• Learning from our oceans...

Our planet is called the Blue Planet because most of the planet is made up of oceans. Our oceans and marine life need protecting and this message is being received well around the globe but what can we learn from our oceans?

I have an interest in Biomimicry. Biomimicry is learning from nature and then copying natural forms, processes and ecosystems to help create and design sustainable and healthier technologies. Nature has being doing things fine since the being of time and has maintained a balance in the natural world. We humans and our actions are creating an imbalance by the things we do such as making pollution. Our environment or the natural world is having problems trying to keep the balance for example climate change.

Here are some a few examples of how we can learn from our oceans and use Biomimicry:

Dolphins and Tsunamis
To warn people of an approaching Tsunamis detection devices are place out in the ocean and then the signal is transmitted to a satellite to have the alarm sounded at the early warning centre. The problem is that we haven't had technology that is able to transmit through water well enough to give an accurate reading to warn of a Tsunami. The signal reverberates and bounces off things that are in the ocean causing interference and giving an unreliable message. The different signals and frequencies Dolphins use to communicate with each other are able to travel through water more accurately. One company is looking at how Dolphins do this and is copying the dolphins to design a new Tsunami warning system.

By learning and the copying what dolphins do has the potential to save many lives and that is a great thing!

Humpback whales and efficient wind power
Humpback whales have tubercules along their flippers that allow them to turn efficiently for such a large animal and this helps them when they are feeding on krill. Tubercules are irregular bumps that run along the edge of a whale's flipper. These bumps allow whales to 'grip' the water but still allow the whale to glide through the water in a smooth continual movement. One company is using this knowledge to improve the design of wind power and the technology then maybe applied to other things like aeroplanes and fans.

Shark skin and performance of watercraft
When looking at a shark its skin looks smooth but in fact it isn't. The fact shark skin is not smooth allows sharks to swim through water more smoothly and faster especially in more turbulent waters. Scientists studying shark skin have discovered that smooth surfaces are not the most efficient design in water. Shark skin has lots of little scales called dermal denticles (little skin teeth). These scales have the same composition of teeth but rather than being smooth they have grooves in them. These grooves are what make the shark swim so efficiently through water. This knowledge can now be used in the design of all sorts of products such as boats or anything else that need to move through water. Maybe surfboard designers need to look at shark skin to see if surfboards can be improved!

This knowledge can also be used in aeronautical design. The design of space vehicles has always been to try and make the outer shell of the craft as smooth as possible but because of what we have learned from sharks we may have been doing things the wrong way.

Clams and joining systems
Not only scientists are looking to nature for help but people from all walks of life are going down this road as well. For example, a Queensland inventor looked to nature to find a new way of designing joining systems that does away with nails, glues, screws, bolts etc. He designed a system called the Joinlox system. Joinlox mimics how clams and other seashells use their bysuss threads which are like anchors to fasten onto rocks. These threads are thin but flexible. Joinlox can be used in lots of different situations from building planes, on food crates, on cars, packaging and logistics and even on bridges and one other great feature is that it is much stronger.

Biomimicry is a way of looking to nature and designing new technologies that limit the negative impacts on our planet. If nature has been doing things successfully for so long it makes sense to learn from nature and looking to our oceans for possible solutions in dealing with some of our environmental issues highlights the importance of protecting our precious oceans.