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Jan 05, 2016

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

By Rachel Hahs


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.

 In-person Session 6. Moremi Game Reserve Campsite, Botswana, November 2015 (Photo - Rachel Hahs)

Our cohort, consisting of nineteen professionals from seven countries on five continents, is the third cohort to be honored with the Biomimicry Professional Certification from Biomimicry 3.8 and the first graduates of the new Master of Science in Biomimicry program at Arizona State University. ASU has gained international recognition for its interdisciplinary approach to global challenges, and the new ASU Biomimicry Center is fast becoming a dynamic hub for global biomimicry research and education. We are thrilled to receive the world’s first biomimicry master’s degree!

Biomimicry 3.8 mixed talented designers, biologists, engineers, and business people—all with a strong interest in sustainability and a desire to push the boundaries of our respective disciplines—for a truly interdisciplinary learning experience. Our deep dive into nature’s genius during the intensive two-year program, led by Biomimicry 3.8 co-founder Dr. Dayna Baumeister, has been a deeply profound experience for each of us on both professional and personal levels.

3-Outdoorclassroom

In November 2015, we gathered in the Okavango Delta to go on our last of six week-long in-person adventures as biomimicry graduate students. Our gathering in Maun, Botswana for the last in-person session was like a big family reunion, as the group has indeed become like a second family after spending so much time together. Between in-person sessions, we had completed online fourth-month long courses in which we held live discussions online once a week on topics as diverse as biology, engineering, design, business, human-nature connection, biomimicry thinking and Life’s Principles. In-person sessions were chances to put all our learning together in practice and were jam-packed with hands-on training in biomimicry methodologies, deep dives into the biology of the local ecosystems, and leadership building activities. Over the course of the program, we also completed four practicums, the last of which many of us are continuing into the future (see below). Fittingly, for our final trip we happened to be present for the trigger for the beginning of spring – the first rains arrived the second day we were there. We thus became witness to an incredible transition of the landscape, a great inspiration for our own transition out of the graduate program.

Our shared in-person and online experiences in the Biomimicry Professional program have forged close bonds that will last a lifetime. Our biomimicry training ensures we carry a deep understanding of the methodologies and ethos that will help get each of us to where we want to go. Our personal and professional leadership development nurtured throughout the last two years has readied us to join this movement full throttle.

In-person Session 2, Sonoran Desert, United States – February 2014. For insight into what we experience in our in-person sessions, check out Denny Royal’s blog posts in the links above. (Photo – Rachel Hahs)

We graduate during the beginning of a changing of the guard. With a growing collective awareness that we are embarking upon significant social, political and technological post-industrial shifts, how we as a species (re)define our relationship with each other and the planet at both local and global scales will determine our future. Our cohort is restless in our desire to influence that definition and generate a biomimetic shift, not only by asking what would nature do, but also what wouldn’t nature do. We are thrilled to join colleagues from our biomimicry community in bringing nature-inspired solutions to the world. Together, we have the opportunity to put forth an attainable vision of the future in which humanity is a generous and integral participant in the symbiosis fundamental to life on Earth (and the core principle of biomimicry) – “life creates conditions conducive to life.”

Our post-graduation aspirations embody the hope and enthusiasm biomimicry inspires for a path to achieve this vision of a truly sustainable future. We look to expand opportunities to bring nature’s wisdom to diverse industries, whether by informing innovation and design, education, resilient cities, business organizational structure, investment, personal development and leadership, architecture, sustainable systems, and even human wellness. Below are a few examples of where we are headed:

2013 Biomimicry Professional Cohort. Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana – November 2015 (Photo - Ricardo Mastroti)

Ana Carolina Alves, Brasilia, Brazil – Ana, a multidisciplinary designer, found insights through biomimicry to rethink the way humans design and create things. She is applying biomimicry through Design Thinking and Information Design to reconnect human and natural worlds. As a co-founder of the Biomimicry Brasil Network she is also creating opportunities to speak about Biomimicry with other Brazilian biomimics around the country.

Brennen Jensen, California, USA – Brennen serves as the Director/Principal for an emerging woman-owned small business, Emerging Ecologies, seeking to create sustainable, engaged and resilient communities inspired by nature. Brennen is currently exploring opportunities to leverage biomimicry thinking in conservation program design, product stewardship, zero waste, and climate action planning efforts.

Denny Royal, Minnesota, USA – As a principal and Azul 7’s design practice leader, Denny Royal has grown and nurtured a human-centered design approach and is now incorporating biomimicry into the company’s services. Denny is also venturing into new territory – authoring biomimicry-based children’s books to reach a younger audience.

Estelle Martinson, Johannesburg, South Africa – Estelle’s focus is in the social innovation space. Her next project is to develop and publish 27 short biomimicry business case studies each illustrating a Life’s Principle on Kindle in March 2016 as a resource for other biomimics to use. Estelle will also be presenting biomimicry workshops themed as “Design Your Life,” using natural organisms as mentors to learn about Life’s Principles and to apply their wisdom in the personal development/leadership space.

