Biosphere 2 – Oracle, Arizona
Biosphere 2 is a project of the University of Arizona which serves as a tool to support research already underway by UA scientists. It will enable the college to perform key experiments aimed at quantifying some of the consequences of global climate change.
The facility sits on 3.14 acres and has 7,200,000 cubic feet of sealed glass with 6,500 windows. The facility stands 91 feet tall at it’s highest point. It sits at an elevation of 3,820 ft and has hosted nearly 2,300,000 visitors from 1991 – 2007, 325,000 of them K – 12 students.
The ecosystems under glass consist of Ocean with coral reef, mangrove wetlands, tropical rainforest, Savannah grassland and fog desert.
The technical portion of the Biosphere 2 consists in the basement is nearly 3.14 acres hosting it’s electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems. There are 26 air handlers with 14 large unites that heat and cool the air, remove particles and maintain humidity levels and generate condensate water (for rain, fog and resupplying the ocean). The other 12 smaller AHs can cool the air and generate condensate water.
The most comprehensive tour is available throughout the day. The interior portion of this tour is not wheelchair or stroller accessible due to it being a research facility.
The tour begins in the human habitat where you will be able to see one of the apartments where the Biospherians lived, the farm area where they grew their crops and the kitchen where they cooked their meals. You will then be lead through the airlock door into the wilderness area of Biosphere 2. You first will enter the tropical savanna, travel along the 40 foot ocean cliff and look down into the million gallon tropical ocean. You will enter the mangrove through the tropical thorn scrub and into the coastal fog desert. From there you go into the techno sphere which is where mechanical systems make control of the environments possible. From there you venture into the recently opened tropical rainforest which contains over 150 different species of plants. If you can imagine, some of the plants are more than 60 feet tall. You finally descend through a tunnel into one of two lungs which are large geodesic domes that originally prevented Biosphere 2 from exploding or imploding (nice thought!)
Biosphere 2 was built in late 1980’s with $150 million in funding from a Texas oil magnate (Edward Bass.) It was designed as an airtight replica of Earth’s environment (Biosphere 1). The desire was to learn what problems would rise from people living in a closed system. In 1991 8 people moved in for 2 years. They came from 7 different countries and had spent several years in training to become more proficient in their own fields as well as gaining expertise in the skills of the other residents. They did remain inside for the two years but when the second group of 7 entered the project ended due to physical and social problems. The Biosphere 2 suffered scientific disdain and public ridicule which lead to the suspension to these experiments in 1994. There have been no other resident crews living inside since and there are no plans to change that decision.
Tour Prices: Adults – $20; Seniors 62 + – $18; AAA Members – $18; Military – $18; Children ages 6 – 12 – $13; Children under 5 are FREE.
Operating Hours: Open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last tour 3 p.m.
Attention: Wear comfortable walking shoes; NO PETS; No food or drink is allowed on the premises except for bottled water and items needed for baby care.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and for groups call 520-838-6200 or email email@example.com for reservations for groups of 20 or more.
Directions: 32540 S. Biosphere Rd., Oracle, AZ 85623
I-10 exit 240. East on Tangerine Rd. for 13.5 miles, then north on Hwy 77 for 14.6 miles, then right onto Biosphere Rd. for 2.5 miles. The gate across the road closes at 4 p.m.