Autoethnography

I find irresistible the challenges of scientific research. My career goals are to become a forest ecologist and to become involved in public policies surrounding the management of southeastern forests. I have applied to graduate school at Virginia Tech to earn my Ph.D. in order to ask questions about the biotic and abiotic interactions between forest species, and extrapolate from my results whether the data support, modifies, or revolutionize current knowledge of forest ecology. My career goals will be achieved either as a research scientist working within federal or state government, or as a professor at a university. The knowledge I will gain from a graduate education at Virginia Tech will enable me to work as a forest ecologist designing my own projects, writing grants, and presenting my research. As my knowledge of forest ecology expands, I plan to collaborate with resource managers and lawmakers to devise environmentally sustainable goals for the protection of regional forests and use by future generations. Earning a Ph.D. will afford me the opportunity to direct my own research, become involved in public policy, and educate the general public. Research is not easy, it requires many long hours of work, and a scientist must have the knowledge to look into a question, the mounds of data, and interpret results. I look forward to a lifetime committed to being an outstanding ecologist.††

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My Mastersí research project has been concerned with evaluating the effects of exponential fertilization regimes on red spruce mycorrhizal colonization and growth in native and non-native soils. This research attempts to link an applied project with the goals of conservation and restoration biology. My project has focused on mycorrhizal colonization, seedling physiology, and I would like to expand my areas of research to include other aspects of forest ecology. Soil ecology, nutrient cycling, and anthropogenic influences on forests interactions are areas I would also like to explore. The knowledge I will gain from my graduate education at Virginia Tech in forest ecology and biometrics will facilitate my exploration into the implications of global change and sustainable development.

 

My work experiences have reinforced my desire to become a forest ecologist. I have been awarded research and teaching assistantships as the laboratory instructor for courses in both Biology and Forestry Departments. During the 2002 ASB conference held at Appalachian State University, I was a co-leader of an expedition into the spruce-fir forests at Mount Mitchell State Park. I served as the high school biology, chemistry, and earth science teacher at the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, NC in 2000. I continued to tutor deaf students in science and math until 2003. While completing my baccalaureate degree at Mount Olive College, I served as the student assistant in zoology and biology labs from 1997-98. Additionally while attending Mount Olive College in the summer of 1997, I was award an internship at South Mountains State Park through the North Carolina Youth Advocacy Program. During my internship I designed a project to test human influences on water quality and fecal coliform levels within the two watersheds located in the park. Finally, I have successfully operated my own catering business for several years serving NC style pig picknís.

 

I have presented my research to both professional and public audiences. In 2006 and 07 I presented at the Biennial Southern Silviculture Conference in Athens GA, and the Mycological Society of America in Quebec City, Canada. Both presentations earned Outstanding Student Presentation Awards. Additional presentations of my thesis research have been made at a High Elevation Research Symposium hosted by the US Fish and Wildlife Department, the Asheville Mushroom Club, and the seventh grade science class at Valle Crucis Middle School. I was invited by the Biology Department at Mount Olive College to present an account of my experiences hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in 1999. Hiking the Appalachian trail has been one of the most enriching experiences in my life.

 

While at Virginia Tech, Appalachian State University, and Mount Olive College I have been actively involved in University governance severing on many student and university committees. These have included Graduate Student Association, serving as the President (02-03) and a Senator (03-07). As President at ASU, I began the process for funding an endowment to support graduate research and travel which will be supervised by ASU graduate students. Additionally, I actively served on the Long Range Strategic Planning Committee for the University appointed by the Chancellor, spoke out for an increase in graduate assistantship stipends resulting in a $500 increase during the 2003 fiscal year, and aggressively lobbied for graduate studies during Chancellor and Provost Search forums. I also pushed the Graduate Student Senate to participate in more community service projects. I volunteer at public schools participating in science fairs and giving science presentations to middle and high school classes. My dedication to education and scientific research does not trump my belief that each individual is responsible for educating and supporting members of their community. This belief that education is an earned privilege that should be shared with members of your community to make it a better place was the topic of my commencement address to the Appalachian State University graduate class of 2003.

 

I want to inspire all my students, whether taking the class to fulfill general education. requirements or majors, to live, work, and act in an environmentally sustainable way. Sustainability is not limited to leave no trace and clean energy policies.† True sustainability is also linked to fulfilling basic human needs of food, water, shelter, and social justice to every person in the world.† This will I believe be my hardest objective. People who have lived a privileged life without truly earning those privileges are, I believe, more likely to under value their advantages.

