Resilient Urban Systems & Habitat (RUSH) Initiative

So…Lytton burned. June’s heat wave was a reminder: You humans are indeed vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.1

70% of sudden deaths recorded in BC during the heat wave were due to extreme temperatures. More than 1 billion seashore animals were cooked to death.2 Shellfish populations were devastated.

That’s not good: these water-filtering creatures clean and maintain the water quality in the ocean every day, free of charge. We humans don’t know how to provide this service, nor could we afford to provide it on the scale at which it naturally occurs.

How are we protecting our fellow creatures and ourselves in the face of climate change? Is there a way to amp up our ability to handle heavy weather? Are there things we can do to help regulate our climate right here? What can we do to cool the city off during the summer?

The Power Of Maps

The Resilient Urban Systems & Habitat (RUSH) initiative is here to help us figure it out. RUSH is a collaboration of smart people working across different sectors who are finding ways to protect our region better, so it can withstand climate change. Because ready or not, it’s here.

Hosted by the Map Shop at the University of Victoria (UVic), RUSH is compiling and delivering data on community and ecosystem health to the local ArcGIS mapping system (Capital Regional District).

Teams engaged in community-based participatory research at UVic are starting with tree cover and pavement data. Where do we need more shading? Where should we convert parking lots to patios and parks?

Teams involved in community mapping are researching ways to connect rain and pollinator gardens across the region. These teams specialize in learning from communities and creating tools that help to find the opportunities and spot the gaps.

With the help of the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, gardeners will be able to plot their pollinator gardens on the ArcGIS Map. This will show us where bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators, who are key to growing delicious food across the region, need more habitat to work their magic. The Network helps the public map all kinds of things like Little Free Libraries, sidewalk art and seed banks.

Maps and data are not the whole picture though… Just because we see something, doesn’t mean we understand it. Maps can create divisions and cause us to miss important relationships, features, and dynamics. Learning about this area from Indigenous people is essential in building understanding for what is here, what was here and what is needed to restore the health of the land and its creatures. Indigenous knowing plus years of monitoring and research by local restoration groups will bring deeper meaning to the visuals that the maps offer.

The Power Of Partnerships

At the rate we’re going, we’re on track to becoming a concrete jungle. And many areas across the region suffered because of that during the heat wave.

Our Indigenous communities have been clear in pointing out that the way we’ve developed our neighbourhoods does not improve our relationship with the wider ecosystem. Settlement across the region marginalizes the First Nations and their way of life. Our built environment makes some cultural harvesting and other practices impossible. This needs to change. By restoring and connecting natural areas, we can all take steps to living in a better relationship with the land and Indigenous communities. Partners across sectors are coming together to find a shared language and vision that has urban design supporting Nature in her work of creating the conditions conducive to a good life for all.

Some of our RUSH partners include:

The Capital Regional District–Community Health Network, the University of Victoria, Island Health, Christine Lintott Architects, the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, Peninsula Streams Society, Seachange Marine Conservation Society and NatuR&D. Together, we have identified the need for a map that helps us see the opportunities and the gaps. Our goal is to figure out what we need to know in order to make communities healthy and resilient to climate change across the region and see the difference we are making with dashboards that will tell us how to be more protected and connected.

Join Us

Starting in 2022, we are inviting everyone who is interested to join us for a mix of field trips, events and online sessions.

Connect to stay in the loop for updates and registration information in 2022.


See also…

Acker, Maleea. “What’s the RUSH? Anne-Marie Daniel’s Resilient Urban Systems and Habitat Initiative.Focus on Victoria, 10 December 2021.

Free Biomimicry Resources for K-12 Schools, Institutions & Informal Educators

It’s crucially important that we allow school-age children to learn and sample what biomimicry is and how it can change our lives for the better. Below are several very high-quality resources that can help educators communicate these sometimes complicated scientific concepts to younger people.


