Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Return Visit

Last year, we went to the Biosphere 2 after the UA had taken it over.  Over a year has passed and I headed back to see what has changed about the takeover. Biosphere 2 is considered one of Tucson's major attractions.  At 20 dollars a ticket, it can be a pricey entrance fee.   So I'll tell you what I know from past experiences and bring you all up to speed.
Last year I reported that the facility was in need of repair.  The good news is that the place has cleaned up quite a bit.  Of course their work is still ongoing but you can see the improvements.  Inside the biosphere, one can see the saltwater damage that has occurred over the years along the side of the "ocean".  So that's a negative but a positive to balance it all out?  The facility feels alive again with research activity and projects set up around the property.   In fact, a major project on rainwater is in the works and it will be exciting to see what happens.  As for the tour.....
I was a bit....what's the word I'm looking for?  Disappointed is too strong.  Let down?  At one point, years ago, the tour went from the ocean room into the most exciting....the rain forest.  Instead, they hit you with the rain forest room first and it was honestly a big let down.  We walked into the room and spent around 10 or 15 minutes there and left.  What's even worse?  The entrance was a closed off patio area and you looked over the entire room instead of being inside of it like before.  We once could stand in the mist and be surrounded by all the plants.  Those days are over.  But here is something fascinating.  There was a tree frog that was placed into the Biosphere from the early 90's.  Even though the place has gone through several changes over the past 2 decades, this tree frog still has found a way to survive. One had been recently spotted while they were cleaning the algae off of the windows.
Most of the animals after the '93 experiment were relocated to zoos, but some found ways to breed in secret places and today this tree frog continues to be spotted by facility operators.
Essentially you move from the rain forest, to the ocean area where you get to spot the really cool Mangrove forest, and then move into the coastal desert room.   
The route has been altered.  Before, you started with the ocean and then moved into the rain forest room at the end of the tour.  The mist had felt good:)  It was hard to imagine that it was 111 degrees outside on this very hot day in the Sonoran desert.
There was an insect experiment above and yet another experiment on water usage from ancient cultures below by a Saudi Arabian study team.  They are facing an extreme water shortage in their own country.  The population continues to rise.  The water table continues to lower. They will not be able to sustain their people.  And in the upcoming decade, Saudi Arabia will face this huge crisis.  They also import most of their food from around the world.  I guess "gas" will get you only so far.  Research is now being done to correct the mistakes of the past and they are studying the ancient ways of utilizing water again in the desert. Another write related to this topic will be coming up. I started asking more questions to myself about these deserts and found out some fascinating information.  This was the most fascinating project for me.  I didn't know all this was going I learned something new:)

So my final words for today?  I'm really happy that this place is up and running again.  I'm also happy that they are using it for research.  As for the tour?  Well, I'll let you read the reviews on TripAdvisor.  It seems like most people enjoyed the tour.  Some specifically mentioned that the tour is all about the guide.  I should mention that the campus is quite excellent for wildlife watching.  So keep your eyes open.  More tomorrow....


  1. This looks really good value for $20.00. We have a similar place in Cornwall...The Eden Project...that too is expensive though one can take ones time wandering round.

  2. I like this trip of yours... reminds me of our visit in 1988 or was it 89. I have to check with the pictures tucked away in cardboards boxes waiting for our next move... We had been disappointed at the time about the experiment itself which had had its own flaws. But I do remember the rain forest and the guide! And the amount of green and the architecture side of the whole thing. It was still amazing.

  3. Those are wonderful structural designs, and i love it. I also love the idea that the climate can be altered inside that structure, we call something like that a 'phytotron'. I am so amazed at the cost of the expenses poured to continue the facility. I hope it gets more funding and the world to know their findings!

  4. Looks an amazing place Chris - reminds me of a visit we once made to the Eden Project in Cornwall (as mentioned by Adrian above). It was quite an experience. A shame you can't walk round the rain forest any more but glad to hear the tree frogs have survived there!

