My name is Aaron Bradshaw and I grew up in Greenville, North Carolina. As a kid, I enjoyed spending my time in the treehouse behind my grandparents' home. Trees have always meant a great deal to me; each of them seems to hold some ancient wisdom that humans cannot grasp. The symbiosis between trees and other species is arguably one of the most beautiful relationships witnessed on the planet. This affinity for the natural world is what drives me; I feel that it is my greatest obligation to protect our home, Earth. This path was made clear after presenting a research project on mountain top removal during an Environmental Biology course when I was a community college student. In August 2013, I moved to Boone to complete my Associate in Arts degree.
After taking two years off from school, I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University in the fall of 2016. Toward the end of my undergraduate degree, I felt that I should take my education a step further, and began a Master’s of Science in Appropriate Technology. During my time as a graduate student, I assisted several professors with research projects related to drone, wind, and bioenergy technologies. I also worked with the Nexus Project, a research team dedicated to providing agricultural members sustainable technologies and methods to improve the productivity of farms. That experience helped me develop the framework to my master’s research. I was able to combine my personal interest in the newly emerging industrial hemp industry with my internship, my research, and my career goals. Out of concern for the mismanagement of waste in the hemp industry, I was able to partner with a local hemp processor to begin converting their waste stream into biochar, a soil amendment acknowledged to increase soil fertility and water holding capacity.
For my research, I analyzed physical and chemical characteristics of the biochar I made from industrial hemp waste. I am currently in the process of having my research published as I am one of the first few researchers to analyze the potential of industrial hemp waste as a biochar feedstock.
I will continue my work with biochar and hemp within the PhD program I hope to pursue at Colorado State University. I believe that achieving a PhD in Ecosystem Sustainability will round out my knowledge in sustainability, allow me to reach my goals of becoming a sustainable consultant for the hemp industry, and provide me with the skills necessary to protect the ecosystems that both societies and economies greatly depend upon.
Editor's Note: Bradshaw was selected as the College of Fine and Applied Arts' graduate speaker for Spring Commencement 2020.