Biomimicry Intensive One: On the Rocky Mountain Front

By Denny Royal

March 1, 2016

Denny Royal on a week in the Montana wilderness, the challenges of thinking like a biologist, and the exciting potential of biomimicry.

Our first in-person intensive took place in a pretty incredible setting, we were fortunate enough to be staying on the Montana Front range at the Nature Conservancy’s Pine Butte Guest Ranch. The property is tucked into the beautiful limestone cliffs of the Rocky Mountain Front in an area that is considered one of the richest biomes in North America. For instance, the grizzly bear population is the highest in the lower 48, particularly on the property due to the habitat. The large fen on the ranch provides the perfect habitat for grizzlies as well as moose and many other species.

The overall experience of the week was super intense, both educationally and emotionally. A lot of the week was spent sprinting through the Biomimicry thinking process with our cohort mates, getting our feet wet with the process and getting to know the other cohort members and instructors. This was our first in-person interaction and the kick-off for the next two years we will be working together. Unfortunately, we did not get as much outside time as we would have liked, as the weather was pretty brutal—fall on the front range. It was, however, the first opportunity for some of the group to experience snow; pretty awesome.

I was completely blown away by the cohort members. I have never met a more highly educated group that was more down to earth and grounded. I suppose it makes sense given what we are setting out to do and why we were brought together. There were many late nights and many awesome conversations, some of them may have been fueled by sangria and caipirinhas, but the conversation always led back to the same subject…what are we going to do to change the way we live on the planet? I’m sure we will continue this discussion for the next two years and beyond.

Beyond the general discussions there was an overwhelming amount of info poured into our heads in that first week, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I literally couldn’t write fast enough and capture all of the knowledge that was being shared with us, everything was of great interest and importance to me. The subjects ranged from the basic principles of biomimicry to biomimicry thinking and then an incredible amount of info about the local biome and the biology of the place. For me as a non-biologist, I had to start a list of scientific terms to look up and reacquaint myself with every night.

And then as soon as we started to get settled in with the cohort, it was time to go home. Parting from such like-minded individuals after such an intense week turned out to be a pretty emotional experience. Even though we knew we would be together next semester, it was like leaving family that you hadn’t seen in a long time and didn’t know when you would see again. Re-entry back into the business world, was a bit of a shock as well. Spending a week in the deep wilderness focussing on biomimicry and all things living, has a bit of a different tempo than my daily life in Minneapolis. The whole thing left me energized and torn at the same time about what I do next. It brought home the big question: as a species, where do we go from here?

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