SUNY-ESF to Establish Biomimicry Laboratory in Adirondacks

ESF [College of Environmental Science and Forestry] will establish a biomimicry laboratory in the heart of the Adirondacks so faculty, visiting scientists and students can devise nature-inspired solutions for sustainability challenges.

The Biomimicry Laboratory at the college's Newcomb Campus will be an Adirondack home for ESF's Roosevelt Wild Life Station and the first biomimicry lab in a wilderness.


"ESF's natural history tradition, combined with its rich experimental forests in the Adirondacks and strength in sustainability problem solving, make the college uniquely capable of a leadership role in this emerging field," he said. "Engaging students in the process of creative problem solving enriches class material by showing its connection to the 'real world.'"

Wheeler said the ESF laboratory will also provide an example of transdisciplinary research in action: bringing together the strength of multiple specializations to tackle a complex problem.

Brian Houseal, director of the ESF Adirondack Ecological Center at the Newcomb Campus, said, "The proposed Roosevelt Biomimicry Laboratory for our ESF Newcomb Campus will be a great research and educational asset for the Adirondack North Country, the entire SUNY network, other colleges and universities and also K-12 school children interested in field-based natural sciences. With the new facility situated in the center of the Adirondack Park, we will be able to explore nature-inspired design solutions to global environmental changes and assist our rural communities to adapt innovative pathways to sustainability. We are excited and thankful for the SUNY 2020 funds to take this project from concept into practice."


The laboratory will engage with local high schools to demonstrate the excitement of science, technology, engineering and math fields that provide learning and career opportunities literally in the students' backyards. Digital microscopy integrated with videoconferencing will enable the college to bring the laboratory into classrooms at the Syracuse campus and to high schools around the state.

The college expects to begin work on the project in January with designs for the laboratory in Newcomb. Final installation and testing of equipment on both the Newcomb and Syracuse campuses is expected to occur in the spring of 2017.

Wheeler predicts the facility will allow ESF and New York state to play a leading role as biomimicry emerges as an economic driver. "Through biomimicry, the innovations of nature allow us to develop technologies, designs, materials, processes and products that improve our lives, reduce human impacts on the environment, and create jobs," he said. For example, Wheeler said, we can reduce the waste stream with naturally degradable materials and design landscapes and cities based on ecological principles. Nature is becoming recognized as a "treasure trove" of innovation, and bio-inspired industries are expected to transform large segments of various business sectors over the next two decades. Biomimicry has also been identified as one of five "clean-energy" trends.

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