About Author: Jon Prange

Posts by Jon Prange


You’re Invited: Biomimicry Receptions

It has been more than a year and a half now that San Diego Zoo Global staff members have been contributing monthly articles in the Conservation Beat e-newsletter (sign up here!) and in the Biomimicry Blog on their thoughts regarding biomimicry. Biomimicry is learning from nature, and we often think of it as bio-inspiration because of the tendency to be inspired by nature.

Various employees have written about what inspires them, and that inspiration is reflected in different ways. Articles have included nature’s influence on business, architecture, robotics, the economy, and health care. In different articles the inspiration has included pandas, bamboo, swarm intelligence, butterflies, coyotes, Mang Mountain pit vipers, and kingfishers.

Besides the articles in Conservation Beat, another treat for folks close to us is to attend one of our Biomimicry Receptions at the Zoo or at our Beckman Center for Conservation Research. Periodically we have these wonderful evening events with a speaker talking about his or her connection to biomimicry and how it is positively affecting their profession, industry, or efforts.

These social events tend to be about two hours in length and are special evenings for all who attend. The next two events have the potential to fascinate their audience with brand-new examples of the application of biomimicry. How is this for a summary of our next talk on Wednesday, September 28, at the Zoo?
“Shrimp-inspired body armor. Nano-scale energy generation. David Kisailus, Ph.D., and his students look to nature in designing the next generation of engineering products and materials.” Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? Our speaker, Dr. Kisailus, is from University of California, Riverside.

Then on Wednesday, October 27, at the Beckman Center, Richard Lieber, Ph.D., will give a talk involving examples of how bio-inspiration is positively impacting his work in musculoskeletal research at the University of California, San Diego.

Here is a link to the Biomimicry Reception page on our website:

Hope to see you there!

Jon Prange is the venture business manager for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Biomimicry: City of San Diego Collaboration.


A Prescription for New Ideas

In past blog posts we have shared our views on why the San Diego Zoo finds biomimicry so exciting (see previous post, Butterfly Sparks Industry Revolution). Recall that our attempts to save species are increasingly compromised by their loss of habitat in the wild. Habitat is disappearing due to the depletion of resources. Biomimicry is learning from nature. If we could look to nature for inspiration for future innovations, it is quite possible that the plants and animals might “speak to us” about new technologies, designs, and products. All could be more sustainable, efficient, effective, and, from their perspective, take strain off of the environment.

How could a trip to the San Diego Zoo be part of a prescription for new ideas and game-changing innovations?

Coming to the Zoo is a chance to slow down. Life in the 21st century is moving at a fast pace, yet you may have noticed that great ideas tend to happen when the mind quiets down and is not multitasking. In the shelter of a zoo, you can momentarily forget about the monthly reports and predictable routine (as hectic as it might be) waiting back at the office. Great ideas also happen as one steps away from personal silos. I have noticed that I have great ideas when I travel, and often it is not even at the destination. They seem to pop up at the airport, simply because I am out of my routine (please ignore the irony that I work at the San Diego Zoo).

A trip to the Zoo is different for every individual, and part of that is because you bring “you” to your encounter with nature…your training, beliefs, and curiosity. Maybe you are crazy about pandas, or snakes give you the shivers, or find the grace of giraffes fascinating to watch. Any vista of nature—sights, sounds, and smells—is not random, yet no two people will see the same thing. What one experiences are patterns: patterns that are unconscious analogies for the challenges you face each day. These analogies take many forms and are visions feeding into the imagination. At the zoo you are minutes away from the wilds of Madagascar, New Guinea, and South America. It is definitely not the cubicle or conference room at the office.

The Zoo is a different, far larger world of stimulation, where the less restrictive the analogies, the bigger the leap one can make. These analogies twist and turn and begin to map themselves point by point into a mental picture that is not yet a solution but suddenly captures your attention. That close-up image of the butterfly’s wing or the gecko’s toes suddenly, amazingly, speaks in a language that has meaning for your problem at work. Welcome to the world of biomimicry, as inspiration “pops” into existence.

What is the San Diego Zoo’s role in biomimicry? A visit to the Zoo seeds the imagination with new thoughts, images, and analogies that may inspire great ideas to change the future. It starts with you. You belong in the Zoo.

Jon Prange is the venture business manager for the San Diego Zoo.

Click here to sign up for Conservation Beat, a monthly e-newsletter featuring the San Diego Zoo’s conservation efforts, including a special section on biomimicry.