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Technical Specialist Spotlight: Leonard Lord PhD, CSS, CWS Helps Clients and the Environment through Soil and Wetlands Expertise

As we highlight World Wetland’s Day, we spoke with Senior Environmental Scientist Leonard (Lenny) Lord about the effect of wetlands on the environment and why he pursued his work as a Certified Soil Scientist and Certified Wetlands Scientist.

So, what are wetlands? They are flooded or saturated lands that house ecosystems of specially adapted vegetation and have unique soil features. According to the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, more than half of our country’s original wetland acreage has been lost to agricultural, commercial, and residential development. As wetlands disappear, freshwater quality can become degraded, plant and fish sources can deplete, and storm damage can increase.

“Wetlands provide a lot of functions and services to humans. For example, wetlands clean water runoff that enters them, and control flooding – acting like a big sponge – to catch the runoff and then slowly release it. So, if we were to fill in wetlands, the surrounding streams would get much more prone to flooding,” explained Lenny.

Lenny has pursued the identification, restoration, management, and preservation of wetlands as part of his 34-year career in environmental science. His interest in plants and plant identification began as a young boy while spending much of his time exploring the woods in his hometown in southeastern New Hampshire. Later, he became interested in farming and thought a career as a farming advisor and soil conservationist was the right path. As he went after his bachelor’s degree, he discovered how much he enjoyed soil science and soil mapping which would change the trajectory of his career path.

After graduating with a major in soil science, Lenny worked with a consulting firm doing high-intensity soil mapping on sites that were proposed for development. At that time, the state and federal wetland regulations were minimal and towns in New Hampshire were using soil mapping to identify wetlands – further exposing him to these wildlife habitats and vegetation types. Four years later, he went back into the classroom to pursue a master’s degree and then a doctorate in plant biology with a focus on vegetation ecology.

“Plants were a long-time passion, so I did my graduate work in freshwater marshes, which I fell in love with. I did most of my work in beaver marshes – just spending [many] summers out there in my waders collecting data in such a peaceful environment with lots of beautiful open vistas and wildlife to see.”

Lenny dove into research that focused on factors contributing to plant species diversity using the marshes as study sites, which broadened his specialized expertise in habitat restoration, management, and invasive vegetation control.

“This was when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers really began regulating wetlands for the first time. So, I knew that I was not only interested in learning about plants but that there would be a big need [from clients] for the expertise about wetlands,” he recalled.

As his career has grown, he has shared this broad range of expertise on a variety of projects for clients in both the public and private sectors. He has guided clients through environmental issues such as site-specific (aka high intensity) soil mapping, wetland delineation, habitat restoration, rare plant surveys and impact mitigation, site suitability analyses, conservation easement procurement and stewardship, and invasive vegetation management.

Lenny has truly found his passion and a way to better the environment through his daily work. “I love the solitude of being outdoors figuring out patterns of soil and vegetation in the landscape, and just being in nature. Plus, I always love getting away from my desk,” he laughed.