  • Sharing Biomimicry with Young People is a free downloadable publication, providing an introduction to biomimicry with teaching strategies for K-12 educators and others who work with youth.
  • The Institute’s K-5 Biomimicry Curriculum will enter the second round of field tests this fall, integrating feedback generated by the first round of educators who used the K-5 lessons in their classrooms last spring. These lessons generate purposeful outdoor experiences that provide young students with a new lens of looking at the natural world.
  • Grade 6-12 educators seeking to introduce biomimicry can start with the “Bite-sized Biomimicry” curriculum (scroll down). The ten-lesson unit prepares both teachers and students with key concepts in biomimicry, a foundation for submission to the Youth Design Challenge. If you are interested in teaching biomimicry in your middle school or high school classroom, this is a perfect starting place.
  • Launching in January 2022, a new module in the Climate Science Lab at Golden Gate will feature biomimicry as a practice for students to become change-makers in their local communities. California educators introducing climate change in their classrooms might consider a middle school residential camp stay at NatureBridge at Golden Gate in San Francisco.
  • In partnership with the Biomimicry Center at Arizona State University and the Phoenix Zoo, the Institute has created downloadable science kits for middle schoolers. BioConnect Kits feature a mini-challenge based on learnings from desert organisms. Each week-long unit walks 6th-8th grade students through the biomimicry design process with lesson plans, inquiry cards, 3D model files, videos and more. The kits are aligned to Arizona state standards and NGSS. Access BioConnect Kits here.


The Biomimicry Institute is actively identifying opportunities to bring their youth-focused teaching tools to under-served schools and historically marginalized communities. Rosanna Ayers, Director of Youth Education, is excited about expanding biomimicry education through this diversity of perspectives, which she sees as essential to preparing the up-and-coming decision-makers of our future.

The 2021 Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge Winners & Designs

The Youth Design Challenge is a program developed by the Biomimicry Institute that provides a remarkable opportunity for coaches and students from middle school to high school to share their creative ideas with respect to biomimicry and innovation in nature. This year’s event is complete and there were some truly amazing submissions from schools around the world. It’s inspiring to see a raft of young aspiring designers and ‘scientists’ using nature’s beautiful design to develop real-world solutions to serious issues.

Jump right to this year’s winners:

For a complete breakdown of this ground-breaking event, see the 2021 YDC Handbook right here: Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge (PDF)

Innovative Inspiration From Nature

From mangrove forests to antelope horns to mud wasps and butterflies, students from 53 schools all submitted design entries into this year’s challenge. Even during COVID lockdowns and stay at home orders, these incredible students and coaches created a real challenge for the judging committee to select the winners for the 5 separate awards available.

  • Naturalist Award: For comprehensive research into biological models, thorough explanations of their natural history and strategies, and selection of appropriate organism models to inform the design.
  • Changemaker Award: For an innovative design proposal that could potentially move forward in future research and development and/or would have a significant impact if implemented.
  • Design Cycle Award: For perseverance in the iterative design cycle including exploration of multiple design ideas, using creative techniques to test potential solutions, and/or getting feedback from diverse experts and interested community members to inform design revisions.
  • Problem Definition Award: For systems thinking, thoroughness, and creativity in researching, identifying, and defining a problem to solve.
  • Storyteller Award: For an engaging presentation of the required application materials that creatively and accurately captures the team’s innovation process and learning journey.

To learn about registering for 2022 and reading all about the winners and their designs, roll over to the official website right here:


Sustainable Packaging as the New Norm

Why aren’t there more sustainable packaging solutions on the market today? What are the inherent blocks to innovation? What does a zero-waste world mean to you?

In Episode 101 of Waste360’s NothingWasted! Podcast, Liz Bothwell interviews Reyna Bryan, president of RCD Packaging Innovation. Reyna is on a mission to transform supply chains and make sustainable packaging the norm. A 10-year veteran of sustainable packaging innovation, she believes we have the capability to produce goods and services without being destructive to our natural systems by designing packaging with the “end of its useful life” in mind.

RCD’s collaborative Redefining Flexible Films Workshop in 2020 was supported and attended by many brands like Mars, Whole Foods and PepsiCo, in both the consumer packaged-goods and waste management industries. The design-thinking style innovation workshop drew experts from across the flexible film packaging supply chain. The ten-month process resulted in a white paper outlining the barriers and opportunities in addressing the current problems with petroleum based flexible film as well as establishing a foundation of knowledge based on the diverse perspectives and expertise of the group.

NatuR&D was there and led an incubation project called Flexture. The project is looking for strategies in Nature’s packaging that manage moisture vapour so that the performance of compostable flexible film can be improved.

Nature has many strategies we can apply to flexible film. RCD and NatuR&D are collaborating this year to offer Bite-Size Biomimicry Webinars series to inspire packaging innovation. Each webinar explores a theme relevant to current packaging challenges. Workshops are designed for interdisciplinary collaboration and are tailored to the consumer packaged-goods industry.

