When we were young, finding new worlds to explore was easy. Just go out back into the canyons or woods, turn over some rocks, climb a few trees or visit the San Diego Zoo.
Finding adventure as an adult is harder. Endless demands eat into precious daytime hours, leaving playtime lost to “more important” matters.
When I read about a true modern-day adventurer I find myself green with envy.
Take Dr. Marc Meyers of UCSD. This lucky guy is getting ready to head out on an adventure of a lifetime, one that nearly killed Teddy Roosevelt a century ago. Imagine a 1,500-mile expedition to South America traveling up the Amazon River studying the flora, fauna and the indigenous tribes you meet along the way.
Dr. Meyers will be honoring Roosevelt’s exploration of the “River of Doubt” by retracing his steps. Using Roosevelt’s 100-year old maps of the area, Meyers will be charting the changes that have occurred in the jungle to the animals, plants and people in the past century.
Dr. Meyers will be focusing on one of his main areas of interest, biomimicry. This emerging field is the science and art of emulating nature’s best biological ideas to solve human problems. Meyers has paid special attention to the scales of the Arapaimas fish, which are light, strong and rigid to prevent piranha attacks. Putting these natural defenses to work in modern day science can help researchers take giant leaps in developing flexible ceramic body armor.
As a practical example of biomimicry, architects in Zimbabwe took a page from local termites who build “mounds” that have a chimney structure that keeps the hot African temperatures to a cool and constant mid 70-degree range. By building “towers” with vents, the termite mounds allow hot air to escape while drawing in cooler air to circulate. Urban designers have used this same concept building a shopping mall that has resulted in reduced cooling costs.
This is biomimicry, humans adapting what nature simply figuring out how to best take care of itself.
If like me you feel a bit jealous of Dr. Meyers and his team of researchers, finding an adventure in nature doesn’t have to involve a trip halfway around the world facing down danger. Adventure is as close as your backyard or even your own office. What’s really underneath those paving stones you walk on every day? What kinds of tropical plants will do well on your desk?
I look forward to seeing the documentary on Dr. Meyers’ travels to South America. In the meantime, I will enjoy my visits to the Zoo, my own backyard and my newly planted office rain forest.
Let me know about your own “backyard” adventure. What exciting places have you found to visit here in San Diego? Share them with us on our Facebook page.
For more on finding adventure in your own backyard, read this blog post from the San Diego Zoo.
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