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Meet a Biomimic: Dan Quinn

Meet a Biomimic: Dan Quinn

In our latest installment of Meet a Biomimic, meet Dan Quinn, a researcher at the University of Virginia who is pioneering new ways of designing underwater and aerial robots by mimicking how fish and birds move. Read on to learn more about Dan’s research and check out this video to see his work in action.

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(Re)defining the Future: Meet the first graduates of the new Master of Science in Biomimicry program

Sitting in a safari jeep for four days, deep in the Okavango Delta with animals teeming all around us, it was maybe only once that our cohort of Biomimicry Professionals experienced a moment of silence lasting longer than 30 seconds (max!) before someone would pipe up, even with an elephant in our camp! That is what it’s like experiencing a new habitat with a team of passionate instructors and nineteen fellow biomimics on their final in-person session before graduation – rare is the silence, rarer still is a lack of inquisitiveness or enthusiasm for the wisdom in nature all around us.

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Meet a Biomimic: Alyssa Stark

Our Meet a Biomimic series continues with Alyssa Stark. Alyssa is a scientist, or a functional morphologist as she calls herself, studying biological adhesives. Her current research focuses on the adhesive systems of ants and geckos (learn more at her website). From developing biomimicry science programs for elementary school kids to mentoring participants in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, Alyssa remains heavily involved in spreading and teaching biomimicry. Read on to learn more about her journey and hear her advice on how to incorporate biomimicry into your work.

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Message to COP21 leaders: Need solutions? Ask nature.

Nature is full of clues for how we can approach our climate change problems, in ways that not only reduce our climate impact, but help us to “…become producers of ecosystem services” (Janine Benyus). Biomimicry studies and then translates nature’s architecture, design and engineering strategies to human design. Many of these strategies can apply directly to climate change challenges such as how nature upcycles carbon, harnesses the sun’s power, and creates electricity.

COP21 is focused on developing solid action plans and solutions. In that spirit, we want to share just a few of nature’s strategies and corresponding innovations that can lead us down a more life-sustaining path.

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Climate Change: What Would Nature Do?

Recently I visited Xunantunich, a site where Mayan ruins are being uncovered in the impoverished nation of Belize, formerly British Honduras. Aside from the sheer beauty and powerful energy of the site, I was struck by a pair of trees our guide pointed out. One was called the Poisonwood Tree, (Metopium brownie) because of the strong allergen in its bark. The other, a reddish tree, which I later found out is called the Gumbo-Limbo tree (Bursera simaruba), contained the antidote.

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Community Credit: The Next Generation of Financial Architecture

A recurring theme in the biomimicry track of this year’s SXSW Eco conference was the increasing multidimensionality of ways biomimicry is being applied not just to products, but also to processes and systems. Chemistry, investing, leadership, branding: all can be bioinspired. I’m enthusiastic about applying biomimicry to financial architecture, or the architectures of exchange. Biomimicry offers a new language, longer timeframe, wider lens, and better-rooted framework overall for thinking about system design. It allows us to finally step “outside” (literally and figuratively) the narrow conceptual models of finance that are currently sinking our collective ship. How would nature design a financial system? This blog post is adapted from a short presentation I gave at SXSW Eco on this question.

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Urban mobility reloaded: Planning our future cities

Our cities are constantly growing and an ever-rising number of people live on a very small fraction of the world’s surface area. By 2050, about 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas. How do we serve people’s needs for mobility while simultaneously sacrificing neither biodiversity and environmental values nor human health and well-being?

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The Great Reunion: Watch Janine Benyus’ featured talk at SXSW Eco

In a standing-room-only featured talk at SXSW Eco 2015, Janine Benyus laid out a vision for what the world would look like if we succeeded at scaling biomimicry. Watch Benyus describe this “great reunion” – when our “buildings, farms, artifacts, energy flows, and social patterns of interaction are functionally indistinguishable from the wild communities that surround us.”

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Eight reasons to be hopeful about the future of our food system

In late summer, the ideas started pouring in from every corner of the world.
Thousands of designers, architects, biologists, engineers, students, nature-lovers, and big thinkers had answered the call to completely rethink our food system using design inspiration from nature. The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, hosted by the Biomimicry Institute and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, provided a platform for these global innovators to practice biomimicry in action, by applying it to one of the most urgent issues of our time – our broken food chain. It makes perfect sense – how are we going to create a healthier, more equitable, truly regenerative food system without learning from the natural ecosystems and organisms that are an inextricable part of it?

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Get outside and explore! Ten steps to hold your own bioblitz

A walk in the woods or a local park is always a great way to get outside and enjoy nature, but what if you could help contribute to your community at the same time? All across the world, citizen scientists are hosting and joining bioblitzes as a way to do just that. At a bioblitz, community members join together to find and document as many different species as they can, using smartphones or cameras. According to the California Academy of Sciences, “Bioblitzes not only help land managers build a species list and atlas for their park, they also highlight the incredible biodiversity in these urban oases.”

Interested in holding your own bioblitz? AJ Wacaser and Colleen Mahoney from the Coastal Redwood Biomimicry Network in California have put together ten tips that they’ve learned from hosting bioblitzes. Read on to learn how to throw a fun and successful bioblitz in your neck of the woods.

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Meet a Biomimic: Alexandra Ramsden

In the second edition of Meet a Biomimic, we introduce you to Alexandra Ramsden. Alexandra is the co-founder of Biomimicry Puget Sound, a Seattle-based biomimicry network that is currently working on projects in the built environment (check out a blog post that Alexandra co-wrote for AskingNature about this work). Read on to hear Alexandra’s advice about how to incorporate biomimicry into your work and learn how her ideal biomimetic superpower would not only be super cool, but would help solve urban density problems, too.

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Meet a Biomimic: Claire Janisch

In the time since Janine Benyus’ book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature was published in 1997, biomimicry has emerged as a thriving discipline, inspiring thousands to build their careers and lives around nature-inspired design. In a new blog series called Meet a Biomimic, we aim to introduce the individuals that make up this movement. From thought leaders to those just learning how to ‘ask nature,’ this community is full of talented, passionate, and smart innovators who are making revolutionary change in all corners of the world. Find out what drives them and how they’re working to build a more regenerative future.

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Evaporation: Closing the Gap between Forest and Urban Water Flows

Have you ever walked through an evergreen forest in the rain? There is a hush all around. The forest floor is spongy and soft beneath your feet, and the layers and textures all around you create a coziness, a feeling of being protected. As you take a deep breath of fresh, clean air, you know it’s raining big drops up above, but all you feel is a cool mist floating down through the canopy.

You can find expansive sections of this forest all around Puget Sound. For many people, it is a mental and spiritual health reservoir, a place that helps us reconnect and remember that we are nature. But it is also an ecosystem services powerhouse. It stores carbon, cleans the air and water, regulates temperatures, and provides shelter and food for critters big and small.

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