The Nature Lab

Long prized for its wild and wonderful collections, the RISD Nature Lab is entering a new era — one that allows students to explore worlds within worlds in a single drop of pond water. The Lab offers unmediated access to authentic natural history specimens and fosters creative inquiry involving fields such as biomimetics, biophilic design, ecology and climate change.

Since RISD has always been about hands-on learning, the Nature Lab furthers this approach by enabling students to explore ethical, sustainable modes of making informed by natural systems and designed to benefit the environment. Ultimately, they’re able to understand and articulate the role we play as humans in the ecosystem.

Edna W. Lawrence Rooms

The main room and adjoining spaces at the Nature Lab house the Edna Lawrence Natural History Collection, which dates back to before our founding in 1937. Partially displayed in the traditional cabinet-of-curiosities manner, the Natural History Collection has consistently captured students’ imaginations while continuing to grow and change over time. The space also houses a small collection of living plants and animals, and offers open seating for as many as 30 students.

Learn more about the Nature Lab's collections.

Microscopy and GIS Lab

Funding from the NSF has helped RISD develop a micro-imaging lab unparalleled at other art and design schools. Students have access to stereomicroscopes, compound microscopes, handheld video microscopes for quick image capturing, an inverted compound microscope capable of fluoroscopy investigations and a scanning electron microscope that can magnify up to 45,000x actual size.

Learn more about the Nature Lab's equipment.

Wet Lab

Two 150-gallon marine and fresh water aquarium units allow for close study of living vertebrate and invertebrate species collected from Narragansett Bay and other local waters. Students study and care for these living animals, and contribute to research on plankton, the propagation of marine organisms and the visualization of scientific data – all supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Learn more about research at the Nature Lab.

Collections and equipment