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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Biosphere 2


This has been on our bucket list for some time so we were really excited to visit this world-renowned marvel. Just think, studying our fragile ecosystem processes under controlled conditions to benefit and improve the quality of life for all of us on Earth (Biosphere 1). 

A little history from their web site: In the 1800s, the Biosphere 2 property was part of the Samaniego CDO Ranch. After several changes of ownership, it became a conference center in the 1960s and 1970s, first for Motorola, then for The University of Arizona. Space Biospheres Ventures bought the property in 1984 and began construction of the current facility in 1986 to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology.

Two missions, between 1991 and 1994, sealed Biospherians inside the glass enclosure to measure survivability. Behind this highly public exercise was useful research that helped further ecological understanding. Several first-person accounts have been published by former crew members that provide different perspectives on the experiment.

In 1994, Decisions Investments Corporation assumed control of the property and Columbia University managed it from 1996-2003 and reconfigured the structure for a different mode of scientific research, including a study on the effects of carbon dioxide on plants. Columbia also built classrooms and housing for college students of earth systems science.

The property was sold June 4, 2007, to CDO Ranching and its development partners who then leased the property to UA from 2007-2011. The enclosure now serves as a tool to support research already underway by UA scientists. As a laboratory for large-scale projects, such as the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO), the university's stewardship of Biosphere 2 will allow the UA to perform key experiments aimed at quantifying some of the consequences of global climate change.

The University of Arizona assumed ownership of Biosphere 2 in July 2011. A generous gift from the Philecology Foundation helps fund Biosphere 2 operations and some research projects. Other grants and awards, primarily from the National Science Foundation, also support research activities.

The tour was just fascinating! But we would like to offer a few warnings to keep in mind which are not verbally given at the beginning of the tour; however they are mentioned in their brochure. The changes in temperature along with increasing humidity and heat then decreasing humidity and cold were a shock to some of the visitors more than others. There were actually some who had to leave the tour and/or ask for assistance. There are also many stairs and inclines, and a fairly dark tunnel you need to walk. Truly it was easy. Yet, we were surprised these warnings were not given in advance especially to some of the participants in our group.

I’m not sure how we would have felt being “sealed in” for a period of two years…but thank goodness there were people who were willing to do this. All in all we would say go and see this wonder.
Biosophere 2

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