As someone who has been working in bio-inspired design since 2004, I have a few habits that I rely on to help me gather information about the crazy things living organisms have evolved to accomplish. I spend a good deal of time using search engines to find new insights, or research a particular area of interest. Earlier this year I was looking for a way to make a tool that would help me speed up this process and ran into Google Custom Search. GCS is a free service that allows you to pick the sites you want to search, add a few keywords, and it returns Google results from those pages. It's not perfect, but over the past six months I have found these custom search engines useful. In particular it has enabled be to get more complete searches done in the fraction of the time it used to take. The engines below are in permanent 'beta'. I'm always tweaking and updating them -> If you are interested in helping me refine these, let's get in touch. Enjoy.
Searching for Biomimicry Products
Sometimes you just want to know what bio-inspired products are out there. AskNature.org is the go to place for most people starting out, and while their database is huge and growing all the time, I have found their content to be limited on any single specific topic. As a result the search for products includes AskNature in the algorithm, but also asks a bunch of other sites what products are out there lately. I have kept this one pretty tight, and often it will return zero results, but if there is a result it will likely be a product.
Details into Incredible Biology
Sometimes you want to dig into a particular organism, function, insight, or really cool idea. This next search engine casts a much broader net over the Internet. While the 'Biomimicry Examples' engine might just return 7 hits, this engine will return 40,000. The beauty of this is that it helps you widen your search parameters, see new ideas, and gives you a bit more of a mountain of data to sort through that is highly likely to have some rich information. I use this one more often in my work to start to dig into new areas.