Zach Leslie

Zachary Leslie spent his 2017 fall term in Chile working with terrestrial LIDAR. It’s something he never imagined when he came to Oregon State to study engineering.

“I declared a major in forest engineering after a friend and I agreed to do it together.” Leslie explains. “We were going to do it together.”

Leslie’s friend changed majors shortly after making the deal, but for him, it stuck.

“The professors were what really made me love studying forest engineering,” Leslie says. “They’re genuinely nice people, and my teachers and classmates feel more like family and friends.”

As a junior, Leslie visited the College of Forestry’s international programs office to find out where he could travel and participate in an international internship in order to fulfil the required six-months of work experience for his degree.

“I’ve done little traveling throughout my life,” Leslie says. “And I really wanted to go out and see the world to experience different cultures and ideas. I wanted to work somewhere unique than a locally.”

Director of International Programs Michele Justice pointed him toward New Zealand. There, he spent three months working for a research institute in his 2017 summer term.

“Another student and I measured Douglas-fir progeny trials through a variety of characteristics.  The seeds came from Washington, Oregon, and California, so it was pretty neat to my state tree being used 6000 miles away,” Leslie says.

In New Zealand, he saw first-hand how different ecosystems impact growth rates of trees.

“New Zealand has a similar moisture content as the Northwest. However, they have moisture is spread throughout the year so the summers are not as harsh.  Therefore, plants have availability year round which results in faster growing rates and a shorter rotation,” Leslie explains.

His first international experience made Leslie hungry for more, and because of the connections Oregon State has with Chile through the College of Forestry’s Chile Initiative, Leslie had the opportunity to take part in research and gain more work experience at the Universidad Austral de Chile.

During this trip, Leslie experienced a bit more culture shock due to the language barriers, but working with exciting technology in his chosen field lessened the frustration.

LIDAR stands for light detection and ranging and is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges to the Earth. Leslie used terrestrial LIDAR to understand the volume of trees in Chilean forests.

Leslie isn’t sure what his future holds, but he’s interested in attending graduate school so he can delve into the uses of LIDAR and unmanned aircraft.

“We can hook thermal cameras to unmanned aircraft to find an extinguish fires and hot spots,” Leslie says. “I would like to learn and research more ways to protect and manage our forest sustainably and efficiently.”

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