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Email from San Jose

Georgia Stephenson spent two weeks in in Costa Rica, completing a biomimicry workshop. Here is her email from the field … We arrived back in San Jose yesterday evening, with packs full of damp clothes (90 percent humidity), boots sticky with rainforest earth and limbs dotted with mosquito bites, heads full to the brim of information on the methodology of biomimcry and the sights, sounds, smells and feel of nature …

Georgia Stephenson spent two weeks in in Costa Rica, completing a biomimicry workshop. Here is her email from the field …

Above: Emerald Basilisk. Below: Poison dart frog

Hola everyone,

We arrived back in San Jose yesterday evening, with packs full of damp clothes (90 percent humidity), boots sticky with rainforest earth and liPoison dart frogmbs dotted with mosquito bites, heads full to the brim of information on the methodology of biomimcry and the sights, sounds, smells and feel of nature.

The intimidating sounds of howler monkeys as they call out in the trees directly above. Huge (well, certainly to a New Zealander) golden orb spiders weaving their webs across forest trails. The heady smell of layers of huge tropical leaves decaying under foot. Snorkelling and being accompanied the whole way by a tiny yellow and black fish. And memories of our group, sitting on a balcony with 180 degree views of the Pacific, woohoo-ing as we watch a tropical thunderstorm roll in with massive claps of thunder and jagged forks of lightening.

But also the little things. The perfect hexagonal pattern of a wasp nest. The feel of incredibly rich, dense mangrove mud. The pattern on the wing of moth. The ceramic sturcture of a barnacle. The architecture and temperature regulation of a termite nest.

The most often uttered phrases over the last weeks have been “Wow” and “That is so cool!”. Somehow this place—well, more to the point, the eco-lodge and its surroundings—the group and our teachers (human and otherwise) have instilled in us a sense of childlike wonder in nature. It’s infectious.

Our days, for the most part, started at 5am, by which time most of us were wide awake, even those not suffering from jet-lag. Those howler monkeys are hard to sleep through, even with ear plugs.

We alternated between learning the methodology of biomimcry and practicing it in the field; essentially looking at strategies that eco-systems and individual organisms have developed over millions of years of evolution in order to thrive in their particular conditions. Then translating those strategies into principles that can be applied outside the world of biology. Whether it’s business, engineering, industrial design, textile design, architecture, policy development, etc etc etc.

This is all about sustainability and innovaton.

For example, the beautiful Blue Morpho butterfly here in Costa Rica uses the structure on the surface of its wings to refract light and create a translucent blue. The colour in the wings is not as a result of pigment. Now a Japanese company has identified that strategy and used it for fiber development.

After three days of alternating between theory and the field (rainforest, intertidal zone, snorkelling at a coral reef and kayaking in the mangroves) we chose a challenge and teamed up into groups of four. My particular challenge was how to apply biomimcry to transitioning from a world in which we mine for oil to one in which we mine the soil for carbon. Bio-fuels etc. Our team included an industrial designer from Savannah, the head of research and innovation for Phillips (based in Germany) and three biologists.

Georgia (in the green hat)Which brings me to the rest of the group. Without exception all of them are fabulous and it has been a delight to spend the week with them. Passionate about innovation and nature, the group included Industrial designers, interior designers, one architect, a chemical engineer, biological engineers and a handful of biologists. German, Norwegian, American, Costa Rican and Canadian. There were multiple rounds of hugs as we have started to go our separate ways over the last 24 hours. With commitments to set up a Google chat page, a Flickr page to host the tens of thousands of photos we have collectively, and offers of places to stay. Needless to say, all of them want to come to New Zealand.

So now, after a day of wandering round San Jose and intentionally not thinking about anything, Amandine (the only other participant who is hanging out in Costa Rica for a few days) and I are heading across to Tortuguero tomorrow at 6am to see leatherback turtles. And snorkel some more. And catch up on some sleep. Hope you are all well.

Hasta luego.
Georgia

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