How did a termite study turn into an entire shopping complex?

Eastgate Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe

On any given day, temperatures in Zimbabwe range from 35 to 104 degrees. However, termites aren’t affected by these wild swings. In fact, the insects thrive on a steady diet of fungus that requires a stable temperature (around 87 degrees) and humidity for optimum growth in the mounds.

The termite mound structure and function inspired a design for Zimbabwe’s largest office complex. During the day, warm air is stored in concrete. As evenings turn cold, this stored air warms the building, and low-energy fans pull in and circulate cool, fresh air. When temperatures outside begin to rise again, that cool nighttime air is still moving through the building.

Building owners saved over $3.5 million and use less than 10% of the energy it typically takes to power a complex of its size.

Photo by Gary Bembridge


In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.

Baba Dioum

Biomimicry in education

Biomimicry provides children with a deep connection to nature's genius, igniting passion, wonder and curiosity. Biomimicry helps advance key skills and behaviors in students, like environmental and community responsibility, and support a 21st century STEM education focused on science and engineering practices.

The ability to leverage nature’s genius is an emerging skill set – one that has the potential to enhance student success at all levels of education and ultimately lead students down career paths based on biomimicry. 


Our Biomimicry Educator Academies give PK-12 teachers and informal education teams the knowledge and tools needed to use biomimicry with students and visitors. 

Our Community Programs are for general audiences and spark interest in the emerging field of biomimicry. Get your group inspired and looking at the world through a whole new lens -- one that’s inspired by nature!

Learn more about our available programs here


In 2017, we started an initiative called Creating a Biomimicry Education Ecosystem in Summit County, supported by the Akron Community Foundation. By gathering four partners -- Akron Zoo, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Summit Metro Parks -- we discovered how each could infuse biomimicry into their services and how all of our agencies can work together. We are providing training to the partners so their teams have the tools to craft new biomimicry programs and exhibits.

The Akron Community Foundation is supporting our continued work with these partners in 2018-2019 so each agency can engage their visitors with biomimicry messaging and so the partners can work together -- creating new opportunities for residents and leveraging each other's unique resources and experience. We will also invite other local institutions to join the collaboration. 

Girl with Butterfly

Higher Education

University of Akron


The Biomimicry Fellowship Program was launched in 2012 by The University of Akron's Biomimicry Research & Innovation Center in collaboration with Great Lakes Biomimicry. The mission of the program, now in its sixth year, is to provide interdisciplinary training in biology, design, engineering, and business to next gen innovation leaders. The vision is for biomimicry to become a driver for economic development in the Northeast Ohio region and beyond. To date, The University of Akron has enrolled 18 Biomimicry Fellows. The first three Biomimicry Fellows graduated in 2017.

Biomimicry Fellows are designated students in The University of Akron’s Integrated Bioscience PhD Program who are supported through an industrial assistantship with an organizational sponsor. Over the course of a five-year doctoral program, Biomimicry Fellows dedicate 20 hours per week to advancing biomimicry initiatives within their sponsoring organization, while undertaking biomimicry-focused dissertation research.

Three students graduated from the program in 2017: 

  • Bor-Kai (Bill) Hsiung, who was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams, led game-changing research inspired by blue tarantulas that could revolutionize how colors are manufactured. He successfully designed and manufactured a proof-of-concept prototype that has commercialization potential resulting from biological research.
  • Emily Kennedy, sponsored by GOJO Industries, influenced biologically-based improvements for energy-efficient soap dispensers, protective topical treatments, versatile dispenser brackets and infection control products/processes. She was an inventor on four GOJO patent applications. 
  • Daphne Fecheyr-Lippens, sponsored by Parker Hannifin, studied UV-reflective properties of calcium carbonate-based biomaterials, like avian eggshells, to provide insights for development of industrial materials that don’t degrade in sunlight, and building envelopes that reflect incident light, keeping occupants cool and reducing air conditioning expenses.
  • Bill and Emily also formed Hedgemon, a startup business in Cleveland that is developing a hedgehog-inspired product for use in helmets as concussion prevention.
Learn more about the program and current fellows on BRIC website here or contact us at [email protected].


At our Great Lakes Biomimicry Technology Center in the Desich SMART Center at Lorain County Community College, we are working with university tech transfer and open innovation. Lorain County Community College has been a strong partner of our work.


Expanding higher education

As one of our educational partners, Baldwin Wallace University gets students excited about using biomimicry as a creativity, innovation and problem-solving tool. Freshmen can enroll in a First Year Experience course that introduces them to biomimicry or enter higher-level Biomimicry courses through undergraduate and MBA programs. Learning is amplified through out-of-class experiences and course projects.

Living and learning from nature

Students can live with like-minded peers in a biomimicry-themed residence on campus. Not only is the residence in harmony with nature, but it’s creating a cohort of students willing to think differently – using Life’s Principles. Lessons learned are captured and used to inspire solutions to social and environmental problems facing us today.

Biomimicry Fellows

Rebecca Eagle-Malone

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Sebastian Englehardt

First sponsor: Ross Environmental Services

Daphne Fecheyr-Lippens

First sponsor: Parker Hannifin 

Sarah Han

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

Stephen Howe

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems

Banafsheh Khakipoor

Avon Lake Regional Water & TIES

Daniel Maksuta


Sarah McInerney
The J.M. Smucker Company

Ariana Rupp

Nottingham Spirk

Kelly Siman

ODNR & Cleveland Water Alliance 

Lamalani Siverts

Avon Lake Regional Water & TIES

Elena Stachew 
ODNR, Cleveland Water Alliance & Biohabitats

Colleen Unsworth 
NASA Glenn Research Center 

Michael Wilson


Connecting Educators

We connect and cross-pollinate regional educators of all kinds through the Consortium. Creative biomimicry lessons, resources and experiences are shared, and members tap into a supportive, knowledgeable community in both face-to-face and virtual spaces.

Membership in the Consortium is free, including attendance at quarterly sessions. Join us on September 11 for the fall meeting! To get your name on the list and receive updates, fill out this form


Follow the blog co-authored by the Biomimicry PhD fellows for insights, opinions and our take on nature-inspired ideas for Northeast Ohio.

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