Biosphere 2: Research Facility Provides Link Between Lab and Real World
The University of Arizona has just announced that it plans on making available its Biosphere 2 research facility for lease to study the effects of climate change, the global water cycle and the cycling of energy through the planet's various ecosystems. With a 34.5 acre campus encompassing 300,000 square feet of lab, classroom, housing and office space, Biosphere 2 stands to deliver much in the realm of new scientific discoveries and more accurate climate modeling and simulations.
UA officials haven't been shy about trumpeting its resources and the opportunities for future interdisciplinary projects it offers. "The facilities and resources at this new campus will be an inspiring place for researchers to gather and to tackle problems that science and society will face now and in the future," said Joaquin Ruiz, the dean of the university's College of Science.
"At Biosphere 2, we will address not only the problems of our current condition, but also those of the 22nd century that are still below the horizon."Although it will be leased to other research institutions, Biosphere 2 will remain under the UA's supervision and will thus continue its B2 Earthscience program, which attempts to tackle issues related to global environmental change, and B2 Institute, which conducts interdisciplinary programs to address so-called scientific "Grand Challenges." In addition, it will continue to operate its popular tours, which have attracted over 2.3 million visitors so far.
"As a research facility, Biosphere 2 is unique in its spatial scale. The facility provides us a bridge between our small-scale, controlled, laboratory-based understandings of earth processes and experiments in field settings where we cannot control all environmental conditions. Biosphere 2's size allows us to do controlled experimentation at an unprecedented scale," said B2 Earthscience Director Huxman. "A unique aspect of this facility is its ability to support experiments that will provide us the missing link between laboratory and real world."
The ability to recreate entire ecosystems under closed, supervised conditions to study particular questions certainly presents many advantages to scientists interested in a range of ecological, evolutionary and environmental issues. However, that's not to say that this is the perfect solution: as many researchers would attest, trying to precisely recreate particular ecosystems and situations in a laboratory setting is far from ideal and can often introduce unique problems that would not be encountered under natural conditions. While experiments carried out in Biosphere 2 may not provide a perfect alternative to studies conducted in the field, they will still impart unique and valuable information that will help us gain a better understand of global environmental processes.