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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 provides children and adults alike 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 the practice supports 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 needs to be nurtured through inspiration, education and experiences. 


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! Reach out to us at [email protected] 


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 supported 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. 

Girl with Butterfly

THE 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 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. 

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.

All sponsor companies also join the world’s only biomimicry Corporate Innovation Council.

Current and past sponsors of the Biomimicry Fellowship Program include:

  • Avon Lake Regional Water
  • Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, LLC
  • Biohabitats
  • Cleveland Zoological Society
  • Cleveland Water Alliance
  • Eaton 
  • GOJO Industries, Inc.
  • The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
  • The J.M. Smucker Company
  • Kimberly-Clark Corp.
  • The Lubrizol Corp.
  • NASA Glenn Research Center
  • Nottingham Spirk
  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources
  • Parker Hannifin Corp.
  • PolyOne 
  • Ross Environmental Services, Inc.
  • STERIS Endoscopy 
  • The Sherwin-Williams Co.
  • Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM
  • Tremco Commercial Sealants & Waterproofing 

Students were graduated from the program include: 

  • Bor-Kai (Bill) Hsiung, who came from Taiwaan and 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, from Boston, was sponsored by GOJO Industries, where she influenced biologically-based improvements for energy-efficient soap dispensers, protective topical treatments, versatile dispenser brackets and infection control products/processes. Emily was an inventor on four GOJO patent applications and one project led to a new state-of-the-art touchless soap dispenser modeled off the human heart. 
  • Daphne Fecheyr-Lippens, from Belgium, 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.
  • Sebastian Engelhardt came from Germany and was sponsored by Ross Environmental Services, where he investigated bio-inspired strategies for industrial waste water desalination and purification, approaches for carbon dioxide capture from a flue gas stream and the potential of waste heat recovery for energy reuse in secondary processes. Sebastian studied water filtration and purification using aquaporin-based membranes in forward osmosis, and researched how to recover water from urine using a light-weight and portable forward osmosis system that could be used on space stations or during long duration explorations of remote environments such as pristine caves. (This latter research was funded by the Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the US National Park Service.)
  • Michael Wilson, sponsored by Lubrizol, worked alongside the company's teams to solve industrial challenges using biological inspiration. For his PhD research, Michael studied the clinging ability of geckos to better understand underwater adhesion and his research has commercial implications for the design of a synthetic, gecko-inspired adhesive.
  • Bill and Emily also formed Hedgemon, a startup in Cleveland that is developing a hedgehog-inspired impact protection technology for use in helmets as concussion prevention.
See the current Biomimicry Fellowship Program information packet

Contact us ([email protected]) to learn more and see if your company would be a good candidate to sponsor a Biomimicry Fellow and join the Corporate Innovation Council. Each year, only a limited number of companies are accepted into the program and Council. We have a few openings available for either fall 2020 or 2021. 



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

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

Adrian Tween 

Colleen Unsworth 
NASA Glenn Research Center 

Michael Wilson