What Happened to the Arizona Biosphere?

What happened to the much-heralded bio sphere, built by the Bass Foundation in Arizona? This was a colossal experiment-supposedly, it incorporated 4 habitats- a coral reef, a prairie, a jungle, and a savanna. I understand that it was a failure-it was found that the biosphere could not sustain life (the equilibrium oxygen concentration was too low for human beings). It also demonstrated how little we actually know about our ecosystem. So what happened to it-is it just a dome full of overgrown weeds? Or is further work planned for it? Can I buy it?

Paging Padeye

I think there is a Bioshpere II and maybe even a Biosphere III by now.
I think the big failure in the first one was caused by the concrete absorbing all the CO2. This effected all their calculations and the plants did not have enough CO2 to convert into O2. They eventually had to pump in oxygen.

I bet the latter Bioshpere(s) was/are more successful!

Columbia University took over the management several years ago. Go to the Bio2 website for more information as to what they are doing.

I went to Columbia, and got a chance to spend a semester studying at the 'sphere. It was, hands down, no second thought needed, the best educational experience of my life. The program is made up of, among other things, unparalleled freedom to construct independent research projects, virtually unlimited support by the brilliant faculty, a setting extraordinarily conducive to exploring complex systems and an interdisciplinary approach that tightly weaves diverse subjects together in a comprehensive tapestry of education. I’ve stayed in touch with the program and may former classmates, and the predominant opinion of the quality of the education received there matches the above. They have recently added a ‘Universe’ semester, taking advantage of the location (and Mount Lemon’s observatory) to teach astronomy as well.

The original test / experiment was only a ‘failure’ in the popular vernacular. There was a tremendous amount of information gleaned from the facility, and it remains a unique tool for conducting research. Many, many changes have been made to the internal workings and design of the facilities, and its mission has changed quite dramatically. While it was originally designed to be a sealed, self-contained ecosystem, it is now being used to run smaller, carefully monitored and controlled experiments. Check out their page for more information.

FYI, the Earth is Biosphere (I) the desert construction was (and still is) Biosphere II.


Thanks for the pager Fiver.

FYI I worked at the Biosphere 2 facility for nearly seven years from when it was still under construction until the first year or so it was run by Columbia University.

Rhythmdvl, I think you painted a pretty fair picture of the place. When did you go there? I left in September '97 and was the Oracle database administrator. The fat guy in the computer room if that rings a bell.

The years before Columbia came were a roller coaster. The original two year “mission” had a lot of controversey brought on by the way the management ran things. The concrete did absorb massive amounts of CO[sub]2[/sub] which reduced the amount of oxygen available. This doesn’t make sense on the surface but a plant keeps the carbon and gives the oxygen back where the concrete keeps it all. Pumping in oxygen was done in a way to maintain control of the experiment but the secrecy put it in a bad light.

Things got really strange when we had a second crew locked inside. Ed Bass, the person who basically paid for the whole place out of his pocket, obtained a court order to have the entire upper management removed by fedral marshalls. Get a few beers in me and I’ll tell you a good tale but for now I’ll just say that April Fool’s day was the most bizarre day at the office I have ever experiencd. :smiley:

After much unpleasantness, wailing, lamentation, gnashing of teeth, etc. the place was put under a court appointed reciever who paved the way for Columbia.

It was an exciting and interesting place to work. The folks that built it may have been eccentric but they put together the world’s biggest test tube. There is no facility in the world that can match it for doing controlled environment experiments.

FWIW several of us including members of the second mission crew went to see Bio Dome together. We were absolutely the only ones in the theater laughing at that bomb. The inside jokes were the only funny thing about it. We don’t know who it was but we all agreed the producers had gotten a good spy on the inside.