Meet Lauren Sopher, LCC’s Director of Science & Water Programs

Lauren Sopher, LCC’s Director of Science and Water Programs, monitoring for invasive Asian clam in the sediments of Shelburne Bay, VT. Photo by Michael Lew-Smith, Arrowwood Environmental.

In July 2019, LCC welcomed Lauren Sopher to the staff as our Director of Science and Water Programs. Lauren grew up in Vermont traipsing after frogs and toads along Monroe Brook, paddling the LaPlatte River, and exploring Lake Champlain’s surface and shorelines.

Her passions are grounded in ecology, people, art, and design. Ink, dirt, and lake water have covered Lauren’s hands since she was a child. Markers strewn at the kitchen table, wildflowers gathered at nearby fields, and hours spent scouring Lake Champlain beaches for the ideal Iberville shale stone or piece of lake glass were a classic combination. Art and nature kindled her sense of wonder and connection to place.

Throughout her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Lauren split her time between the science and art departments. As a senior she was recognized as “student of the year” for spear-heading a successful campaign to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. She had transformative experiences studying black rhinos in Namibia, cooking local seasonal veggies with kids in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, and opening communication lines for nonverbal clients with intellectual disabilities in Chittenden County. She returned to school at the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist & Ecological Planning (FNEP) Program, where she completed a Master of Science degree in 2019. Her graduate work focused on facilitating socially just conservation in Greensboro Bend, Vermont.

During the summer and fall of 2019, Lauren got her feet wet on LCC lake work harvesting water chestnut from Black Creek Marsh, assessing shorelines for the invasive Asian clam, and assisting with our cyanobacteria monitoring program. This winter and spring, she’ll help several area schools reduce stormwater runoff and gear up for 2020 fieldwork, including a project to evaluate the health of freshwater mussel populations, the most imperiled taxa in the Lake Champlain Basin. “While South Lake populations are seriously threatened by zebra mussels, impacts on northern lake populations are unclear,” stated LCC Executive Director Lori Fisher. “We’re excited to have Lauren onboard to help assess effects on native mussels in Lake Champlain’s Northeast Arm and ensure that this critical element of the lake’s biodiversity remains intact. It’s just one example of the work she’ll be doing to protect water quality and ecosystem health.” 

In addition to staff members, volunteers play an integral role in Lake Champlain Committee programs. “Collaborating with LCC volunteers to safeguard Lake Champlain is a highlight of my job,” Lauren notes. “Their dedication to and passion for the health of the lake is inspiring. I look forward to meeting new and returning monitors during the 2020 field season!”