Biomimicry is a type of biological science which examines systems and process in nature to devise solutions to common problems in areas of human life. The philosophy and applied science of biomimicry has been applied in environmental engineering, product design, policy and regional planning. Researchers in this area look at life from the smallest individual microbes up to whole ecologies to understand how and why they work, how they evolved and how we might synthesize them to apply their principles to our world.
A postgraduate certificate or degree in biomimicry will help students with an undergraduate degree in related fields (engineering, agriculture, environmental policy, ecology and a range of others) develop their skills into a growing study area. You will learn to see the landscape and the life within it as a monument, a relic, an integrated system and as the source of solutions to problems in your undergraduate study area. As the discipline grows and expands, new practices, theories and areas of application will develop.
Courses in Biomimicry
Biomimicry is presently available only as a form of postgraduate study in degree form and short certificate courses. Each course permits the student to build on their relevant background whether that is from biology, ecology, engineering or design, to incorporate their background with this emerging discipline. Biomimicry degrees will include modules that cover the following subjects:
- Understanding the field of biomimicry, its principles and applications, and the theory of life
- Biomimicry in engineering
- Biomimicry in product design
- Biomimicry in business application
- Biomimicry thinking and taught functionality
- Biomimicry and ethics
Biomimicry is an applied science. Much of the project work will focus on practical application although there will be much theory to cover. Most courses will have research and practical projects towards completion of the degree. Some will expect a thesis at the end and others will not. It is best to check the individual school for details. Students with a complete certificate or master's degree in biomimicry will be able to deliver new standards and concepts in their field in terms of education and practice.
Biomimicry for Environmental Sciences
There are already a number of recognized applications for this area of study in environmental science. In this area, the interaction goes back to 1982 when the term first appeared, replacing bionics when popular culture gave it another meaning. The term became popular in 1997 when Janine Benyus defined it as the study of nature and attempts to imitate it elsewhere.
The first biomimicry postgraduate study courses began around 2005. Since then, growth has been slow and steady but the applications for the environmental sciences are obvious and potentially enormous in the future. Students who wish to study biomimicry with an environmental focus should ensure that their module options include concepts such as ecology, environmental engineering and sustainability.
New Developments in Biomimicry
It is to biomimicry that the environmental engineers and researchers of the future may turn their attention in mitigating the ongoing effects of climate change. There have already been a number of important successes for biomimicry in environmental science. The most important are in building engineering.
One successful project was the study of termite mounds to understand how they regulate the temperature within. Researchers considered whether this occurred due to engineering methods. Understanding the philosophy and design of these mounds led to the building of The Eastgate Center in Harare, Zimbabwe - a building that does not have or need air conditioning. It is fully capable of self-regulating its temperature. There is great potential for future low carbon building development. Some of these principles may eventually apply to urban planning and environmental design. The Eastgate Center is just one example of how biomimicry has contributed to reducing carbon footprint.
There is another potential application for hydrology in the study of water reclamation in nature. The Namibian Beetle is highly efficient at extracting moisture from the air by raising its back into the morning fog. By mimicking its body shape and the action, hydrologists have been able to improve water reclamation in desert areas.
List of Biomimicry Schools & Degree Programs
Arizona State University - Online
The Biomimicry Center
PO Box 873505
Tempe, AZ 85287-3505
One of the top universities for research in the country, ASU offers a fully online MS program in biomimicry for students coming from relevant disciplines. The School of Life Sciences administers the program which means students will get a good grounding in biological sciences and biomimicry for industry, medical research and application, agriculture, government policy and engineering. Module examples include communication, business, teaching and biomimicry facilitation.
2501 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
MCAD is one of the country's leaders in offering practical solutions to sustainable problems. To that end, they offer a Master of Arts degree in sustainable design that heavily draws on the principles, applications and science of biomimicry. Students will be expected to complete a thesis on any subject of their choosing related to the disciplines that they study as part of the course.
The dedicated biomimicry department of this prestigious university presently offers a PhD fellowship to a relevant student with experience and interest in biomimicry. They have offered 1-2 available positions most years and expect to expand as the biomimicry research department expands. At present, they only offer PhD fellowships, no undergraduate or postgraduate courses.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry
237A Hildebrand Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
Titled “Greener Solutions” this postgraduate course is designed to introduce students and potential future researchers to biomimicry methodology through hands-on examples. Unlike most other courses of study, these are not hypothetical case studies but genuine problems presented by some of the country's and the world's largest and most successful businesses.
Biomimicry - Related Degrees
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