ARBRE Interview – Nate Osborne


Nate Osborne

Visiting Doctoral Researcher

26 September 2014


Nate is a doctoral researcher who spent the first three weeks of September working with the LERFoB unit here in France. Nate is working towards his PhD under the supervision of Professor Doug Maguire of Oregon State University. Professor Maguire is a Guistina Professor of Forest Managment and Director of the Center for Intensive Planted-Forest Silviculture (CIPS), which inspired our GIS “Cooperative data on the growth of forest stands”. Both are specialists in growth, yield and wood quality modeling for Douglas-fir.

Nate spent a productive three weeks in France which included giving a dynamic presentation of his work in the first week at the LabEx Docs / Post-docs Seminar where he described some of his work done at Oregon State University to model branch angles and implied branch pith curvature and the CIPS collaboration aimed at enhancing this modeling using data collected by the tomograph at the Xylosciences plateau.

Topics for his second and final weeks included  a simplified version of the ORGANON model in CAPSIS and Douglas sampling – notably with a visit to the forest of Grison (North of Cluny) and automatic image interpretation through scanning (LERFoB-INRA collaboration) – and finally, perspectives on future uses of ORGANON in France.

Nate was kind enough to grant us the following interview just before he left France.


Where are you from originally?

My hometown is Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the Southeastern United States of America.

What has your path been to bring you here?

My path to INRA started during my graduate studies at North Carolina State University.  As a masters student at North Carolina State, I became involved with a collaborative program between the United States and Europe.  My involvement in this program allowed me to work, live and earn a second M.Sc. degree at the University of Helsinki in Finland.  After completing my masters degrees, I moved to the Northwest to earn a Ph.D. from Oregon State University.  Around this time, I met Dr. Francis Colin who was visiting the Center for Intensive Planted-forest Silviculture (CIPS) at Oregon State University.  Francis is a forest researcher at INRA-Champenoux and the CIPS institute supports my studies as a Ph.D. candidate.  A few months after Francis’s visit to Oregon, he invited myself and my adviser Professor Doug Maguire to attend the IUFRO-MeMoWood conference hosted by INRA.  My experience working internationally in Finland was highly productive, and I was motivated to continue this type of work in France.  During the conference, we developed a plan to collaborate on common research interests shared between our organizations.  As a part of this collaboration, I have spent three weeks working with INRA in Nancy and Montpellier, France.

Tell us about your science – explain briefly what your specific focus is and why this is important?

The subject of my Ph.D. concerns modeling macroscopic structures inside Douglas-fir trees.  Right now, I am focused on describing the curvature of knots.  Knots are the portions of stemwood formed through the encasement of branches as a tree grows radially and tangentially. Knots and other macroscopic features (heartwood, sapwood, juvenile core, etc.) cause irregularities in the material properties of wood, which can effect end use and value.  Luckily, many of the most important macroscopic features in Douglas-fir trees can be controlled through forest management.  My Ph.D. work will enhance the wood quality estimation capabilities of the Organon forest growth and yield simulator.  You can read more about Organon at:  Foresters, students, scientists and others can use Organon to explore the consequences of forest management on wood yield and quality.  The yield and quality of wood are essential to any economic assessment of forestry.  Economic assessment of forest management strategies are essential to ensuring sustainable forest management.
When did you first become interested in the forest, wood and its formation/characterization – more specifically, modeling?

I have always had an interest to solve applied forestry problems with quantitative tools.  During my Ph.D., I have focused extensively on modeling under the direction of Professor Doug Maguire and the forest biometrics program at Oregon State University.  You can read more about this program at:  In my first year as a Ph.D. student, I spent much of my time in statistics courses and completing tasks for our research cooperative, CIPS.  During the end of my first year as a Ph.D. student, I attended the MeMoWood conference in Nancy, France.  This conference was to designed to promote the connection between wood science and forest modeling.  At the MeMoWood conference, an idea was sparked for my Ph.D. project.  With only a few days in Nancy, Doug Maguire and I designed my Ph.D. project.  This project was to enhance the wood quality estimation capacity of the Organon forest growth and yield simulator.

In your opinion, what are the major scientific issues for forest and wood sciences?

There are many issues to address in science today.  A few important issues to focus on are:

  • Encouraging information transfer from research centers to practitioners and the general public,
  • Improving transdisiplinary collaboration and communication,
  • Aggregating scientific research into decision support systems

Many efforts are underway in response to these issues, with some clear examples at INRA. For instance, the Capsis platform managed by Francois de Coligny addresses the aggregation of scientific research into a decision support system.  Capsis is a simulation platform for forest growth and dynamics.  Read more about Capsis at: During my stay in France, the Organon growth and yield simulator was integrated into Capsis.  Future collaboration between Oregon State University and members of INRA will be promoted and retained within the Capsis system.

Advice for young researchers?

Concern yourself with pursuing clear, attainable goals, not realizing plans.  Plan only enough to make good decisions in the moment. Spend every minute you work, working with purpose. When you’re not working, don’t work! Don’t be afraid to expose yourself to risk.  These moments of uncertainty can be the most rewarding.

Could you comment on the idea of collaboration in science? How has that played a role in your most recent work?

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – By collaborating we increase the quality and application of our work.  Collaboration allows us to consider new information and a more diverse range of expertise in a given project.  The application of our work is also enhanced as our research network grows.  This most recent collaboration between Oregon State University and INRA highlights the value of collaboration in science.  Working with INRA has vastly improved the quality and application of my Ph.D. project.  Before working with INRA, I was unaware of the possibility to use computer tomography in the processing of lumber and it’s application to forest modeling.  This information, along with the advisement of Dr. Francis Colin on my Ph.D. committee, has substantially improved the quality of my project.  The application of my project was also enhanced by extending my work to an international community of scientists through seminars and the Capsis modeling platform.

And lastly, where do you hope your science will lead you in the future (in the short or long term)?

I’m not sure where my science will lead me.  Wherever I am going, I will strive to be engaged in challenging applied forestry research with the chance for real and permanent good.

Nate Francis 3 fixed