Photo source: Ocean plastics on the beach at Caño Island Biological Reserve, Costa Rica ©Seth Galewyrick | ?

VOC Transformation Elements

Nature’s Design For Atmospheric Restoration

Formaldehyde (HCHO) is a common Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) generated from human activity and industry. Ubiquitous in the indoor and outdoor environments of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, VOCs react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) creating frequent ozone (O3) events that are hazardous to human and ecosystem health.

How can Nature re-create a healthy atmosphere?

Research supports the correlation between native plant-microbiome relationships and microbiome health, so NatuR&D designs a living machine to restore the ecosystem by boosting the soils in Mexico City’s metro area to process VOCs and NOx.

Presented at the March 2021 SPIE Conference on Smart Structures + Nondestructive Evaluation
Claudia Rivera Cárdenas, Anne-Marie Daniel, “How does Nature regulate atmospheric composition?: Formaldehyde removal from air,” Proc. SPIE 11586, Bioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication XI, 1158609 (22 March 2021);

Paper (PDF)
Video (Spanish)
Video (English)
Slides (PDF)

tomato sprouts

How I Wonder What You Are

Writer, Biomimicry professional and entrepreneur Anjan Prakash shares a video post – 29 Individuals – on building your practice through meditations on how Nature finds balance.


On the 29th of Jan, nine varieties put out their tiny heads out of the soil, each in varying lengths, widths, shapes, and some in different shades of green. Some such a tiny head, I almost missed it in my first inspection.  On the 30th, five more said hello to us. 31st Jan, another six more, 1st Feb, six, and now you know how this goes. One of them (chives) is enjoying the company of the soil so much, that no amount of anything has yet made her want to break out of her seed, and pop out of the soil. I am told that she needs patience.

Watch the entire, amazing video right here.

29 Individuals from howiwonderwhatyouare on Vimeo.

NatuR&D collaborates to bring Nature to the design table

Redesigning Flexible Film Packaging For Sustainability

At the recent Redefining Flexible Films Innovation Workshop, a virtual gathering of 80 experts across the packaging industry including brand owners like Mars, PepsiCo, Whole Foods and other stakeholders took aim at zero-waste food packaging. NatuR&D was there.

NatuR&D, Kool Earth Solutions, Inc. and RCD are collaborating to create Flexture: Biomimicry for Bio-Based Flexible Film R&D Project, looking to Nature for inspiration to design new bio-based functional packaging and researching the specific function of moisture vapour management in plants, insects and animals. This is a breakthrough approach to packaging design led by NatuR&D.

The team is also embarking on a concurrent industry engagement strategy to offer research on tap in the form of a “Bite-Size Biomimicry” offering, drawing inspiration from Nature on sponsor-directed questions.

Here are a few ideas that were sprinkled around the session.

  • What can we learn about textures and the unique functions of microstructures in nature? What “packaging” in nature (like the skin of a lotus leaf or an avocado) can we look to for inspiration?
  • Software tools that provide sustainability scores of products using life cycle;
  • assessment (LCA) data.
  • Leverage blockchain technology to publicly track the impact and end destinations of packaging (and know who helped get it there).
  • Educate and promote the zero-waste movement and create zero waste aisles in grocery stores.
  • Crowdfunding, incubation hubs, education and promotion of new technologies, developing low-interest loan programs and grant programs to fund budding new technologies.
  • Collaborate/develop partnerships with universities to develop and test materials.

Read the entire article here:

Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge – webinar

Digging Into the Biomimicry Design Cycle: Helping Students Explore Biological Models and Develop a Biomimicry Design
November 10 @ 5 pm – 6 pm Mountain time (GMT-7)

The Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge (YDC) offers a unique approach to engineering design projects by introducing nature’s organisms and processes to create novel solutions.

Join us for a virtual conversation to explore resources from the Instructional Storyline sections MATCH and INNOVATE. These lessons help students identify inspiring biological models and apply them in innovative ways in constructing a design solution. We will also consider ways your student teams can work safely in-person or virtually to create, test, and refine models of their design.

Sign up

On Conflict podcast – Nature’s lessons

Look to Nature as your silent partner at the negotiation table. Biomimic and Mediator, Anne-Marie Daniel, reveals the expert in the room on episode 38 of On Conflict with Julia Menard & Gordon White.