Written by Rebecca Leclere, CoF International Programs
Nathaniel Osborne earned his Ph.D. in Forestry from Oregon State University in 2015. He currently works as a biometrician with Weyerhaeuser NR Company at the George R. Staebler Forest Resources Research Center in Centralia, Washington. Nate has traveled across the globe in pursuit of his research, venturing to France, Scotland, and Scandinavia in order to study forestry techniques practiced worldwide. After graduating from North Carolina State University in 2010, Nate began his international work and has since become an avid traveler and not just when it comes to research.
Nate discovered his desire to study abroad when he was offered the chance to get a dual master’s degree from the University of Helsinki in Finland alongside North Carolina State University. Nate jumped on the offer. Following this, Nate spent time in Skåne, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland researching wood retention after forest harvesting and completed both his M.Sc. Forestry and M.S. Forestry degrees in 2012. While living in Scandinavia, Nate was able to explore further into Western Europe, crisscrossing all the way to Russia and back.
“I found the experience of living and working abroad to be highly enriching from a personal and educational perspective,” says Nate. “The practice of forestry is different across the country and throughout the world. Our ability to meet challenges facing our profession is enhanced by considering a wide range of forest management perspectives and philosophies.”
Following the success of his first international endeavor, Nate began seeking out other opportunities to conduct research internationally. While presenting aspects of his Ph.D. research at the 2013 MeMo Wood IUFRO conference, Nate was offered the chance to do research in France as part of a cooperation with the Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA).
In 2014, Nate visited France with funding from the Dean's Investment Fund, Lee Harris Travel Grants, his Ph.D. advisor, Doug Maguire, and INRA to begin work on this international research cooperation in pursuit of his doctorate. This opportunity was also a continuation of Nate’s ongoing research with the Center for Intensive Planted-forest Silviculture (CIPS), a research institute at Oregon State University focused on understanding and improving the ways in which environmental factors, both introduced and natural, affect the sustainability of planted and managed Western forests.
While in France, Nate worked with INRA in an effort to combine different forest modeling systems through scientific knowledge, thus developing tools created with the intent of predicting how forest management systems affect the quality of Douglas-fir wood products.
Nate’s journey began in Champenoux, France where he worked with Francis Colin at the Laboratoire d'Etude des Ressources Forêt-Bois (LERFoB). During this time, Nate began work on developing a modeling system to map Douglas-fir growth and yield with special attention paid to knot geometry and wood density, subjects he was investigating as a part of his Ph.D. studies.
Nate then continued on to Montpellier, France where he teamed up with François de Coligny of the laboratory BotAnique et BioinforMatique de l'Architecture des Plantes (AMAP). The research Nate and his colleagues conducted during this time lead to the successful development of an interface between Computer-Aided Projection Strategies in Silviculture (CAPSIS) software and a forest modeling system designed at Oregon State University called ORGANON.
Although the primary objective of Nate’s time in France was to conduct research on projects in pursuit of his Ph.D., there were still the weekends to experience the unique attractions of the country. Taking advantage of his days off, Nate and his colleagues went on excursions to nearby towns and visited sights of historical significance. In particular, Nate enjoyed meals with his hosts Francis and François in which he got a chance to experience the cuisine France is famous for.
“The French do a great lunch,” says Nate. These community lunches also provided Nate the unique and important opportunity to engage in relaxed one-on-one scientific discussion with his hosts.
Continuing his international study in the summer of 2015, Nate and his fellow graduate student Derek Gourley traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland to begin a cooperation with Paul McLean and the U.K. Forestry Commission (UKFC). The primary purpose of the trip was to conduct Derek’s research on modeling the wood properties of Douglas-fir, a project on which Nate assisted. Otherwise, Nate focused his attention on strengthening the ties between the UKFC and Oregon State University and explored possibilities for the continuous development of the ORGANON modeling system in CAPSIS software. When not immersed in research, Nate got the chance to experience Scottish culture firsthand when he attended the Scottish Highlands festival with his host and colleague Paul.
Throughout all of his travel and research, Nate believes that the greatest benefit of international study is the opportunity to make connections with people in the scientific community from around the world.
“Relationships you develop while working abroad are not ephemeral,” Nate insists. “The science world is VERY small.”
After his return to the United States, Nate had not only completed important research used to attain his Ph.D., but he also gained friends, connections, and experiences that will stay with him in his life and career.
“My international research work has significantly enhanced my ability to be a good scientist. Working internationally takes you out of your comfort zone and forces self-improvement. To make the most of your trip, you become a better communicator, improve the understanding of the topic you study and learn to adapt to unexpected situations. All of these skills are critical to any career, scientific or otherwise.”