Lessons from Nature: Biomimicry at the San Diego Zoo

Lindsay James

I was fortunate enough to attend the Biomimicry Conference at the San Diego Zoo recently, where I heard from many inspiring speakers and had plenty of opportunities to observe plants and animals from the Zoo's spectacular collection.

One of my favorite speakers was Tom McKeag who illuminated the amazing features of bird's eggs.  He looked specifically at the largest bird egg on the planet, the ostrich egg.  Tom pointed out that the ostrich also has the smallest egg, relative to the size of the full-grown adult.  Eggs successfully protect and nurture the growing embryo, stay closed until the precise moment at which they need to open, and block dust or dirt from entering while allowing oxygen and other materials to selectively enter. 

This is a short excerpt of the functions we discussed; and the implications for rethinking product packaging are enticing.

I interviewed Paula Brock, Chief Financial Officer of the Zoo, to learn more about the Zoo's role in accelerating the adoption of biomimicry, especially in the San Diego area.  In her comments, Paula discusses the role that biomimicry can play in conservation.  I am especially drawn to the role biomimicry can play in moving society beyond exploiting nature to learning from nature.   This shift has the potential to create a fortuitous cycle: as we learn more from nature, we will be more inclined to protect nature.  As businesses begin to realize game-changing innovation drawn from biomimicry, they will see that protecting wildlife and habitats is akin to investing in better science education for our children: the long term success of the company could depend on it.

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