 

I grew up in the rural southeastern North Carolina, among a large population of Latino migrant workers and African Americans. I heard and held many racist beliefs, especially towards the migrant workers. It was the disconnect between what I believed was my earned lifestyle and what I perceived their chosen lazy uneducated lifestyles that that perpetuated my racist beliefs.† There can be no doubt that the racist attitudes of my childhood, spoken and silent, in the rural south contributed to these beliefs.† It was only after a mission trip to rural Mexico that I realized the sacrifices many migrant workers make to improve the standard of living for their families back home.† Consequently, I now see the benefits our society enjoys via the low wage hard labor of migrant workers and the lowest paid Americans. I now understand that sustainability will not be achieved without social justice across race, nationality, religion, and socioeconomic class.† Both you and I would kill any animal and harm any environment if it meant we could feed and shelter ourselves our starving cold families one more day.†

 

While at Virginia Tech in the forestry program I have continued to be involved with service activities and improving my teaching skills. I would like to one day teach students not only to inform and pass on some institutional knowledge, but also to teach in a style that will inspire each individual to investigate simple assumptions that are most likely rooted in a multifaceted conglomeration of half truths that defines the status quo.

 

 

Why did you want to undertake graduate work in Forestry?

 

I find irresistible the challenges of scientific research. My research projects have been concerned with evaluating the effects of exponential fertilization regimes on red spruce mycorrhizal colonization and growth in native and non-native soils. Also I have investigated the long-term effects of phosphorus fertilization on phosphorus pools and tree nutrition in southern pine plantations. These research projects attempts to link an applied sciences with the goals of conservation and restoration biology.

 

While attending Virginia Tech I have been able to expand upon my Masters research to include aspects of soil ecology, nutrient cycling, and forestry. Anthropogenic influences on forest interactions are areas of research I would like to continue to explore. Research and obtaining a Ph.D. is not an easy path to travel. It requires many long hours of work and a scientist must have the knowledge to look into a question, the mounds of data, and interpret meaningful results. The knowledge I will gain from my graduate education at Virginia Tech in forestry department will facilitate my exploration into the implications of anthropogenic influences on temperate forests and promoting the sustainable development of forest resources. I look forward to a lifetime committed to being an outstanding forest ecologist.

 

 

What are your career objectives?

 

My career goals are to become a forest ecologist and to become involved in public policies surrounding the management of southeastern forests. I have applied to the graduate school at Virginia Tech to earn my Ph.D. in order to ask questions about the biotic and abiotic interactions between forest species, and to be able to contribute to the current knowledge of forest ecology. My career goals will be achieved either as a research scientist working within government, private industry, or in academia. Earning a Ph.D. will afford me the opportunity to direct my own research, become involved in public policy, and educate the general public.

 

My work experiences have reinforced my desire to become a forest ecologist. I am presently the recipient of a research assistantship. I have also been awarded teaching assistantships as the laboratory instructor for the Forest Soils and Hydrology, Survey of Forest Ecology and Management, Botany, General Biology, and General Science labs from 2001-2004. During the 2002 ASB conference held at Appalachian State University, I was a co-leader of an expedition into the spruce-fir forests at Mount Mitchell State Park. I served as the high school biology, chemistry, and earth science teacher at the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, NC in 2000. I continued to tutor deaf students in science and math until 2003. While completing my baccalaureate degree at Mount Olive College, I served as the student assistant in zoology and biology labs from 1997-98. Additionally while attending Mount Olive College in the summer of 1997, I was award an internship at South Mountains State Park through the North Carolina Youth Advocacy Program. I have a long history of public service and I plan to use my education to continue contributing to public education and awareness of environmental issues.

 

 

Do you have in mind a specific research projects at Virginia Tech?

 

While attending Virginia Tech I will concentrate my work as a forest ecologist in the area of nutrient dynamics of forest soils and the role ectomycorrhizas play in changing nutrients availability. I am working under† Dr. Thomas Fox in the forestry department, and we will be investigating the availability of phosphorus in southern pine plantations and expand upon my research of ectomycorrhiza. The specific objectives will be to quantify the effects of management practices on soil and site P pools, identify functional relationships between soil pools and P mineralization. Throughout my collegiate education, I have been investigating the movement of nutrients in the environment. My undergraduate research investigated the movement of nitrogen through aquatic systems, my graduate research has investigated the role mycorrhiza play in the uptake of nitrogen and phosphorus, and I plan to continue my exploration of nutrients movements through the ecosystem.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Walden (Or Life in the Woods) - Henry David Thoreau

Bradley W. Miller