3 March 2014


"If we teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love" ~ Steve Irwin

I'm yet to find anyone who is crazy about wildlife--and biology as a whole--as much as Dr Tamsin. She writes about it, dreams about it, falls in love with it, and learns from it everyday.

She is an evolutionary biologist, writer, sustainability expert, and passionate biomimic in the Biomimicry 3.8 Professional program. She blogs about biomimicry on BioInspired Ink and The Biomimicry Manual, and is currently working on a book about organizational transformation inspired by nature.

This is the first World Wildlife Day, so we talked extensively about Nature, and wildlife in particular. How much have we cared for wildlife? Are we even supposed to care for wildlife? These and many more questions were asked, which were matched by her very intelligent answers. She also talked about what draws her so much to nature and biomimicry. Here's my stroll with Dr Tamsin;

Ebenezar: It's a pleasure having you on the stroll, Dr Tamsin.

Tamsin: Thanks for reaching out Ebenezar, happy to do this with you.

Ebenezar: So today is the first ever World Wildlife day to be marked by the United Nations, and the emphasis is to celebrate wildlife and nature. Now, my question is, with the amount of animal and plant extinctions we've had in recent time, as humans will you say we've really done enough to protect/conserve wildlife? And why? 

Tamsin: What a delight to find that people all over the world are celebrating nature and how we can learn from it! It is truly a tragedy that so many species have been lost to us. I am personally very sad that I will never see a Quetzlcoatlus (the largest animal that ever flew) or a Chalicotherium (bizarre rhino-y thing that looked very angry). Extinction has always happened, and it’s not always our fault, but humans have certainly created one of the biggest extinction events that has ever occurred on Earth. Some humans do everything they can to save wildlife, and others follow the money trail wherever it takes them. 

Ebenezar: What then can we do? What are some practical steps Governments and individuals around the world can take to conserve wildlife? 

Tamsin: Ultimately, the sad answer will probably be that all wild lands have to be managed by people who care, and governments and other organizations will have to do what they can to prevent the policies that cause habitat destruction and poaching in the first place. If raw resources were worth more to us wild, then we would maintain them. I think ecotourism and community involvement (by local organizations and with benefits to local people) will be key in this. If people see money in their pockets, and hope for their children, when wildlife stays wild, they will work to keep it that way.

(Image Credit: Natureworldnews)
Ebenezar: I'm one of your fans on social media and following your tweets and Facebook statuses, one can notice how really vocal you are about your love for nature. One time you described how beautiful vultures are, and the other time how you've fallen in love with some ancient animal--I've forgotten the name. (Haha) what draws you so much to nature? 

Tamsin: I've always been a nature nut! I grew up in San Diego near our world famous zoo, and spent lots of time on the beaches and mountains here learning about the wildlife. I majored in Botany and Art, then did my doctoral work in Evolutionary Primatology. I studied baboon behavior and genetics in Ethiopia, then worked as a genetic engineer for a biotechnology company! Now, I do research for Biomimicry 3.8 as part of their Biomimicry Professional Masters Degree, and I just love it. As Darwin said, “There is grandeur in this view of life, …having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” I just get very excited about all the amazing creatures we share this planet with. 

Ebenezar: Apart from your degree in Biology you're also a biomimicry professional. And Biomimicry seems to be making waves in the science world lately, can you tell us a bit about this field? 

(Image Credit: Amy Kucksdorf)
Tamsin: Biomimicry is the art and science of innovative design inspired by nature. That design could be a system, a process, or a product. For instance, you might ask “how would nature farm?” which could lead you to look at leaf-cutter ants and their fungal farms, and you might discover something about natural fungicides and fertilizers. Or, you might ask “how does nature fight disease?” and discover a whole microbial ecosystem living on our skin that works to maintain a healthy balance. Or you might find that sharks have tiny ridges on their skin that prevent microbes from attaching, and copy it to make bacteria-resistant (but chemical-free) surfaces in hospitals. 

Ebenezar: Bioinspired ink is your blog on biomimicry, and you also write The Biomimicry Manual for inhabitat. What do you think is the role of biomimicry in shaping the future of the world? 

