University named affiliate of Biomimicry Institute, leader in emerging field of biomimicry
Lipscomb University has been named the second university in the nation to affiliate with the Biomimicry Institute, a Montana-based not-for-profit established by science writer and consultant Janine Benyus, who touched off worldwide interest in biomimicry with the 1997 publication of her book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.
The Biomimicry Institute, established in 2005, promotes the study and imitation of nature’s remarkably efficient designs and brings together scientists, engineers and innovators to use nature’s models to create sustainable technologies. Examples of how biomimicry has inspired engineers to enhance human systems include solar cells inspired by leaves, paint that self-cleans like a lotus leaf and buildings designed to ventilate like termite mounds.
Lipscomb professors learned alongside colleagues from across the U.S., Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and other nations at the Biomimicry Institute workshop earlier this year.
The acacia tree is an example of mutualism. The tree houses and feeds the ants; while the ants protect the tree. Mutualism has worked in Europe as sewage treatment plants provide fuel to neighboring industries and benefit from the extra income.
This rain forest plant has a double drip tip to prevent growth of mold and fungus, a concept that could easily translate to homes and businesses.
“Biomimicry is a central part of our core curriculum in sustainability,” said Dodd Galbreath, executive director of Lipscomb’s Institute for Sustainable Practice, which oversees the university’s MBA in sustainability and masters in sustainability.
As one of the four Biomimicry Institute affiliates in the world, and the first faith-based university affiliate, Lipscomb University plans to enhance its current biomimicry education efforts by 1.) integrating the concept into the undergraduate science and engineering curriculums and 2.) by providing opportunities for every sustainability graduate student to use biomimicry techniques in classes to design sustainable solutions to human challenges.
“At Lipscomb we are excited to be a part of this growing movement, which is revolutionizing how companies and consumers relate to nature,” Galbreath said. “No longer are man-made systems and nature at odds. Biomimicry shows how technological and economic progress can be enhanced greatly by mimicking nature and its processes. For instance, engineers in Georgia recently copied honey bee movement on a beehive to write a mathematical algorithm to pick up data from a computer hard drive faster.”
In addition to programs for enrolled students, the Institute for Sustainable Practice hopes to offer workshops to designers on the concept of biomimicry and design techniques and plans to make biomimicry a central theme of the 2011 Green Business Summit, held April 21-22, Galbreath said.
As part of the process to become an affiliate, Lipscomb University sent two professors – Margo Farnsworth, adjunct professor of sustainability and the Tennessee Environmental Educator of the Year in 2009, and Dr. Sandra Dudley, adjunct professor in engineering and sustainability and director of the Water Authority of Dickson County – to an international Biomimicry Institute workshop to become certified as biomimicry fellows.
The Lipscomb professors are one of 10 such fellows in the world. The Institute works through an online network and workshops to bring together the top practitioners to share ideas and innovations.
“We are thrilled to be the first university in the Southeast to become a biomimicry affiliate and have the opportunity to collaborate with counterparts all over the world,” said Dudley.
“Lipscomb students have already shown a keen interest in biomimicry and just introductory projects have revealed the significant opportunities possible through biomimicry education. We expect them to make great contributions to society using the resources available to us as a biomimicry affiliate institution. We look forward to being with other biomimicry affiliates on the cutting edge as this exciting discipline develops.”