Jo Fleming, Colorado, USA – Jo, an experienced product designer, has begun actively working as a biomimicry-focused design and innovation consultant, including contracting with Biomimicry 3.8, and bringing biomimetic thought leadership to product design globally. She will also be supporting the ASU MS in Biomimicry program as a teacher’s aid in 2016. In parallel, Jo, who is also a certified Forest Therapy Guide, and is developing a business in nature immersion for corporate and private clients incorporating biomimicry and Forest Therapy methodologies to enhance whole-system performance.

Michael Dupee, Vermont, USA – A lawyer, investment banker, musician, and seasoned corporate sustainability and innovation executive, Michael is developing innovative new frameworks to incorporate nature’s wisdom into corporate strategy and sustainability agendas, and is bringing biomimicry education to tomorrow’s business leaders today.

Rachel Hahs, Illinois, USA – Building off her last independent BPro project, Rachel will continue to research, publish and speak about ways in which biomimicry can inform strategies for acceleratingdisruptive innovation and paradigm shifts with a goal of bringing us closer to a sustainable future – quickly. She continues sustainability consulting and collaborating with the Biomimicry Chicagonetwork.

Ricardo Mastroti, São Paulo, Brazil – Ricardo is using his background in biology and business to apply biomimicry to the social investment world, guide long term investors (mainstream), use biomimicry in children’s education, and use biomimicry to promote disruptive innovation in mainstream business. He launched a  new social business fund, Bemtevi Social Investment, which uses biomimicry to inspire and evaluate social business, and is currently educating elementary and university students and publishing and consulting on biomimicry in Brazil.

Sue Okerstrom, Minnesota, USA – During the BPro/MS program, Sue combined her technical/engineering expertise and personal passion for revealing structures and processes at the micro or nano scale to start Lichen Labs LLC, a company specializing in microscopy and biomimicry research.  She is currently developing a microscopy/biomimicry educational module for arts and science integration, including specimen collection and remote-access microscopy. After piloting the project in a 7th grade life science class, the pilot school is developing a year-long multidisciplinary biomimicry-based innovation project for the students – so cool!

Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker, California, USA – Tamsin, evolutionary biologist and co-founder ofBiomimicry San Diego, provides biologically-inspired innovation consulting and research through her company, BioInspired Ink, and as an independently-contracted Biologist at the Design Table for Biomimicry 3.8. She is also a prolific writer. You can read her 2015 Letters from the Tangled Bank onissuu.com. Her book, BioInspired Inc: How Superorganisms Innovate, Collaborate, and Lead in an Uncertain World (And Your Business Can Too), is due in July 2016 from White Cloud Press.

Joe Zazzera (Arizona, USA), Jane Toner (Melbourne, Australia)  and Peggy Chu (Hong Kong and California, USA), are developing a guidebook, Living Buildings Inspired by Nature, to provide a resource and methodology for integrating biomimicry into the design process for projects focused on achieving exemplary regenerative design outcomes, such as Living Building Challenge certification. Joe,a thought leader, business owner and artist in the living wall industry, is also working to integrate biomimicry into Living Architecture, using his networking talents to bring people together to facilitate biomimetic projects, and sharing his infectious love of nature to reconnect people to the nature that surrounds them. Jane, is an architect, sustainability consultant and Australia’s first Biomimicry Professional. She is the founder of Biomimicry Swarm Australia, through which she seeks to generate dialogue and spore collaborative projects to encourage the uptake of biomimicry in Australia through networking events, presentations, and design workshops. Peggy is an architect, sustainability consultant, and researcher who is looking to bring biomimicry thinking into curriculum design, teaching, and the design of built environment projects.

Lisa Dokken (New York, USA), Elisha Long (Massachusetts, USA) and Diana Hammer (Montana, USA) have formed ReGenerous Cities, LLC, a consulting group focused on supporting cities and communities looking to integrate biomimicry thinking and ecological performance standards to achieve long-term resiliency and sustainability goals. In Spring 2016, Lisa, who has a background in sustainable development and climate change initiatives, will continue teaching “Biomimicry: Lessons from Nature” for the second year at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.  Elisha works for a private real estate development firm specializing in complicated, large scale projects in urban environments and is looking to incorporate biomimicry into the built environment at scale, from individual buildings to entire cities.Diana a life scientist and life-long learner, is the only Certified Biomimicry Professional in the US federal government and is integrating biomimicry into her work at the Environmental Protection Agency and in Indian Country.  Diana is providing biomimicry workshops and speaking engagements, helping teachthe “Biology Taught Functionally” course at ASU, and creating an edible garden city park in her hometown.

Additional Biomimicry Professional Program participants doing equally exciting work in their part of the world –

Daniela Esponda, Multi-disciplinary Designer, Mexico City, Mexico

Katherine Miller, Lawyer, Massachusetts, USA

Prashant Dhawan, New Product and Real Estate Development, Bangalore, India

We look forward to meeting and working with you in 2016 and beyond!

About the author:

Rachel Hahs, a Certified Biomimicry Professional graduating with the cohort described above, is a sustainability and innovation consultant based in Chicago, Illinois. Rachel collaborates with the Biomimicry Chicago network to educate and speak about biomimicry to a wide variety of audiences.