Tamsin: I think biomimicry has the power to unlock our human superpowers. Humans are amazing, we can do anything we set our minds to. We love to innovate and imitate, and there are over 30 million species out there to learn from. Each one is perfectly suited to the challenges of its particular way of life, and they do it without choking on their own garbage. I feel that biomimicry has the potential to see ourselves in a new way. We are nature too, with our cell phones and computers and cars. We evolved it. We’re special, but not that much. We can accept ourselves as part of nature, stop hating ourselves, stop despairing. We can’t go back to nature, but we can go forward together to something more than the sum of all our parts. We can come together to dream a collective dream of the future, and make it so. Conscious evolution! 

Ebenezar: I was listening to a documentary sometime ago on BBC World Service about taxonomists expressing their fears on how humanity might not be able to discover all the creatures in nature before the end of our generation because of the slow taxonomy process. What can you say about this? Do you think there are things out there we are yet to discover? 

Tamsin: Oh yes, we scarcely have any idea about the richness of life on this planet. We barely know the deep oceans, and in the rain forests of the Congo or Ecuador, every tree harbors a species humans have never seen. Naming and cataloguing them is far too big a job. There are drawers full of museum specimens we haven't even had time to look at. But I personally find zoo and museums specimens to be pretty sterile: I want to know how they lived, what they are doing. That’s the really interesting stuff. I hope a new generation of young people will be inspired to study functional biology in the wild. It’s really a dying art, and I hope the old, old museum guys will be able to keep their knowledge alive. 

Ebenezar: you're currently working on a book on how we can learn from nature to develop our organizational structures, can you tell us how far you've gone with it? And when we should expect the release

Tamsin: That’s right. I’m actually working on a couple of books right now, and both should be done this year. The first is SuperApe! I think of humans as basically fancy chimps that evolved into a super organism society that functions a little bit like a slime mould: a SuperApe. Yes, we are all individuals, but we need each other to survive. We are obligate collaborators. Can we do it better? I believe so. We can dream a collective dream and reverse-engineer it like only humans can. In fact, I feel that once all of us are connected, we can’t even help it. The other book is BioInspired Inc: 12 Steps to Survive and Thrive in The Face of Change. I ask, are there other species that have something special to teach us about how to make this shift? What can other social species like honeybees, ants, crows,fungus, slime mold, naked mole rats, and baboons tell us about accelerating change? Are there deep patterns that emerge, that we can tap into and imitate to become more resilient? Both of these try to bridge nature and culture, science and art, to create some powerful and uniquely human ways to make the change we want to see while enjoying our lives! I want to point us all toward ways to innovate and imitate, coordinate, trust, and be transparent, to let our true human nature emerge. 

Ebenezar: So apart from biomimicry, nature, wildlife, are there other interests you have? Maybe like other secret hobbies or something? (Hehe) 

Tamsin: I love hot yoga, painting and drawing, travel, and listening to music. Oh, and good wine. Yes. Red.

Ebenezar: (haha) Thank you so much for your time Dr Tamsin.

Tamsin: The pleasure was mine

You can follow @BioInspired_ink to keep up with her and know what she's doing, or follow her biomimicry lessons at BioInspired Ink and The Biomimicry Manual.

The Royal Family in Britain is doing a great job in raising awareness and funding for wildlife conservation. One just wishes many more people can get involved because the rate at which Elephants and Rhinos are killed by poachers these days is really sad.

Kudos to all those wildlife guards--and zoo keepers--who do vigils in the jungle to keep poachers away. You guys are doing a great job for us and posterity, because, if we all sit and do nothing, many more extinctions be recorded before the end of this century.

Imagine a world without cats, bears, lions , frogs, tigers, snakes, chickens. Imagine a world where kids can't go to the zoo because there's nothing for them to see. As scary as that imagination is, if we don't 'up our game' as regards wildlife conservation, it might just be around the corner.

Till my next stroll;  when I'll be talking with Ukamaka Olisakwe--a Nigerian mother, author, and banker--for International Women's day; be good. Jesus Loves you

                                                                                                                     Ebenezar Wikina

"You let us rule everything your hands have made. And you put all of it under our power--the sheep and cattle, and every wild animal, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and all ocean creatures. Our Lord and ruler, your name is wonderful everywhere on earth" (Psalms 8v6-9, Contemporary English version)

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