Gilbert “Buddy” Rivera, a native of Las Vegas, NM and U.S. Navy veteran, has joined the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute team as deputy director.
“Over the last two years, I learned more about the FWRI mission and observed its growth. I have a strong interest in both,” Rivera said. “The mission is important to our community and region for generations to come.”
In 2004, Congress approved funding for the FWRI and two other forest restoration institutes – in Arizona and Colorado – after several devastating wildfires in the region.
The New Mexico institute works to reduce catastrophic wildfires and restore resilient, fire- and climate-adapted ecosystems by collaborating with partners and communities to bridge scientific and local knowledge.
Rivera comes to the FWRI after a decades-long career in public service, including years as a team leader, mission commander, operation officer and Navy Commander.
“Buddy Rivera is a valuable addition to the staff at the Forest & Watershed Restoration Institute,” said Dr. Alan Barton, FWRI director. “We are fortunate to have such a talented and experienced administrator as our deputy director. Buddy will help us strengthen our relationships across campus and with our partners around New Mexico and the Southwest, to meet the challenges that our state faces in restoring vibrant and resilient forest ecosystems and sustaining strong communities that depend on those forests for their livelihoods.”
Rivera was born and raised in northern New Mexico and went on to earn a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering, and Engineer’s Degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. His work has taken him around the world with overseas assignments, international collaborations, and numerous leadership positions.
Rivera said lessons he learned growing up in New Mexico helped prepare him for his challenging work in other countries. “Resilience is probably the primary thing I learned growing up in northern New Mexico,” he said. “Understanding the environment, adapting to change, attempting to achieve, reflecting on success and failure, and moving forward were lessons I learned growing up where I did.”
Rivera said two of his favorite places to visit while overseas were Jordan and Crete. “The access to the history and landmarks is incredible, whether the interest is in the beginning of modern Western civilization or the ancient cities of Petra or Jerash.”
Over the last decade, he has been with New Mexico Highlands University serving as a Director at the NMHU Farmington Center, interim Director of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Research, and Assistant Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects. He brings to the FWRI a broad experience in working with diverse populations, marketing, budgeting, and strategic planning.