Expanding our understanding and ability to solve complex problems by creating trans-disciplinary collaboration between art, design and science

Exploring nature is intrinsically interdisciplinary; however, the ways in which we ask questions about the world are often not. Problem solving can be restricted by a narrow field of focus, which can preclude our ability to see other possibilities. From the ways in which we organize objects to creating novel representations of scientific data, the Nature Lab works to bring together artists, designers and scientists with the goal of fostering multiple modes of inquiry around big environmental challenges such as understanding the impacts of climate change.


RISD is the only art and design school in the country to receive funding through the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Over the last five years, this grant has gone to fund more a quarter of a million dollars in new equipment investment, supported collaborative studios, and facilitated ongoing research at the lab. While our partner institutions each contributed directly to four large scientific research questions about the impact of climate change on Narragansett Bay, RISD’s researchers explored how art+design+science collaboration may be structured to: Make science visible (develop visual techniques and communication strategies for scientists), Make science accessible (develop visual techniques and communication strategies that make the significance of scientific research and scientific research findings accessible to broader audiences) and Create collaborative environments (facilitate successful interdisciplinary research within, and among, the research center teams).

Watch a related video here

Works Well With Others Studio

In a world where complex problems demand working well with others, what makes for successful collaboration? This EPSCoR funded course taught by former Industrial Design Department Head Charlie Cannon and Furniture Graduate Program Coordinator Chris Rose introduced current theories of knowledge negotiation, explored interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary techniques, and gathered the insights of select RISD faculty participating in ongoing art+design+science collaborations.

Watch a video about it here

PBS Learning Media modules

PBS Learning Media partnered with the Nature Lab and the RISD Museum in an effort to build effective STEAM teacher resources online. The collaboration was effective in creating a set of activities grounded in the fundamentals of object-based inquiry and STEAM, or multi-modal forms of inquiry. Educators can be directed to the site for concrete examples of art+science integration as well as object based inquiry that utilizes both the museum collection as well as the Nature Lab collection.


The Nature Lab serves as host for many Brown and RISD Steam club events, using the collection for such varied hands-on experiences as nature drawing, comparative anatomy, and nest building activities.

More Initiatives
Nature Lab Logo
Support us Subscribe to our Newsletter

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.​

© 2024 Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at Rhode Island School of Design