The Legacy of Plants, People and the Future of New Plants
New plants are often old plants rediscovered, revisited, or recreated to fit modern needs and opportunities. Botanical collections are a living repository where enterprising individuals can mine the vast diversity of the world’s flora for enhancing cultivated landscapes. New is a perspective, rooted in an individual’s experiences and relationships, and Dr. Olsen will share his views as a plant breeder turned Director of the National Arboretum.
Dr. Richard T. Olsen was appointed as the seventh Director of the United States National Arboretum (USNA) in 2015. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Olsen was a Research Geneticist and Lead Scientist in the Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit (FNPRU) at the Arboretum, where he served briefly as Acting Director of the USNA and Acting Assistant Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.
As Director, Dr. Olsen leads the Arboretum in its mission to enhance the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of ornamental and landscape plants through long-term, multi-disciplinary research, conservation of genetic resources, and interpretative gardens and displays.
But Dr. Olsen was not always an administrator. Since 2006, he has led the urban tree breeding and plant genetic resource programs at the National Arboretum. These long term efforts are beginning to bear fruit as new ornamental tree and shrub cultivars and novel plant introductions are released to support the American nursery and landscape industry. Research expertise in the areas of ornamental plant breeding, genetics, and germplasm conservation, positions Dr. Olsen well in guiding the National Arboretum which works in concert with industry and academic partners to provide new technologies and solutions for challenges facing American landscapes and agriculture.
He is a recognized international leader in the public garden arena, providing scientific expertise and practical knowledge to multiple national and international arboreta, urban forestry groups, and professional associations. Dr. Olsen has degrees in landscape design (BS) and horticultural science (MS and PHD) from the University of Georgia and North Carolina State University.