Lauren Schmitt joined the Department of Environmental Studies in 2023. Her research focuses on managed ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems, restored forests and cities. She is especially interested in the ecology of sustainable food systems and has worked in temperate and tropical agricultural systems, including small-scale blueberry farms and barley breeding programs and coffee agro-forests. Her work combines community and ecosystem ecology to look at how climate change and management decisions shape ecosystem dynamics.

Prior to Kenyon, Schmitt was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maryland where she worked with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to study how forest restoration projects develop and can maximize ecosystem function. 

Areas of Expertise

Sustainable agriculture, plant-insect interactions, community and ecosystem ecology


2020 — Doctor of Philosophy from the School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan

2015 — Master of Science from University College Dublin

2014 — Bachelor of Science from the University of Notre Dame

Courses Recently Taught

This course examines contemporary environmental problems, introducing the major concepts pertaining to human interactions with the biosphere. We explore this interaction on both local and global scales. Course topics include basic principles of ecology (flows of energy, cycling of matter and the role of feedback), the impacts of human technology, the roots of our perceptions about and reactions to nature, the social and legal framework for responding to problems, and economic issues surrounding environmental issues. We discuss methods for answering questions regarding the consequences of our actions and, using a systems approach, focus on methods for organizing information to evaluate complex issues. The course is three-quarters discussion and lecture and one-quarter workshop. The workshops include field trips, experience with collecting data, and application of systems thinking. This course taken at Kenyon, paired with any biology course, counts toward the natural science diversification requirement. This course is required for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

This course is an introduction to the field and laboratory techniques used in environmental science. Students receive an overview of scientific and research methods, data handling and field techniques to assess water quality, soil characteristics and ecosystem composition and health. This is a community-engaged learning course: Students will travel to a local farm (transportation provided by instructor) to assess the long-term environmental effects of switching from conventional to sustainable agricultural practices. This course counts toward the lab skills major requirement. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Prerequisite: ENVS 112. Offered every fall semester.

This course examines the processes used to understand, analyze and solve environmental problems. Students are introduced to the use of mathematics and statistics to analyze environmental data. Problems involving stock, dimensions, mass balance, energy and population analysis are studied. Applied static and dynamical modeling of environmental problems is emphasized. This counts toward the quantitative skills requirement for the major. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Prerequisite: ENVS 112 and declared environmental studies major. Offered every fall.

The purpose of this limited enrollment course is to introduce students to the principles of sustainable agriculture through hands-on experience on local farms and through readings of current literature. The course thus combines fieldwork and seminar-style discussion. Work on the farm is varied, determined by the seasons and farm projects under-way. In addition, students may be taken to the local Producers Livestock Auction and other off-farm sites as the time and season allow. Students can expect to handle and feed animals, clean barns, harvest and plant crops, prepare farm products for market, build and repair fences, bale hay and work with, repair or clean equipment and buildings. Readings are drawn from relevant books, current environmental literature and the news media. Discussions are student-led and combine readings and their experiences in the field. Students must have available in their academic schedule four continuous hours (plus travel time) one day per week to spend working at a local organic farm. In addition, students participate in a weekly seminar discussion of assigned readings, lasting from an hour and a half to two hours. Preference is given to juniors and seniors. Completion of ENVS 112 is highly recommended. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Permission of instructor required. Offered every fall.

Nearly all ecosystems are managed in some way. Management can have a variety of goals including species conservation, food production, recreational opportunities or ecosystem resilience. This course focuses on understanding how ecosystems function, how they are managed and why management does or does not work as intended. We use primary literature, field trips to local managed ecosystems, and case studies from a range of systems, like fisheries, national parks, agricultural lands, and urban ecosystems to explore the scientific and human dimensions of natural resource management. We study historical and current approaches to ecosystem management and apply ecological concepts to work toward developing management plans that meet social, economic and environmental sustainability goals. This course counts toward the living systems requirement for the major. Prerequisites: ENVS 112 or BIOL 115 and sophomore standing. Offered every spring.