A summer lawn.... or a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. While he may not be “firmly rooted”—pun intended—in Shakespeare, Jason Lanier has always lived by that motto...enamored of the smell of freshly-cut grass since childhood. Even then, he knew he was all about the plants, intrigued by the role that they have on planetary health and how they affect our lives. He said, “As humans, we depend on the sun for our existence, but we can’t capture it by ourselves, we depend on plants for that. Another example is the notion that we are all heavily-dependent on fossil fuels… essentially plants that lived, and then decayed long ago. These things really fascinate me.”
It is no surprise that Lanier would be drawn to a profession where he can work with grasses and plants all day. Now an extension educator in the UMass Extension’s turf program and landscape, nursery and urban forestry program, he cut his teeth on gardening and landscaping as a young child. Growing up in the Pioneer Valley, Lanier mowed lawns, took care of his family’s property and felt very much at home in the outdoors.
As an undergraduate student at UMass, he arrived interested in studying the practices and mechanics of growing fine turf. In addition to learning the fundamentals, Lanier gradually developed a deeper understanding of the benefits of managed landscapes, and the importance of producing and maintaining these landscapes in a way that does not adversely impact the health of humans and non-target organisms, natural resources, or the larger environment.
Lanier received B.S. and M.S. degrees in plant and soil sciences from the university, and has worked with UMass Extension since 2000. As an educator, he provides much-valued contributions in support of the program’s mission, including: project development and management, facilitation of educational programs and materials, and frequent interaction with the industry and the greater public. He has served as an editor and contributing author for numerous publications and provides academic instruction for workshops and certificate programs, including UMass Extension’s Green School and Winter School for Turf Managers.
Since Lanier began working for Extension 15 years ago, he has noticed a clear shift in thinking about the application of more traditional approaches, practices that have been used for decades. Greater awareness of the environment, increasingly limited resources, and growing motivation for sustainability has changed the ways in which plants are managed. And this shift is gaining momentum as research continually yields new approaches to manage plants and pests in ways that are more effective, efficient, and safer than ever before.
A personally-satisfying aspect of his work with Extension involves the use of available technologies to educate large numbers of clients quickly and efficiently, to assist them in making informed, responsible, and effective turf management decisions. This classic Extension work—interpreting and sharing research and helping to develop promising practices that solve problems—is what makes Lanier eager to get to work each day.
As for his interests outside of work? He said there is a lot of interplay between his professional and personal life. He and his wife and children like to garden, landscape, fish and hike together. His family may take a trip to a botanical garden where he gets to hang out with them, but he also snaps a few photographs for professional presentations…
Associated Website(s): UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery and Urban Forestry Program; UMass Extension Turf Program