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For an example of sophisticated behavior in seemingly simple creatures — or, conversely, to put human engineering in a new perspective — witness the lowly slime mold. Set on an agar plate shaped like the Iberian peninsula, with piles of oat flakes representing cities, the growth patterns of these social amoebae successfully reconstructed the road systems of Spain and Portugal. The experiment, currently in Biosystems , is the latest in a series of slime-mold studies by University of West England computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky, who is fascinated by how Physarum polycephalum ‘s foraging abilities can be represented in high-powered computational terms. “Physarum is renowned for building optimal transport networks, which minimize distance of cytoplasmic transfer but also span as much sources of nutrients as possible,” said Adamatzky. “Ideally, human-built roads should fulfill the same criteria.”
The Biomimicry 3.8 Institute is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the study and imitation of nature’s remarkably efficient designs, bringing together scientists, engineers, architects and innovators who can use those models to create sustainable technologies. The Institute offers short-term workshops and two-year certificate courses in biomimicry for professionals, and helps to develop and share resources including biomimicry-related K-12 and university curricula used in a range of educational venues, from K-12 classrooms to universities, as well as informal settings such as zoos, aquariums and museums. The Institute also serves as a resource for biological researchers around the world and a clearinghouse for their insights, data, and reports. The Institute was founded in 2006 by science writer and consultant Janine Benyus in response to overwhelming interest in the subject following the publication of her book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature .
As cities redevelop to provide greener, more efficient living and working environments for their residents, the greatest innovation happens in ecodistricts, small pockets of a city where planners can experiment with more sustainable practices. Portland-based Brightworks , a sustainable development company, has been helping neighborhoods create long-term plans so that they can receive funding under the City of Portland's EcoDistricts Initiative , a new program that hopes to accelerate sustainable neighborhood development throughout the city.