As a teenager, Richard Adkins went into the Virginia forest alone one day and decided to sit under a Pin Oak tree.
He stayed there awhile, observing his surroundings. By the time he got up, he knew that trees were going to be his future, so that was the path he pursued.
Adkins is the urban forester for the city of Tempe and has been for the past three years. He has traveled the world doing what he loves, taking care of and sharing his knowledge of trees.
"Trees are where it’s at," he said. "Trees are good for humankind, good for animals, good for the environment."
Adkins grew up in Virginia and has done tree forestry, the science of developing, caring for or cultivating forests, since 1980.
Adkins grew up wanting to be an architect, but in high school, he realized he loved trees. He began studying resource management and biology at Virginia Tech and later received his master of science in forestry at Utah State University.
Adkins traveled the world to study trees. In New Zealand, he performed growth modeling research for Monterey Pines to determine which soils have better growth results.
After his research, he volunteered with the Peace Corps for over three years visiting Nepal and Northern India. He started a forestry program in Tarai, a region of northern India and southern Nepal, as one of the first forestry volunteers.
Adkins started a tree nursery in Nepal where they grew, distributed and planted trees, and they trained people how to grow trees in mass quantities due to high levels of deforestation in the area, Adkins said.
Beverly Babb, executive director with the Arizona Community Tree Council, worked with Adkins for nine years, Babb said. When Adkins was president of the ACTC, an education and tree community-building nonprofit organization, he was able to better the organization's finances by assigning more work to volunteers, which saved the council, Babb said.
"He is a man who holds people accountable, very clearly. So I think it's why so much gets done under his leadership," Babb said.
Adkins has had many mentors in his career like Bill Mollison, who helped develop the practice of permaculture, the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
Mollison, who Adkins met in Nepal in the '80s, told Adkins that “You don’t have a lot of problems, but everything is an opportunity,” which is especially true in the plant world, Adkins said.
“The biggest inspiration is the trees, being with them and listening to what they have to tell you,” Adkins said.
Tyson Wildman is a reporter for the State Press SciTech desk. He is excited to begin his journey into journalism and continue to hone his skills as a writer. He is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.