It's Time to Ask Nature (site tagline)

How does nature
produce color?

The living world holds answers for us to create a more resilient, regenerative, and beautiful world. It is time to quiet our cleverness, to observe and listen deeply, and reconnect to nature’s wisdom by asking, “How does nature solve this?”

Collections

Nature is more than the sum of its parts. Explore the connections between individual biological strategies, innovations, or educational resources as leading thinkers, scientists, artists, and others reflect on unifying themes in biomimicry.

2021 Ray of Hope Prize Finalists

It is very important to the future of humankind that any of you in design form a very clear understanding of ethical design—design for sustainability—and commit to it for a lifetime. Ray C. Anderson Industrial Sustainability Pioneer

Discover the 10 nature‑inspired startups selected to participate in the 2021 Ray of Hope Prize®, a transformational program designed to help startups scale their sustainable solutions.

For Educators

The world of the future will be designed by the students of today. Ask Nature has tools to help educators bring biomimicry into the classroom for a single day or for a whole school year.

A Gentler Robot

Biomimicry Institute

Explore resources for teaching engineering concepts and practices using the story of a flexible robotic arm inspired by the muscles in elephants’ trunks.

Students examine a plant specimen in lab classroom

Introducing Biomimicry in High School

Biomimicry Institute

This collection of activities provides a high school level introduction to the concept of biomimicry, along with instruction to support student use of the resources on the AskNature website to apply biomimicry to any design challenge.

Biomimicry: Nature as Model, Measure, and Mentor

Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

In this three‑part lesson students explore what nature can teach us about the principles of sustainable design and reflect on applications to a problem in their home, school, or community.

Keeping It Clean

Biomimicry Institute

Explore resources for teaching about superhydrophobicity and nanotechnology using the story of how super water‑repellent lotus leaves inspired self‑cleaning surface coatings.

Binoculars and hiking maps on rocky cliffs with landscape

Ask Nature Scavenger Hunt

Biomimicry Institute

Get familiar with how to use the Ask Nature website by exploring what it has to offer.

Biological Strategies

We've curated more than 1700 strategies developed by living things that achieve thousands of different functions. Whatever challenge you're looking to address, nature can serve as your model, measure, and mentor.

Innovations

Whether you're building tools for underwater communication or finding new ways to map the cosmos, nature is rife with practical inspiration for the project at hand. Ask Nature's innovation database makes it easy to explore a variety of products and design solutions inspired by the natural world.

Function:

Capture, Absorb, or Filter Liquids

The most common liquid used by living systems is water, which they require to survive. But there are many other liquids that provide nourishment, play a role in defense mechanisms, or serve other purposes. Water varies in its availability; it is sometimes plentiful and sometimes very scarce or only available as fog or mist. To minimize the energy required to capture, absorb, or filter liquids, living systems have strategies that take advantage of the unique properties of the given liquid. For example, water moves from a gaseous to liquid state when it encounters a surface colder than the air. Plants in forests that experience fog and clouds more than rain have strategies that condense liquid water from moist air. 

Function:

Protect From Microbes

In living systems, microbes play important roles, such as breaking down organic matter and maintaining personal and system health. But they also pose threats. Bacteria can be pathogens that cause diseases. Some bacteria create colonies called biofilms that can coat surfaces, reducing their effectiveness–for example, inhibiting a leaf’s ability to photosynthesize. Living systems must have strategies for protecting from microbes that cause disease or become so numerous that they create an imbalance in the system. At the same time, living systems must continue living in harmony with other microbes. Some living systems kill microbes. Others repel without killing to reduce the chances that microbes will adapt to the lethal strategy and become resistant to it. For example, some pea seedlings exude a chemical that inhibits biofilm buildup.

Function:

Manage Structural Forces

Everyday, living systems are subjected to structural forces. These forces include impact, tension, compression, chemical and mechanical wear, and more. They come from the living and nonliving environment–sand blowing across a desert, the ground that a jumping organism lands on, a gull’s beak trying to get into a crab, and so on. Rarely is a living system subjected to just one force at a time, so they have developed multiple strategies to fend off or minimize these potentially damaging or lethal forces. These include strategies such as developing hard outer surfaces as snails do; using shape and material to dissipate a force’s energy as toucans do; and flexibility to move with, rather than stay rigid against, forces like turbulence. When a living system is stressed beyond its ability to support a structural force, it uses related strategies that help prevent death (see Protect from Physical Harm > Prevent structural failure).

Our Most Popular Pages for June 2021

With over 1700 biological strategies cultivated on Ask Nature, there are dozens of somethings for anyone. But time has shown that at any given time, a few things seem to be the right thing for everyone. Explore some of our most popular pages now.

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