Q&A with Olivia Duren, Restoration Program Manager

March 24, 2023

We recently sat down with Olivia Duren, Restoration Program Manager for The Freshwater Trust to ask her some questions about her work. Olivia brings an impressive background in rare plant surveys and monitoring, vegetation classification and mapping, ecological research, and hands-on restoration. Read the conversation below.

In two sentences tell us what you do at The Freshwater Trust.

According to my youngest kid: “Click buttons on the computer about plants.” I like to think it’s much more than that! I get to work with a variety of landowners, municipalities, other organizations, and our expert staff to design and launch restoration programs that provide common-sense approaches to river conservation. Sometimes I even get to go outside for work.

What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now?

So much fun stuff, it’s hard to choose. Two of my current favorites are working with watershed council partners to get a new streamside reforestation program in the upper Willamette basin off the ground, and figuring out the best way to track health of wetlands and streamside forests over 80 years in the Sacramento Delta area of California.

How would you explain what you do to someone who has no idea what it is?

We know that forests and wetlands are crucial for protecting water quality by shading the water, filtering excess sediment and nutrients, slowing floodwaters and helping water filter into the ground – in addition to providing important habitat for wildlife. I work with teams to figure out how to leverage this function of improving water quality to increase funding for restoration that has multi-benefit outcomes.

What’s something that’s happening at the organization right now that you are very excited about?

We are partnering with The Nature Conservancy so they can quantify carbon sequestered at our streamside forest restoration projects and understand the role of reforestation as a climate health strategy in the West.

Go through the door that’s closing – meaning that if you have multiple opportunities, go for the one that is once-in-a-lifetime.

What do you love about working for The Freshwater Trust?

I love that everyone is so solutions-oriented. We must all be optimists at heart because we are trying so hard to fix rivers and build watershed resilience for the challenges ahead.

Last book you read or movie you watched? 

Ooh, I am currently reading Ursula Le Guin’s sci-fi novel The Dispossessed – she brings her family background in anthropology into a captivating commentary on different ways of structuring societies.

Last place you traveled.

Well, kids kind of put the idea of more exotic travel on hold for now, but every spring we like to make a family pilgrimage to the Eastern Cascades of Oregon to camp in the oaks and wildflowers.

A quote you live by?

Go through the door that’s closing – meaning that if you have multiple opportunities, go for the one that is once-in-a-lifetime.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In my veggie garden, or at least in the dirt somewhere!

What’s the number one piece of advice you have for someone trying to get into this field? 

Be curious, ask lots of questions, and try everything – also follow through and keep your promises.


#riparian restoration    #The Nature Conservancy