Aaron Zettler-Mann promoted to SYRCL Executive Director

August 17, 2023

Read this article on SYRCL’s website.

The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) proudly announces the appointment of Aaron Zettler-Mann as its new Executive Director, marking a significant step in the organization’s ongoing commitment to the preservation and restoration of the Yuba River watershed. George Olive, SYRCL’s Board President, announced the board’s decision after a rigorous nationwide search.

Aaron Zettler-Mann has been an instrumental part of SYRCL as Watershed Science Director and serving as Interim Executive Director after Melinda Booth stepped down from the position in February. Aaron brings a wealth of experience, passion, and deep connection to the local community and to the Yuba River ecosystem.

Discussing the announcement with SYRCL’s Director Team, Olive stated:

“I am elated that our national pursuit for an extraordinary leader verified and led us back to our very own. Aaron’s exceptional contributions have been evident throughout his tenure, and his selection is a natural progression for SYRCL. His profound understanding of the Yuba River’s ecological intricacies, coupled with his innovative vision, is the perfect combination to lead SYRCL’s next chapter.”

“It is a privilege to be named the next Executive Director of SYRCL and I am grateful for the Board’s confidence in me,” said Zettler-Mann. “SYRCL and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival have been a leading force for restoration, inspiration, education, and advocacy for the Yuba River watershed for 40 years. It is an amazing opportunity to be able to contribute to that legacy. I look forward to supporting the incredible work that SYRCL’s staff and volunteers do every day to advance our mission of uniting the community for the restoration and protection of the Yuba River watershed.”

Zettler-Mann joined SYRCL as the Lower Yuba Restoration Project Manager in March of 2020, spent one week in the office, and then the world shut down for COVID. He was promoted to Watershed Science Director in November of 2020. Since then, Aaron has led the Watershed Science Department as it began to deliver on years of effort, completing phase 1 meadow restoration at Van Norden Meadow and salmon restoration at Lower Long Bar. At the same time, Aaron helped with the planning and development of additional conservation projects focused on forest health, aspen restoration, meadow health, salmon recovery, and water quality. The breadth of Aaron’s environmental science background and SYRCL’s work have helped him be an effective advocate across the watershed and in the halls of Sacramento.

Prior to joining SYRCL, Zettler-Mann was conducting post-doctoral research at the University of Oregon where he was developing techniques and tools to make environmental river monitoring cheaper, easier, and more accessible to small non-profits and other communities interested in monitoring their watersheds. In his time in Eugene, Aaron worked closely with watershed councils and communities state-wide to learn about their monitoring needs, and the challenges they faced meeting those needs.

Aaron’s love for the environment was cultivated from a young age, spending formative years exploring the creek behind his childhood home and a decade as a raft guide in the Sierra Nevada foothills. His immersive experiences, such as playing in Dave Powers Creek in Blue Lake, CA, were nurtured by his parents, fostering his journey toward becoming a scientist. That innate curiosity led Aaron to embark on a formal education journey, culminating in a Bachelors in Geography from CU Boulder, a Masters in Geography from the University of Denver, and a Ph.D. in Geography specializing in Fluvial Geomorphology from the University of Oregon.

Zettler-Mann is married to Laura Gravelle who works at a local school as an Educational Mental Health Counselor.

Speaking about his relationship to the Yuba, Aaron said:

“Over the last few years I’ve built a deep connection to this watershed – mountain biking and camping, back country skiing in the winter, and kayaking the upper reaches of the North, Middle, and South Yuba and tributaries in the spring. I have seen how special this watershed is in all seasons and those places keep me motivated to fight for its restoration and protection.”

“Aaron’s genuine affinity for white-water activities perfectly aligns with SYRCL’s mission to cultivate river enthusiasts and protectors,” says George Olive. “His influence as a role model will undoubtedly inspire the next generation of Yuba Lovers.”

Zettler-Mann’s first day as Executive Director of SYRCL was August 14, 2023. He will be formally introduced as Executive Director during SYRCL’s 26th annual Yuba River Cleanup, scheduled for September 23rd.

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