He may be the only person on the 2013 Young Guns semifinalist list with a degree in geology, but Jason Lederer, 33, isn't just about rocks and soil. The Arlington, Mass., native, who is now the director of projects at the Charles River Conservancy, is on a personal and professional quest to "better link people to urban spaces. and help better design urban spaces to suit the community's needs so they also interact well with the ecological landscape."
Motivated by the urban setting of Indianapolis, where he earned his master's degree in geology at Indiana University, Lederer "got really into the way geology interacts with the landscape, both the way it affects ecology, a central focus of mine, the natural environment, but also the built environment and the human environment." After grad school he returned to Boston, taught geology and landscape design at the Boston Architectural College for a few years, and then got into environmental consulting. At one point he linked up with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to assess projects and proposals. "Looking at how hundreds of different designers were doing different things and interacting with the lanscape, I became curious and wanted to get more involved with the design end of it as opposed to the review and permitting end of it," Lederer says. A gig consulting on the Cambridge watershed—the drinking water source is smack in the middle of the city, but the area also contains a golf course, off-leash dog park, walking trails, and so on—allowed him to use his science background to "work with the general public to design landscapes that were ecologically appropriate but also functional in terms of the human environment."
Lederer left consulting and joined the Charles River Conservancy in May 2012, where he routinely liaises with watershed associations, community groups, and state agencies, leading efforts to make the Boston area's public spaces—ranging from bike paths along the river to the river itself to a future skate park—safe and up-to-date, enjoyable, and ecologically sensitive. "What we do here is really we look at how we interact with the landscape in urban Boston and in Cambridge, looking at the Charles River parklands and the river itself," he says. Here's a closer look at what that means:Read More