Restoring Rivers, Inspiring Futures

2023 Restoration Scholars Program Empowers Young Scientists to Make a Difference

For the past 25 years, River Partners has been on the leading edge of revitalizing riverways statewide. Our work supports thriving California ecosystems and communities.

As part of our ongoing commitment to growing the next generation or restoration leaders, River Partners’ Restoration Scholars program provides internships to bright and motivated college students and recent grads eager to make a difference for rivers, people, and the planet.

The Restoration Scholars internship program is an unparalleled experience for innovative young scientists looking to start their careers off on the right foot. It offers paid, real-world experience, an opportunity to build relationships with our knowledgeable and friendly staff, and unique insights into the day-to-day operations of an organization with the largest restoration footprint in the West.

In addition to assisting River Partners’ science team with summer fieldwork and data collection on our projects, each Scholar completes a self-directed research project and presents their findings to our team at the end of their eight-week internship.

Let’s meet our 2023 Restoration Scholars:

Laia Menendez Diaz

Laia recently graduated from UC Davis with a degree in plant sciences. She was looking for an opportunity to do research and work with ArcGIS, which is geographic mapping software commonly used in restoration science.

“I wanted to get some experience before entering the job field,” she shared. “So far, I really enjoy working with the science team at River Partners. The environment is welcoming and friendly.”

While monitoring our restored sites, Laia is learning to identify new species. “I especially love seeing the diverse wildlife making use of the space,” she said.

Her research project focuses on studying how River Partners’ restored sites evolve over time, and what happens after management and monitoring cease. “I am hoping to learn how these restoration projects are promoting the long-term health and establishment of native species,” she shared.

Zoe Reynolds

Originally from Napa, Zoe Reynolds is a senior at Oregon State University, majoring in fisheries and wildlife conservation. With her interest in ecology and restoration, she sought out organizations restoring waterways and wetlands. River Partners turned out to be the perfect fit. Her research project will investigate soil changes between pre- and post-restoration.

“I have learned in my classes that there is a lack of long-term monitoring in restoration due to expense and the large amount of labor required,” she said. “There is a need for more long-term data.”

So far, she’s enjoyed seeing active restoration, improving her surveying skills, and expanding her knowledge of plants in the Central Valley.

“This organization is incredibly welcoming, and I’ve already learned so much from some really knowledgeable people,” she shared. “I love how everyone treats each other with respect and understanding, and that we have a shared vision of how to improve the health of our environment.”

Rowan Keller

Rowan will be entering his junior year at the University of Richmond in Virginia, where he is studying environmental studies and economics. Growing up with exposure to various conservation projects through his mother’s work at The National Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy, Rowan developed a keen interest in ecology and restoration. He wanted to get outside this summer, gain field-work experience, and see if he wants to pursue a career in environmental conservation.

So far, he’s already improved his plant identification skills. “I’m now able to go out on a hike and identify many of the plants around me, which I think is really neat,” said Rowan.

Rowan’s research project focuses on the impact of topsoil removal on native riparian species. By comparing soil samples from sites with and without topsoil, he aims to examine the importance of different nutrients on plant growth and shed light on the role of soil health in supporting healthy ecosystems.

“The most surprising thing is seeing how quickly these sites can turn into riparian forests,” he shared. “The size of the cottonwoods after just three years is incredible. And I’ve been amazed at the presence of wildlife at the different sites.”

Launching Impactful Careers in Restoration

As Laia, Zoe, and Rowan complete their 2023 Restoration Scholars experience, we look forward to witnessing the incredible work they will accomplish and the positive impact they will make on California.

If you’re interested to learn more about River Partners’ Restoration Scholars program, check our past blogs, including “An Intern’s Career Path” about a former Restoration Scholar’s journey in conservation.