Kathryn Prive

Executive Director & Board Chair

Kathryn grew up in Minnesota but has called the west coast home since 2003. She has a M.S. in population genetics and ecological restoration from Oregon State University and a B.S in Environmental Science from the University of Oregon. Kathryn has expertise in partnership coordination, population genetics, ecological restoration and botany. She is passionate about native plant community restoration and seed production.

Kathryn's role at The Understory Initiative is to guide program development and foster greater support for herbaceous plant community restoration in Southern Oregon and Northern California.


Henry whitridge

Ecologist & Board Treasurer

Henry grew up on a farm near the Trinity Alps of Northern California, where from an early age he spent many hours wandering the mountains looking at plants.  After graduating from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR, he worked in the shipping and finance industries, living and working first on the high seas, then in China, South Korea and Singapore.  Missing the mountains of home, Henry returned to the United States after several years in Asia to begin graduate studies in botany at Southern Oregon University.  He has since worked as a botanist for the Bureau of Land Management, as a rare plant surveyor across Oregon, and an independent researcher on ecological projects.  In addition to plant sciences, Henry is also passionate about education and serves on the board of the Siskiyou School.


Sean Prive


Sean holds a M.S. in plant community ecology from Oregon State University in Corvallis and a B.S. in Environmental Science from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He has over a decade experience in natural resource planning, restoration ecology, wetland ecology, and rare plant surveys.

At Understory Consulting, Sean leads programs in grassland and wetland restoration planning and project management. He also assists with native seed collection and seed production planning.


Lilia letsch

Project Assistant & Board Secretary

Lilia has been working in the conservation non-profit field since the early 2000's, with a focus on outreach, communications and project development. Originally from Tasmania, Australia, she has lived in Oregon since 2013, and has recently started work on developing a forest-grown mushroom farm while restoring 11 acres of oak woodland and riparian habitat in the Siskiyous (also known as home).

With a bachelor's degree in Aboriginal Studies at the University of Tasmania, and graduate studies in Cultural Landscapes at Deakin University (Australia), Lilia has a particular interest in the impacts of colonialism on landscapes, and working towards regaining a healthier dynamic between humans and the plants and other animals we coexist with.

Board Members


Gary Kliewer

Board Member

Gary owns Long Shadow Fields, a four-acre farm nestled on a shelf of good ground between forested Siskiyou ridges. From the outset, the vision has been to create a small farm that is self-sustaining, promotes land stewardship, nourishes community-building, and is profitable. The primary goal now is to manage annual and perennial Oregon native species for seed-increase to be used for restoration projects and pollinator habitat improvement. Small plots of numerous species are in cultivation under contract with the Understory Initiative.

Grey Carey

Board Member

(Coming soon)

Ian Silvernail

Board Member

(Coming soon)

John Villella

Board Member

John has had a lifelong fascination with nature and has spent the last two decades studying and documenting the biodiversity of the Pacific Northwest as an environmental educator and an ecological consultant specializing in rare species.  He is especially interested in plants and their invertebrate pollinators. 

John has served on the board of directors for several non-profits including the Northwest Scientific Association and the Northwest Lichenologists.  He is a founding member of the Biodiversity Research Collective, a non-profit research institute dedicated to biodiversity studies. John has published dozens of peer-reviewed papers and was recently awarded the Letharia Award by the California Lichen Society for his years of service as Editor of the CALS Bulletin. He also regularly leads natural history related hikes and workshops in southwest Oregon and the broader Pacific Northwest. 

Julie Spelletich

Board Member

(Coming soon)

Kathy Kentta-Robinson

Board Member

(Coming soon)


Kristi Mergenthaler

Board Member

Kristi Mergenthaler is the stewardship director at Southern Oregon Land Conservancy and the volunteer outreach coordinator with the Siskiyou Chapter Native Plant Society of Oregon. A naturalist geek at heart, she regularly leads natural history hikes and classes for many groups including Siskiyou Field Institute. She prefers being Outside all day, ideally surrounded by intact native plant communities. She is also dedicated to community science and is an avid eBirder and conducts surveys for the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Watch.