What is Genius of Biome?

This practicum is designed to allow participants to dive deep into the specific biomimicry tools and techniques of a Genius of Place. During the course, each team will identify a biome of interest, research place-specific strategies from the biological literature for that biome, interpret and translate the scientific information including creating illustrative graphics, summarize the findings, build a taxonomy, and learn how to present the information in a biomimicry context so that it is relevant to place-based design.

The Genius of the Chihuahuan Desert

Bio-Inspired Applications of Native Champion Adaptors

This project was performed by myself, Laurin Jones, Ayla Kiser, and Samantha Morgan of the ASU Biomimicry Master’s Porgram. The primary purpose of this report is to highlight adaptations of life in the Chihuahuan Desert to the key challenges (abiotic factors) of this biome and then suggest ways that these adaptations could be translated into innovative, sustainable designs that solve various human challenges. This approach of learning from and emulating nature is known as Biomimicry, and the principles and methodology of Biomimicry are described in more detail within the body of this document.

Though there are many indicator species (i.e., species whose presence and condition reflect the surrounding environmental conditions of the Chihuahuan Desert, there is a particular shrub that grows ONLY in this desert. The lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla) or “big lettuce” shrub has a distribution that is often used to indicate the boundaries of the Chihuahuan Desert. This spiky plant thrives in the typically rocky and calcareous soils of this desert and only flowers once in its long (20+ years) life. Because of its ubiquity and representativeness in this area, the project team identifies as “Agave Leche”. Further, the northern border of the Chihuahuan Desert (and my residence), is Socorro, a name that comes from the Spanish Maria del Socorro or ‘to aid,’ ‘succor’. The team hopes that this Genius of Biome (GoB) project produces ideas that may offer aid or “succor” to the process of creating locally attuned human designs.


“Not love, not the intense moment of passion,
Not birth, is as poignant
As the sudden flash that passes
Like light reflected in a mirror
From nature to us”
Alice Corbin Henderson, New Mexican Poet

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