Hi all! Quick question for you: I’ve thought about starting a biomimicry podcast because there isn’t one (which is shocking considering there’s a podcast for nearly everything!?) If I did start one—interviewing people who practice, use, teach, and study biomimicry, and talking about new cool biomimicry inspirations—would you listen?
In case you haven’t heard of biomimicry, it’s the practice of applying the genius designs of nature to the human-built environment. This could be products, systems, processes, buildings, whole cities, you name it! If humans design it, looking to nature for design inspiration and guidance will make designs more sustainable, efficient, and beneficial for the planet. Check out more about what biomimicry is by visiting https://biomimicry.org/.
What is it about biomimicry that has me so fired up to make it the center of my business career? It’s articles like this piece on NPR about how mussels can clean oil and heavy metals from water. Nature holds the key to so many problems we have. It already knows what to do; it already has the solutions we are so desperate to find. (And given the state of our planet, our desperation is justified!) Our job now is to listen, to watch, to observe, and then replicate what works. We can do this. (Big thanks to my dear friend, Edith Gonzalez, who helped me find a new way forward when I was at first unsure, and to Brian McCormack, who sent me this article and constantly helps me find the light amidst so much darkness.
I found summer camp for science nerds – but even better because it’s during the Fall, my favorite season. And I’m going!
Yesterday I was listening to Ologies podcast and Alie Ward mentioned Sci Comm Camp, a gathering that takes place over a long weekend in November outside of LA. There are workshops, fun presentations, and plenty of downtime to connect with people who love science and are passionate about sharing science with others.
Given my graduate studies in biomimicry at Biomimicry 3.8 and Arizona State University, my desire to spread this practice as far and wide as possible, and my love for collaborating and learning from others, this seems like the perfect event for me. Plus, I’m hoping to sneak in a trip to see some L.A. pals while I’m there. Already looking forward to November!
I’m studying sustainable coastal resilience strategies in the face of climate change and rising sea levels. Seawalls don’t provide sufficient protection, harm wildlife, pollute waterways, and are difficult and expensive to maintain. Artificial walls don’t work in nature. What works is building longer buffet tables and larger homes that make accommodations for all stakeholders—coral reefs, mangroves, oyster beds, and salt marshes. This idea is much more than a metaphor or allegory. Seawalls are a cautionary tale of what happens when we exclude beings who have all the same rights that we do to survive and thrive. Sustainable solutions have successfully played out over the course of 3.8 billion years of natural history’s R&D lab. We would be wise to follow its example.
If you’re wondering why I’m so forking excited about studying biomimicry at Arizona State University’s Biomimicry Center, I want you to meet Janine Benyus, the founder of this field and creator of this program. Welcome to the future. Welcome to the movement. Here’s Janine: https://asuonline.wistia.com/medias/npzymug1ue
Last week I had the chance to interview a number of biologists about their work. All of them expressed enthusiasm and passion for their work. And all of them explained that the worst part of their jobs was the funding process. I took some time and looked into this further, and found that this is a pervasive problem. We have many brilliant scientists who have a tough time making a living and remaining joyful about their work because of the tedious, broken, and inefficient funding system in place and the stress it causes.
Platforms like Patreon are great. Merchandise sales are helpful. I use both these outlets to support work that’s important to me, science included. However, the sustainability of these efforts and their ability to support the goal of scientists to be compensated in proportion to the importance of their vital work seems questionable.
So what’s a scientist to do?
That’s the question I’m attempting to answer with the concept for a new product development company that I hope to start when I finish my Masters in biomimicry. I have a BA in Economics and History, an MBA, and a 20-year career in business and product development. Why am I getting this degree in science? Because I believe that all these aspects need to be combined for the sustainability and health of the planet. And as a happy consequence, I want to employ talented scientists in that endeavor so that their research is more widely applied and they are able to generate an income with benefits that helps them live a good quality of life outside of the drudgery of the ever-more-competitive funding cycles.
I understand that this is a very tall order. That it will take a huge amount of work and time to get this right. But I think I can do it, and I’m going to try for all our sakes.
Can’t get this smile off my face because this wk I’m officially a grad student for the 2nd time & for the 1st time am a scientist-in-training. I started my biomimicry program at The Biomimicry Center at Arizona State University. (The program is mostly online so I am still in NYC!) To realize this dream means more to me than I have words to express. Beyond grateful!
“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” ~Tina Fey
Strongly feeling this sentiment from the great Tina Fey as I get ready to begin grad school in biomimicry on Monday. A HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have been so dang supportive of this whole process. It’s really overwhelming and exciting and mind-boggling that I’m standing on this precipice and taking the leap. I’m scared and happy and nervous and thrilled and in awe that this all worked out as it did. All the feels.
I couldn’t have dreamed a better next step. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and I’m going to work my tookus off to do the very best I can. And to think this is all happening right now because Alie Ward interviewed a shark expert on the Ologies podcast about the healing properties of its mucus. Goodness, I will never forget that moment when I was on Broadway across the street from Lincoln Center walking to work, completely enthralled with the idea of finding a class or workshop in biomimicry. I never thought I’d find a whole damn Master of Science in this discipline and that I’d get in. Magic is everywhere; it’s all around us all the time.
If you’re starting something new in this new year, I hope this quote by Tina Fey helps you, too. Be scared and do it anyway, whatever it is. We’re all in this together. We’re all just walking each other home.
This is adulting at its finest: what opportunities we don’t see in the world we must make for ourselves. Grad school round 2 starts in less than a month – this time getting a Masters of Science in Biomimicry. In the past week, I’ve registered for classes, ordered my books for those classes, and applied for scholarships (waiting to hear back). Honestly, this gift to myself is what I’ve wanted for many years and is only now possible with this new program at ASU and my clear-eyed view of the next chapter of my career to combine my work in product development, business, storytelling, invention, history, and sustainability with my passion for science and endless sense of curiosity. Like all the best gifts, it’s one that gets better with time.
If you want to really know me, listen to this interview. The big question for me in this lifetime is, “Does everything matter or does nothing matter?” A few months ago, I gave the most personal interview I’ve ever done. My friend, mentor, and storytelling hero, John Bucher, introduced me to Josh Chambers and Leiv Parton, hosts and producer of the podcast, How Humans Change. My interview is now live. our wide-ranging conversation includes career, science, sustainability, the health of the planet, biomimicry, dinosaurs, product development, therapy, curiosity, change, the economy and capitalism, time, technology, work, culture, implicit bias, life-changing moments, storytelling, writing, poverty, trauma, writing, my book, mental health, strength, resilience, therapy, fear, courage, my apartment building fire, how my plane got struck by lightning, and so much more. Despite these dark topics, there is a lot of light, fun, laughter, and healing in this interview. It’s the most personal interview I’ve ever given, and some of the details I reveal about my personal path and past I have never discussed publicly before now. I hope you enjoy the podcast episode and that it inspires you to live the best life you can imagine.