Lauren Marshall
Lauren Marshall

A Lifelong Passion for Trees

Lauren Marshall’s (MLA ’10) passion for trees runs deep, having grown over the course of a lifetime.

Marshall grew up in suburban Washington, D.C., where she first developed her connection to the natural world. Forest patches were scattered throughout her family’s neighborhood, and those trees were her playground. “I grew up with parents who really just let me run wild in the neighborhood. And then at dinner, they would call out the door. I would emerge from whatever forest I had been scrapping around and come in to eat,” says Marshall. “When I think about trees, even today, there’s this deeply entwined sense of home and family for me. That stems from those early playtimes as a kid.”

In college, that passion only grew. Marshall studied plant science at Cornell University and had the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica. She interviewed Indigenous farmers who were part of an organic banana cooperative, learning more about how they grew their bananas as a part of forest systems and the economic benefits that these systems provided. It was then that everything fell into place for Marshall. “What I realized on this trip was that what I really loved was studying the way people interact with the land and how that influences ecology, health and biodiversity.”

After completing her undergraduate studies, she earned her master’s degree in landscape architecture from SEAS. In her final year of grad school, Marshall was accepted into the USDA Forest Service’s Presidential Management Fellows Program. This led to a long career working in several different facets of forestry. Marshall worked to restore millions of acres of forest landscape, helped to develop some of the first national geospatial reporting requirements and even spearheaded design work to make recreational infrastructure more sustainable.

Marshall is now putting her knowledge and passion to use in the nonprofit sector at the Arbor Day Foundation, where she is senior manager of program innovation. “This is a great opportunity for me to work with people both within the organization and our partners. There are so many creative people working in the forestry space and so many sparks of ideas everywhere.”

This is a shortened version of an article that originally appeared on the Arbor Day Foundation Blog. It is reprinted with permission.