Industrial Design Student 2019

Thomas Hartley
Royal College of Art / Imperial College London
Innovation Design Engineering

Ash dieback is a disease that is sweeping across Europe and eradicating over 95% of the ash tree population. Fortunately, modelling shows that the ash tree won’t be gone forever, but a new, resilient population will take decades to cultivate and grow. In the intervening years, hundreds of species of mosses, lichen and fungi that depend on the ash are losing their habitat and risk extinction.

Traditional conservation methods for these unassuming species can’t cope with this scale of habitat loss. To thrive and reproduce, they need a specialised habitat and access to a diverse population of other individuals. These criteria are normally provided by a forest but are extremely challenging to emulate in a lab.

To bridge this gap in supporting these species, we’ve created Habitate, a wearable that mimics the ash tree’sbark texture, light level and pH and leverages the stochastic patterns of human movement to support species airborne reproduction. Habitate provides a temporary home for these unassuming species and allows us to play an active role in maintaining biodiversity, breaking the cycle of conservation and destruction by cultivating a long-term pattern of human-nature coexistence.

This project was conducted as a group effort between Yishan Qin and Yuning Chen and Thomas Hartley.