TFT Welcomes Theresa Burcsu to the Team

Haley Walker
Haley Walker
Communications Director for The Freshwater Trust
English   |   Español

In the midst of a quarter defined by tough transitions, The Freshwater Trust (TFT) celebrated one that will improve the robustness of its work. In May, we hired a long-awaited Science and Analytics Director. Theresa Burcsu will focus her efforts on ensuring the organization produces the highest quality products through alignment, coordination and collaboration. She comes to TFT with more than a decade of experience working to create such change in natural resources management and conservation, as well as the supporting data and its application. She gained her diverse experiences through applied research and technical leadership in the non-profit, academic and government sectors, including work with the Institute for Natural Resources, Oregon State and Portland State Universities, and state and federal government service. Theresa holds a MA in Geography from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a PhD in Environmental Science from Indiana University.

What were you looking for in a job that brought you to TFT?

I come from a science background. I started off by doing work around planning and modeling of different scenarios to ensure the best knowledge about potential conservation and management outcomes. Those activities led to work on creating a few decision support systems, a long-standing topic of interest to me. Needless to say, I strongly value the pulling together of lots of different information to anticipate and achieve the best outcomes from conservation and sustainability practices.

In one or two sentences, how would you describe what you’ll be doing for TFT?

I will work as a lubricating or organizing force. My role is internally focused on helping the organization achieve its mission and vision by ensuring that the internal processes of the science and analytics team deliver the highest quality products possible and lead to the greatest, most valuable outcomes.

Theresa bouldering.

What’s one project you’re really excited about?

One of the things really needing attention is the variety of processes that support the organization achieving its vision – making sure budgets are aligned, making sure the projects meet the requirements and ensuring staff don’t have to be mired in thought processes that detract from their work. All of that really interests me. And there’s BasinScout®. It is a decision support system. It makes so much sense to me, and I see so much value in it. It’s going to have a really lasting impact on conservation. It takes all kinds of data that we have available and really puts it to work.

Over the last month, what’s one thing that’s caught your eye about how we work?

It’s the people. Whenever people ask me how it’s going I say, “Everyone is so amazing.” Everyone that I’ve met and talked to loves the organization and what they’re doing. They are so enthusiastic and passionate about the work and about being successful as a whole organization. They all understand that they are ensuring the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts.

Theresa on a trip to Colorado.

Tell me about one of your greatest river memories.

During my master’s, I did a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. We did a talent show, and I wrote poetry about water and choreographed a modern dance piece. I was really inspired by the eddies and how they spin off in different ways and become different entities when you put your oar in the water. I loved the spiral and temporal nature of them and composed a piece around those patterns.

What was your connection to water and rivers growing up?

My parents were both city folks. They were from the Midwest and moved to North Carolina via New York for work. They landed in the Research Triangle. There were lots of creeks and woods, but most of it was pretty suburban. When I went to Appalachian State for college, being in the Blue Ridge Mountains gave me a ton of opportunity to get to know the outdoors and more time to spend in them, including time on (and in) some of the local rivers and gorges.

Theresa (right) and her mom (left) enjoying a river trip.

What are you reading right now?  

I tend to read a bunch of books at once. In the fiction realm, I’m reading the Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. But I’m also reading Crazy Rich Asians.

How has the current situation with COVID changed the way you work?

It’s certainly different to have to stay so on track with my daughter’s education. My husband and I have agreed that we really have to spend time to keep her on track.

How do you connect with water right now?

As a family, we enjoy paddle boarding and getting out on the Willamette. I also lead a Girl Scout troop because I was looking for community support for getting my daughter outdoors.

June 8, 2020


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