  5. because you had prior tours to compare to, you may have been disappointed, but it still sounds like a worthwhile way to spend a day. :)

  6. "Logan, Logan, we need to get back to the city of Domes."


    I wish more time was spent on finding ways to restore the Earth than some of the rediculous is their life on other worlds Ideologies floating around. So much money is spent on wasted science when some basic Earth applications need to be found here and now. Even that movie which probably inspired this Biosphere - "Silent Running" with Bruce Dern, dealt with issues which were too late for the Earth and sent them on missions elsewhere to screw up another planet I guess.

    If they are using it for understanding the natural world great, but the planet needs practical applications NOW, not when it's to late. Admittedly I have never been there and have to say originally I never desired to way back when. Closest I've been is an Arizona Highways article. Guess when I've visted all those countless times before around Tucson, I've been more interested in the real world as opposed to what ifs.

    Glad you enjoyed it. I'll just enjoy it thru you.


    1. That was a good laugh. Love it! So while it was for a potential space travel event at some point, it's not so much that anymore. Most of the projects are focusing on rain events and their trickle effect off mountain tops and canyons etc. They're also exploring several things related to global warming. So I'd have to say that this place has definitely grounded itself back to Earth. And while the visit was meh for me, I am REALLY glad that research is back and things at B2 are productive once again.

  7. I haven't been in there since a couple of years after all the scientists plus one more came out. I can't even remember the rain forest and the ocean was what impressed me more at the time. There were still animals - goats and what not - in there. I'll tell you one thing I know. If I'd been locked in there for two years, there would have been a big hole in the glass they'd have had to fix eventually. I can't imagine how they coped with that. I've thought about going down some cool day but haven't yet. Your post was great. It really is interesting and even my feeble little brain power can see that the education in there must account for something. :)

  8. I think the trip would have been very interesting. The photos are great.

  9. very cool....(literally...on a day of over a hundred in temp)!

    and what's with that dangling bowling pin? the shadow has a rounded top...or is this all an illusion?

    anyway, looks & sounds like a nice place to visit...20 bucks isn't bad...considering...the $$ goes to a good cause...research...

    LOVE the bright yellow guy at the end!!

  10. Interesting... I had no idea that place was still in operation. I remember all the hoopla about the project when it was started. I'd be interested to hear about ancient ways of utilizing water in the desert. I'm off to point and click and find out more.

  11. Guess I should put this on my list to visit. I'm interested in the water study for desert environments.

  12. Nice to get this tour from someone who has been there before. They might get things working better over time too.

    Good to how many groups are working on ways to deal with water shortages.

  13. Some bad and good, that's what people think of biosphere. I think it's nice, and who wants a guided tour anyway.

  14. Looks like u had an amazing trip)
    I'd like to visit that place someday!

    Have a great Sunday!
    xoxo, Juliana

  15. Maybe a little disappointing but you learned a lot from the sounds of it. Plus, you got to take us all along this time. ;)

  16. I had no idea Biosphere was still up and running! I had totally forgotten about them. Oil used to be considered more valuable than gold, but I really think water is the most valuable resource on Earth. Ya can't drink gas!

  17. Sorry, I missed this with you. Having not been before, I'm sure it would have held newfound excitement for me. I, too, like that the research is taking place. As far as the tree frog, what did Jurassic Park say..."life will find a way". :)

  18. I have to say that I have never been here. Is that bad of me? Of course, I didn't know the ocean was so close. :-) So, I am looking forward to the next set of photos from your trip.

    You lived in Phoenix for awhile? I'm sorry for that. :-) We are just a big heat island now, the rain never makes it to the Valley floor. We had friends over last night. The sky was overcast most of the day and then we saw the rainbow in the EAST...I guess I left that part out and that was what was so amazing about the sky last night. Anyway, we sat on the patio and reminisced about our past trips to Roosevelt when we had the boat and how we miss the monsoons that used to blow across the lake. I could never spend a day out in the sun and heat now that I am, ahem, wiser, even if it is on the water! (Hope you get some rain, and if your radio is fuzzy it's probably time for a shave. :-) )


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