After three years of studying physics at a small college in Oregon, Leah Carter began to question what she truly wanted to pursue as a career. While taking a break from academics, Carter’s travels and work experiences began to guide her to her true passion: soil ecology. She will graduate this week with a bachelor’s degree in Soil and Crop Sciences from the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University.
Carter has always enjoyed scientific study, but her work experiences focused that inquisitiveness. Her work as a groundskeeper at the Shambhala Mountain Center in northern Colorado and on organic farms in Hawaii led to a desire to learn more about the science of soil.
“For me, there was a lot of value in taking time off to explore and find what fit,” said Carter. “I’m grateful that I found something I really wanted to pour myself into and I’ve been able to do that at Colorado State University.”
While working two jobs to pay for college, Carter has remained at the top of her graduating class.
“Leah truly deserves recognition as an outstanding graduate of our department and college and she is without doubt in the upper few percent of the best undergraduate soil science students I have had in soil physics in 26 years of teaching the course,” said Greg Butters, associate professor of Soil and Crop Sciences. “The quality of her work was always at the top of the class. She is a remarkably good student.”
Connect and succeed
As a non-traditional student working almost full time, Carter still found plenty of ways to connect and succeed at CSU. She completed an undergraduate research experience in southern Italy, researching carbon cycling in cork oak ecosystems, as well as a fellowship, funded by the CSU Energy Institute, researching biochar.
Carter not only focused on her own success at the university but passed on her enthusiasm for the study of soil science as a teaching assistant for Environmental Issues in Agriculture.
“Leah has thought deeply about how her career might enhance the sustainability of modern-day agriculture,” said Addy Elliott, instructor for the class. “Her scientific curiosity is contagious. Her passion to act as a steward of the soil is sincere and her kindness is remarkable.”
After graduation, Carter plans to attend graduate school to further her study of soil science.
“I’m sure I’m biased, but this seems like one of the most important areas of study,” said Carter. “Without a good food supply and clean water, we wouldn’t be able to exist. That’s why this area of study is crucial and why I’m so driven by it.”