Before she added the titles of doctor and professor in front of her name, Susan Lamont had a transformative moment after finishing her undergraduate studies.
At the time, saving the rainforests was a slogan that was on the lips of most young adults, including Lamont. She joined the Peace Corps and went to the Philippines to work with farmers doing agriculture in poor soil.
“It’s much more complicated than I thought,” Lamont recalled thinking about that slogan and the reality of effecting change.
After going back to school to study the issue, a trip to the Peruvian Amazon to work with the indigenous population to research and study how they interacted with the rainforest changed her thoughts on how to make a positive environmental impact.
As part of the study, Lamont also had to teach.
“As soon as I started teaching, I was like, ‘Oh, this is how you make a difference,’” she said.
On October 10, Lamont will become the recipient of the 2023 Jan Hollmann Environmental Education Award during a ceremony at the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center in Millersville. Lamont, a Kent Island resident, is a biology professor at the Arnold-based Anne Arundel Community College, or AACC, a school that she’s been with for 21 years. She currently teaches botany, plant taxonomy and ecology.
In what could arguably be the best compliment an educator can receive, she was nominated for the award by former AACC student Evann Magee.
“Dr. Lamont has been a key factor in my career in environmental science,” said Magee, who now works for Scenic Rivers Land Trust, stewarding conservation easements. “She taught me so many amazing things about the natural world, and even though she could be anywhere in the world doing research in some exotic place, she chooses to educate the next generation.”
The Jan Hollmann Environmental Education Award was established in 1994 and is an annual award that provides recognition to an individual or organization that has been especially effective in achieving environmental education in Anne Arundel County.
Lamont’s students at AACC have opportunities to be part of research projects that she conducts each year in Corcoran Woods Experimental Forest at Sandy Point State Park. During the fall, her students can study the effectiveness of invasive species removal that was undertaken by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in 2015. In the spring, she leads students in monitoring biota and water chemistry in vernal pools.
“The thing that inspires me the most is to get students out in nature that haven’t experienced it, that sometimes are afraid,” Lamont said. “To see them so comfortable, to see them in awe of nature for the first time, to really observe. That, to me, is the best because that changes people’s lives too.”
Sally Hornor was the recipient of the environmental award in 2003, so it’s fitting that the person who considers Hornor a mentor would receive the same award 20 years later. Hornor currently serves as the vice president of the Magothy River Association and served on the search committee that brought Lamont to AACC.
“We can provide a field experience that students in a four-year college may not get until their junior and senior years,” said Hornor, who retired from teaching in 2015.
Magee, who currently resides in Washington, D.C., said Lamont’s ecological principles and environmental assessment course changed his life.
“She treated students like adults in the real world,” Magee said. “We conducted scientific research in multiple environments and wrote scientific journal articles for assignments.”
It's the flexibility and opportunity that AACC provides for hands-on learning that has kept the professor at the Arnold campus all these years.
“And the other thing about it too, which I love about community college is, I mean part of our mission is to support the community, so if you take all those things together, it was like get students out there, getting them actually addressing problems and let’s do it for somebody that has a problem that wants it to be addressed.”
The reports her students create from taking data and analyzing it also impact management decisions from various scientific organizations, such as the recent discovery of wineberry, an invasive species, coming back to the woods she studies.
“I don’t see any short-term coming back from that because wineberry basically shades out the entire understory,” Lamont said.
Students of Lamont’s have also presented vernal pool studies for groups, such as the Maryland Water Monitoring Council.
Lamont is familiar with the grounds where she’ll receive her recognition. She spent time at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center while she went through the Watershed Stewards Academy, whose mission is “to train and mobilize community leaders to drive change for sustainable landscapes and clean waters.”
“That gave me a lot of tools, educational support,” Lamont said. “I connect people in the community that want problems solved with what I’m doing with my students.”
Lamont said she’s humbled by the recognition.
“To be recognized for Jan Hollmann, who left such a legacy and had such a positive impact, I mean that’s a huge honor,” Lamont said. “I’m very humbled by that.”
Hornor hopes it drives Lamont to continue her passion.
“[I am hoping it makes her] feel a little more empowered to continue with this philosophy of helping her students learn skills and ecology in a way that they can carry on with them,” Hornor said.
To RSVP for the October 10 ceremony, which runs from 6:00pm to 8:00pm and is open to all, visit www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0e45a9ae2aa5f85-janhollmann1.