Living Systems + Biodesign

Cultivating natural sensibilities

Through the Nature Lab, students have access to the latest thinking regarding living systems theory and the fields of ecology and evolution. This provides a well-rounded understanding of the biological and physical factors — along with various forces, processes and flows — that define life on earth.

Biodesign Challenge: The DoGreen Project

A team of Industrial Design students, Kaanchi Chopra 21 ID, Chenyu Ding 22 ID, Chengqi (Malia) Hong 21 ID, Chenxi (Regina) Mao 21 ID, and Emilia Matarese 21 ID, entered The DoGreen Project in the international 2020 Biodesign Challenge. The DoGreen Project aims to create a solution to sustainable dog waste management for urban dog parks. Students first developed DoGreen in a 2019 fall biodesign studio co-taught by Industrial Design Professor Peter Yeadon and Nature Lab Interim Director Jennifer Bissonnette. In this course, students aimed to create pieces that work with nature, incorporating not only sustainability but a deeper connection between sources, processes, and outcomes that help to sustain life.

Aquaponics Course 2017

Students in the special topics course co-taught by Nature Lab Interm Director Jennifer Bissonnette and Assistant Professor of Industrial Design Tom Weis designed aquaponics systems with potential applications on campus. Over the course of the semester, the class strived to answer the question, “What does it look like when an aquaponics system is made for a design school?” Two final proposals for a potential full-scale installation in The Met, RISD’s main dining hall, were ultimately presented: “RISD Grass,” a system of wheat grass cultivation fueled by waste from tilapia or catfish, and the production of leafy greens and herbs sustained by nutrients created by Pumpkinseed fish.

Living Systems Lab + Field Course

Slated to begin in spring 2016, this new lab and field course involves firsthand exploration of living systems, from the smallest microorganisms to global ecosystems. Grounded in Providence and Narragansett Bay, the course is a collaborative effort between Nature Lab staff and Liberal Arts faculty members to emphasize the value of a systematic understanding of our place in nature.

GIS + Story Mapping

GIS is a digital mapping tool that allows for the observation, analysis and display of spatial information across landscapes. Topography, bathymetry, land use, human demographics, lobster migrations – if the data exists spatially, it can be displayed via GIS. And if it doesn’t yet exist, we can create it.

The Nature Lab offers three dedicated GIS stations, along with an associated 54” HD multi-touch screen to enable individuals or groups to explore nature – and human-nature connections – at the macro scale.

Story mapping brings the Nature Lab outdoors into the local urban ecosystem and the greater Narragansett Bay watershed. Story maps allow students to create – and others to explore – the local ecology through walking tours and guided graphic information.

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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.​

© 2021 Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at Rhode Island School of Design