Biomimicry Blitz

The term biomimicry was popularized by scientist and author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Biomimicry is defined in her book as a "new science that studies nature's models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems". Benyus suggests looking to Nature as a "Model, Measure, and Mentor" and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry.

Last semester, we ran on the high energy of an enthusiastic group, and covered a surprising number of thought-provoking topics including: Sepp Holzer’s Austrian farming with hugelkulture beds and pond building, photosynthesis and third generation solar cell design, soil remediation using mushrooms, and biocomputing using the tubulin cytoskeletin as a potential model for a new information system. We have planed a field trip to visit Eric Toensmeier's perennial polyculture garden in Western MA, for the spring. We are beginning to organize a Munroe Garden perennial polyculture design project, and are excited about organizing depaving efforts in Somerville. We now have five Somerville residents lined up for spring and summer 2012 depaving parties.

For the SunReturn semester, new participants will have the opportunity to learn from seasoned participants from previous semesters. We'll identify topics of interest, conduct research, identify hands-on projects, interview stakeholders, contact city officials (if needed) and design urban ecosystems using a biomimicry approach. Projects taken on might include: stormwater management measurement and evaluation in Somerville streets and residential areas, depaving Somerville residential properties and soil remediation, backyard garden design and implementation, tracking and documenting urban wildlife using motion-triggered cameras, etc.

Schedule: To be announced.

Location: To be announced (I'm located in Union Square, Somerville).

Fee: Pay what you can, but suggested contribution is $15/class per student.

Teacher: Lenni Armstrong

I think of my path to biomimicry affectionately as my "zig-zag" career: zigging and zagging between science and art. My zig-zags have taken me through portraiture, silversmithing, biomedical and neuroscience lab research, super-8 animation, computer animation, computer interactive design, scientific visualization, data visualization, earth science, geology, climate science and now biomimicry and nanotechnology.

As a visual learner, I revel in satisfying my curiosity about the world around me through the process of finding and creating imagery and interactives. My goal is to design visualizations that make learning faster, more intuitive and more fun for other curious seekers who want to understand earth processes.

I'm keen on exploring ways in which humanity can become a positive force in shaping and serving the ecosystems and biodiversity of which we are a part. I'm excited about the potential for learning about design from plants and critters that have been around much longer than us humans have. My vision is that this Biomimicry Blitz class will plant the seeds to grow a biomimicry learning community.

Book Suggestions

  • Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

by Janine Benyus

  • Nature's Operating Instructions

short writings by: Janine Benyus, John Todd, Paul Stamets, Randall von Wedel, Dave Foreman, Andy Lipkis, David Suzuki, Michael Pollan, Amory & Hunter Lovins, Paul Hawken and more
edited by Kenny Ausubel

  • From Eco-Cities to Living Machines: Principles of Ecological Design

by Nancy & John Todd

Video Suggestions

  • Janine Benyus talks about biomimicry, July 2009 (18 minutes)

  • Janine Benyus at UC Berkeley Environmental Design, Feb. 2010 (longer version of the above video, ~2 hrs.)

  • Paul Stamets on 6 ways mushrooms can save the world, March 2008 (18 min.)

  • Andy Lipkis: Welcome to Tree People


Search Tool Suggestion

AskNature, a Project of the Biomimicry Institute

In Janine Benyus' words:
Imagine 3.8 billion years of design brilliance available for free, at the moment of creation, to any sustainability innovator in the world.

Imagine nature's most elegant ideas organized by design and engineering function, so you can enter "filter salt from water" and see how mangroves, penguins, and shorebirds desalinate without fossil fuels.

Now imagine you can meet the people who have studied these organisms, and together you can create the next great bio-inspired solution.

That's the idea behind AskNature, the online inspiration source for the biomimicry community. Think of it as your home habitat—whether you're a biologist who wants to share what you know about an amazing organism, or a designer, architect, engineer, or chemist looking for planet-friendly solutions. AskNature is where biology and design cross-pollinate, so bio-inspired breakthroughs can be born.

TO SIGN UP: email me at informmotion(at)

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