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Ultimate Guide to Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 Tucson Arizona | Ultimate Guide to Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 is "the world's largest Earth and Environmental Science laboratory." The 40-acre campus has been owned and operated by the University of Arizona since 2011.

Come tour one of the world's most unique facilities dedicated to the research and understanding of global scientific issues. The Biosphere 2 facility serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies, an arena for scientific discovery and discussion, and a far-reaching provider of public education. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching, and life-long learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe.

The University of Arizona Biosphere 2 consists of a unique large-scale experimental apparatus housing seven model ecosystems, a team of multidisciplinary scientists, a broad science education and public outreach program, and a modern conference center.

The six model ecosystems are:

  • a mature rain forest with over 90 tropical tree species
  • a 2600 m3 ocean
  • forested swamps dominated by mangrove trees
  • a tropical savanna grassland
  • a 1400 m2 coastal fog desert
  • three desert hillslope grass-shrubland landscapes

Biosphere 2 had two "closure experiments" - dubbed Mission 1 and Mission 2 - during which the structure was sealed with researchers living inside. The first, with a crew of eight people, ran for two years from 1991 to 1993. Following a six-month transition period during which researchers entered the facility through airlock doors and conducted research and system engineering improvements, a second closure with a crew of seven people was conducted between March 1994 – September 1994. The researchers - now referred to as "Biospherians" - lived and worked inside the facility… conducting experiments, harvesting their own food, and maintaining their living space.

After being owned by Columbia University from 1995-2003, the facility was in limbo and was almost replaced by a luxury housing development. The University of Arizona formally took over in 2011 and now uses the space for research and education.

Constructed between 1987 and 1991, the original 150 million dollar project was funded by a private donor. The 3.14 acre facility is an astonishing 7,200,000 cubic feet of sealed glass.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Where is Biosphere 2 located?

Biosphere 2 is at 32540 South Biosphere Road in Oracle, AZ (northwest of Tucson).

What are the hours?

Biosphere 2 is open every day of the year (rain or shine) from 9:00am to 4:00pm - with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Winter Hours: Tour available from 9:00am-3:30pm
Summer Hours: Tours available from 8:00am-2:00pm

Self-guided tours are offered daily and take approximately 1 hr 30 min to complete. Tickets can be purchased online.

Why would I visit Biosphere 2?

  • To take a walking tour of the facility
  • To learn about Mission 1 and Mission 2 when Biospherians lived inside the closed facility
  • To learn about the facility's current research uses

How much does it cost?

  • Adults: $25
  • Seniors: $23
  • Children (ages 5-17): $15
  • Children (4 and under): Free

What is the parking situation?

Plentiful, complimentary visitor parking is available.

Is Biosphere 2 accessible?

Biosphere 2 welcomes all visitors and strives to make its' tours, exhibits, and programs accessible to everyone. While much of the Biosphere 2 campus is wheelchair accessible, certain areas of the property are not accessible due the steep terrain and the presence of stairs. The majority of the biomes including the desert, savanna, ocean, and rain forest are all accessible by wheelchair or scooter. The Biosphere 2 team will work with you to help access the areas open to the public. If you have any questions, please email BIO2-INFO@ARIZONA.EDU or call 520-621-4800.

What should I wear?

Dress for the weather as you will spend part of your tour outdoors. Some of the biome areas can be quite humid/warm so layers are advised. Good walking shoes are also recommended since the tour consists of approximately 150 stairs (up and down) and the route is just under one mile to walk round-trip.

What should I bring with me?

Water bottles and a camera. Even though food is not permitted on the premises, it would be wise to bring a few snacks or a small cooler in your car since the facility is quite a ways out of the city center.

Are bathrooms available?

Yes.

DINING

Is outside food allowed at Biosphere 2? If so, are there picnic tables?

No outside food is allowed on the Biosphere 2 campus. Picnic tables are located in the parking lot, but it is recommended to eat prior to or after arrival.

Does Biosphere 2 have a restaurant?

No, but light snacks can be purchased in the gift shop.

What restaurants are located NEAR Biosphere 2?

Biosphere 2 is pretty far off the beaten path. Expect to drive 15-30 minutes to dine. Our top restaurant picks within a 15-mile radius are:

BABIES & KIDS

What ages would be best suited for a visit to Biosphere 2?

All ages are welcome, but the nature of the facility really lends itself best to an older child and adult audience. We recommend ages 8 and up.

Should I bring a stroller?

Biosphere 2 strives to make its' tours, exhibits, and programs accessible to everyone. While much of the Biosphere 2 campus is stroller accessible, certain areas of the property are not accessible due the steep terrain and the presence of stairs. The majority of the biomes including the desert, savanna, ocean, and rain forest are all accessible by stroller.

Are there changing tables in the restrooms?

Yes.

Can our school or homeschool group plan a field trip to Biosphere 2?

Not at this time. Biosphere 2 offers programs to university students, but they have suspended all K-12 programming until further notice.

Are pets permitted at Biosphere 2?

Pets are not allowed inside Biosphere 2 or on the grounds. Service animals that are trained to do a specific task are welcome. Do not leave pets unattended in vehicles.

EVENTS

Can I have my child’s birthday party at Biosphere 2?

Biosphere 2 does not offer any formal birthday packages.

Can I have my wedding or rehearsal dinner at Biosphere 2?

Yes. Events are approved on a case-by-case basis.

MISCELLANY

Is Biosphere 2 active on social media?

Yes. You can follow Biosphere 2 on Facebook and on Twitter.

What else do I need to know before I go to Biosphere 2?

  • Don’t forget water bottles and your camera!
  • The tour takes place both indoors and outdoors, plan accordingly.
  • It is recommended that tickets be purchased online.
  • Cell phone service is limited inside the facility.
  • Have a great time.

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