What is your current job and how do you incorporate biomimicry into your work or life?
I have been fortunate to have been the coordinator of the PNW BOCES’ Center for Environmental Education since 1982. Our programs serve about 34,000 students from some 20 school districts in the Hudson Valley of New York State. CEE’s programs are diverse, they include student programs at the our BOCES nature center, in-school programs; environmental kits; summer science camps; professional development workshops and my favorite- our marine ecology excursion in the Florida Keys for middle and high school students. This short course introduces participants to the tropical marine ecosystem through classes and field trips. We snorkel in the seagrass beds and mangroves, dive/snorkel in the coral reefs, kayak to a mangrove island to camp for the night, work with the Coral Restoration Foundation, take an airboat ride in the Everglades, and swim with the dolphins!
Currently I offer two biomimicry student programs- an introductory course and a new design course which I offered for the first time this year. Over the past ten years, we have also run several biomimicry summer camps. For teachers, I run a one-day introduction to biomimicry workshop during the school year. Last year one of our districts asked me to run a half day workshop for all of their middle and high school science teachers. I was thrilled that a district recognized enough value in biomimicry to be willing to commit to it financially. Over the past six years, I have also organized several multiple-day intensive workshops using the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, itself a biomimetic model.
What is your favorite quote?
I have this quote in my email footer, because it expresses hope and optimism, both of which are very much needed today. For me biomimicry is a pathway to both. “Come my friend, it is not too late to seek a better world.” – adapted from Alfred Lord Tennyson
Tell us about how you first learned about biomimicry. What was your biomimicry “aha” moment?
Having been in the field of environmental education for almost 40 years, it can be a challenge to stay optimistic and express that optimism to our staff and students. When I first learned about biomimicry, I immediately saw that it offered solution-based thinking- rather than fear and hopelessness- a sense of possibility and a really cool way to get kid’s attention, especially high school students!
I love starting out my classes by asking kids about the connection between an iridescent beetle and a $100 bill. When they can’t answer it, I whip out my $100 bill, tell them about structural color and use that $100 bill to show them how the US Treasury is using structural color to prevent counterfeiting. I don’t have a problem with their attention after that!!! I call biomimicry, “the science of today and the jobs of tomorrow”, and tell students that within the next decade most jobs will incorporate some form of biomimicry. Of course, that gets them thinking and challenging me about how biomimicry could possibility be used in such careers as soccer and hockey!!! My answer is always the question, “How do you think nature would …?”
What do you need next to do what you want to do in the world?
I am looking forward to taking some of the Biomimicry 3.8 Immersion workshops in the next two years, in order to expand my knowledge and network with others from diverse fields. I plan to retire in the next few years and when I do, I am going to focus on bringing biomimicry into more schools so that we can create a population of people who look at all those creepy, crawly critters everyone loves to hate, with fascination instead of disgust!
I would also like to get involved again with wolf education. One of the most unique programs we offered in the 90’s was a wolf education course with Mission: Wolf. Each fall several staff and wolves would travel east in their wolf bus from their Colorado reserve, and we hosted them for several days. I became part of the pack, riding the bus as we traveled from school to school. As soon as I got on the bus, the wolves made it known that I had to come into their pen to be greeted. There is nothing more amazing than being greeted by wolves who haven’t seen you in a while! (See an example of this greeting here). To this day, I feel blessed by that amazing experience.
And, I want to spend more time underwater. I will complete my 500th dive this spring, and am looking forward to having the time to do more diving.
If you could have any biomimetic super power, what would it be and why?
Wings, so I can take off and visit all the amazing places on this magnificent planet, without the need for fuel or producing pollution!