’s degree in ecological restoration, horticulture and urban forestry at the University of Washington. I wrote my master’s thesis on the Green Seattle Partnership, which is a collaboration between the City of Seattle, community groups and nonprofits, businesses, schools, and volunteers working together to restore and actively maintain the city’s forested parklands.

From there, I did forest assessment work before landing at the City of Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department as a plant ecologist. I now manage the ecology team for the very partnership I wrote about in my thesis.

Lisa in the field doing soil testing.
Photograph courtesy of Lisa Ciecko
Q: What does the day-to-day work of your position look like?
A: My work is split between time in the office and out in the field. Together with my team, we’ll decide how to approach a restoration project, what improvements can be made to a given area and how we should tackle the work logistically.

I also serve as a connector for the Green Seattle Partnership where I work closely with other government agencies, partner organizations and individuals to improve the ecological health of Seattle parks. While in the field, I visit planned, current and future restoration sites at parks across the city to gauge progress and determine next steps.

“I was taken by the idea of nature being part of a city and I found a lot of joy knowing that birds, trees, and bees are living their lives with us as neighbors.”
– Lisa Ciecko
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: Essentially, I get to go to a park and walk around checking in on restoration needs and call it work. There’s so much research supporting the health benefits of going outside and staring at trees, and sometimes I can’t believe that’s actually part of my job!

Since I joined Seattle Parks and Recreation more than a decade ago, I’ve created deep connections with other people who care about the city’s forested areas. I feel like I’m part of a giant network of friends working across Seattle’s parks. Even the logistics and operations parts of my job are about bringing people into connection with forested spaces, which is really rewarding.

Q: What do you find most challenging about your job?
A: My days are often very busy, which makes it challenging to stay creative and find time to focus on developing a larger vision. But I feel like my work is making a difference. Over the years, I’ve built a deep knowledge of the city’s forested spaces. For example, to assess park restoration work and determine the right strategies to manage a forested space, I’ve been able to explore the backcountry areas of parks that most people don’t venture into.

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© Kevin Arnold