General Special Places

Biosphere 2

Kevin and Kim Johnson (my brother and sister-in-law) gave us the awesome Christmas present of 2 tickets to the Biosphere 2. So on January 17, with tickets in hand, we decided to drive north to Oracle, AZ, a little town in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains and home of the Biosphere 2.

Oracle, AZ is located 47 miles north of Davis-Monthan AFB. Here in the middle of the desert there is a magnificent structure called Biosphere 2, owned by the University of Arizona. You may have heard about it back in the early 1990s when a group of 8 “Biospherians” embarked on a 2 year adventure.

They were locked in the Biosphere 2 – a completely sealed, glass-enclosed, self sustaining model of all the biomes on our earth. FYI the earth itself is considered “Biosphere 1” so, hello fellow Biospherian!

Biosphere 2 covers 3 1/4 acres where the group of 8 scientists raised their own food, and were completely self-sufficient for 2 years. The partial purpose of this was to explore the possibility of establishing a colony in outer space.

We enjoyed the guided tour which began with a quick informational video and then we were all given a small radio with earphones so we could easily hear our tour guide. A few interesting facts are… they grew their own food but did not grow sugar because it has no nutritional value. They did however grow coffee and produced enough coffee for each of them to have 1 cup every 2 weeks. Side note: I would have quit right then. Obviously these people were made of stronger stuff than your average human specimen! Also, their only source of dairy was the goats they had with them.

Within the biosphere there is a rainforest, desert, savannah, mangrove swamp, agricultural fields and an ocean. We were able to see all of this plus the living quarters and kitchen/dining area that the 8 biospherians used. Their 2 year experiment is now complete and the Biosphere 2 is no longer sealed but the University of Arizona conducts tours to educate the public.

The University of Arizona also owns and manages it and has many continuing experiments there. They have a hydroponics experiment area and they are preparing their 700,000 gallon “ocean” for upcoming coral reef experiments. Outside the Biosphere 2 there are some agri-photovoltaic experiments set up (solar energy and agriculture in combination.)

After the guided tour we went below the surface to the ocean viewing area. We saw several bright yellow tangs, a few bright blue ocean fish and a lot of algae. In the next year they will be adding coral and attempting to cross breed some more hardy forms of coral that can survive warmer ocean temperatures.

There was a lot to see! If you are ever in the Tucson area we recommend a visit to the Biosphere 2. Allow 2-3 hours for your total tour/visit.

Check back next week when I will tell you about our Lt. Dan Band experience!

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