A Bustling Summer at the Nature Lab

Lucia Monge and Co-Works Program Manager/Technologist David Kim are collaborating with curator William Myers to plan and organize the upcoming Nature Lab exhibition, Biodesign: From Inspiration to Integration. This show brings together recent examples of design and art that inform our complex relationship with nature and help us decipher how it may evolve in the future. The exhibition showcases themes of collaboration, co-creativity, and best practices for working with living materials and with experts across fields. It aims to inspire, surprise and inform the RISD community and the public. The show runs from August 25-September 27, with a half-day symposium and opening reception on August 24th.

For the past 10 weeks, Diana Lin [INTAR '19], Andrew Kennedy [INTAR '18], Oswaldo Chinchilla [ID and CER '20], Adrienne May [FURN '19], Lauren Pegram [MFA SCULPT '19], Zac Yelnosky, [MFA FURN ‘19], Alex Hsu [MFA FURN ‘19], Nick Durig [MFA FURN ‘19], built the new BioDesign Makerspace at the Nature Lab, based on the plans developed by students in a Spring '18 IntAr studio led by Jen Bissonnette and Associate IntAr Professor Eduardo Benamor Duarte. Projects completed include the biophilic ceiling by Peter Lokken [MFA FURN '18] and Kylie King [MFA INTAR '18], nesting tables that pivot around the room's columns, a biomorphic work bench, and cabinetry with custom cork countertops and mycelium detailing. This space was funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), both to test the impacts of biophilic design in an educational setting, and to provide a STEAM makerspace for working with nature's technologies. The BioDesign MakerSpace brings patterns of nature into the built environment in ways expected to increase concentration, focus and productivity, as well as encourage a sense of well-being. TLAD students will be creating and testing STEAM curriculum during the 2018/19 academic year. It is expected that the space will be available for broader RISD use in the spring of 2019.

Simultaneously, NSF's 2018 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program brought two undergrads to the Lab to work on a project around the topic of "designing a visual platform for exploring climate change impacts in coastal plant communities". Mentored by Jen Bissonnette and Lucia Monge, with Herbarium Director Tim Whitfeld and Project Assistant Stewart Copeland [MFA D+M ‘19], Nadia Lahlaf [Brown|RISD Illustration and Computer Science '20] and Shannon Kingsley [Brown, Ethnobotany and English '20] spent the summer researching the topic, collecting and documenting herbarium specimens and comparing their present day findings with historical herbarium records. Presenting their research and highlighting images created on the Lab's macropod, microscopes and cameras, as well as their own artwork, Nadia and Shannon created a book entitled Bending: Adapting to Climate Change in Rhode Island's Coastal Plant Communities. The book delves into the environmental pressures confronting coastal ecologies, as well as the students' experiences learning to prepare specimens and conduct field work out at Tillinghast Place.

In July, Georgia Rhodes and Benedict Gagliardi hosted a workshop on "Imaging and Composition" for the RI SURF community. Seventeen attendees explored the topics of visual hierarchy and image composition as it related to scientific posters as well as nature photography. Divided into four groups, students were tasked with collecting images of natural specimens using the Nature Lab's advanced photography and microscopy equipment and with organizing a mock scientific poster that employed some of the tools they learned to achieve a pleasing and effective visual hierarchy. Posters were individually presented, questioned, and discussed in a RISD-style "crit" where each team received critical feedback and comments from the entire group.

Featured works include: ​Blood-Related, AgroDerivatives, Harvest/Interwoven, A Place for Plastics, Pink Chicken Project, and Zoe: A Living Sea Creature
Left to Right: Eduardo Duarte, Alex Hsu, Zac Yelnosky, Oswaldo Chinchilla, Andrew Kennedy, Nick Durig, Adrienne May, Diana Lin, Lauren Pegram, and Jen Bissonnette
Shannon Kingsley and Nadia Lahlaf
Georgia Rhodes and SURF student attendees
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The RISD Nature Lab is an EPSCoR|C-AIM Core Research Facility supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #OIA-1655221 and EAGER Grant Award #1723559. ​​​Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this site are those of the Nature Lab and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.​

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