School at Biosphere 2

Washburne, Biosphere 2

Graduate students use survey equipment to help monitor plant cover changes in Biosphere 2’s desert thorn scrub biome.

Washburne, Biosphere 2

High school students taking part in Arizona Rivers’ Riparian Research Experience observe vegetation along a transect in the desert thorn scrub biome.

Imagine going to school at Biosphere 2: no desks, no blackboards, just three acres of man-made biomes ranging from a tropical rainforest to desert scrubland.

There are actually at least five different “schools” that hope to take advantage of Biosphere 2’s unique setting to educate their “students.”

Why Biosphere 2?

For graduate students of ecology, Biosphere 2 offers an environment ready-made to test equipment and procedures for use in more extreme environments. With ready access to a fully-equipped workshop and a short drive to the University of Arizona, equipment modification, repair, and calibration can be done cost effectively, and students gain valuable field experience without having to leave their home base.

For other graduate students, particularly Biosphere 2 Science and Society Fellows, the facility offers the opportunity to fine-tune their communication of scientific ideas to the public.

Last summer, a handful of high school students learning field-monitoring techniques were able to apply their new skills in several Biosphere 2 biomes—evaluating water quality, plant diversity, and insect populations across the tropical-to-desert gradient inside the building—before heading out on a ten-day field trip to explore Arizona rivers.

Every year, over 10,000 school children visit Biosphere 2. They, too, benefit from being able to walk from biome to biome and experience the dramatic gradient in temperature and humidity that distinguishes these environments.

And the Biosphere 2 education staff hopes that visitors on the public tour see their experience as a refresher course in environmental sustainability and the amazing diversity and balance that’s required for all of us to co-exist on this planet.